What to Watch: Ramadan TV highlights

A scene from ‘Al Assouf,’ MBC’s drama examining the rapid social and economic changes in the Kingdom in the early 1970s (Courtesy of MBC)
Updated 17 May 2018
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What to Watch: Ramadan TV highlights

  • See some of the television shows that will be hitting our TV screens this Holy Month
  • Ramadan sees some of the highest viewing figures Pan-Arab TV stations experience

It’s peak TV time in the Arab world, as networks roll out their big hitters. Here, Arab News takes a look at some of the shows we’ll be following on pan-Arab networks over the Holy Month

Kalabsh

One of this Ramadan’s most hotly anticipated dramas sees the return of heroic police officer Salim Al-Ansari (played by Egyptian star Amir Karara) for the second season of this acclaimed hard-hitting suspense thriller written by Baher Dweidar and directed by Peter Mimi.

This season, Dweidar said in a statement, “the thrill, excitement and action will be even greater,” as the cop investigates a terror network in a job that puts himself and his family in harm’s way.

As our hero digs deeper, he discovers just how wide the network’s web has spread, with the story reportedly taking in Libyan extremists and Israeli spies as it progresses and Al-Ansari unearths a conspiracy that involves top officials.

Dweidar stressed that viewers need not have seen the first season to enjoy the new one.

“It’s an independent journey in conflict with different people,” he said. “I made sure to address issues that are much broader than the first (series).

We are discussing issues that don’t just concern Egyptian citizens, but Arabs in general.”

 

Al Assouf

One of MBC’s flagship shows for this month, “Al Assouf” is a Saudi Arabia-based drama set in one of the most dramatic time periods for the Kingdom: 1970-1975.

The late writer Abdul Rahman Al-Wabli examines the socio-economic impact of the oil boom, and the resultant cultural shifts, by focusing on the show’s titular family.

Saudi actor Nasser Al-Qasabi — best known for the wildly successful satirical comedy “Tash Ma Tash” — takes the lead role in a stellar cast that also features fellow “Tash Ma Tash” alumnus Reem Abdullah, Habib Al-Sanei, and Laila Al-Salman, among others.

According to Al-Qasabi, “We tried to simplify human relations and we were keen to be realistic with the events, without ignoring the political movement that goes on in the background, to give an impression of the time period we’re talking about.”

 

Tareeq

Expect plenty of buzz around this romantic drama directed by Rasha Sharbatji and featuring Syrian star Abed Fahd and Lebanese-Tunisian actress Nadine Njeim as lovers Jaber and Ameera.

Jaber, an amicable restaurant owner, is struggling to come to terms with the loss of his family in a car accident when he meets young law student Ameera. 

As their relationship develops, the pair face tough decisions about priorities and sacrifice in a series that poses some thought-provoking questions about class prejudice. Based on the novel "Al Shareeda," by Naguib Mahfouz.

Awad Aban An Jid

This time-travelling comedy, written by Saudi journalist, poet and novelist Khalaf Al-Harbi, explores the family tree of main character Awad Aban (played by Asaad Al-Zahrani, star of 2015’s “Selfie”), following six storylines from six different historical periods.

In fact, director Ouss Al-Sharqi has described the show as “six different series in one, each with its own details, sets and wardrobe.”

It’s a big moment for Zahrani, who has spoken of the “technical comedy challenge” of playing six different characters in the fantasy show, which features a cosmopolitan lineup of actors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Egypt and Syria.

 

Ma Hessat Qalam

This Khaleeji drama, written by Ali Al-Dohan, tells the story of ageing matriarch Hessa (played by Kuwaiti actress and poet Hayat Al-Fahad), who is left with serious amnesia issues after being in an accident.

Hessa begins to record everything that happens in her life using pen and paper, while many of those around her seek to manipulate the situation to their own ends.

Director Manaf Abdul was delighted to be working with Al-Fahad, whom he described as “a giant, with tremendous energy,” adding that he felt his career was “starting again” on the show.

For her part, Al-Fahd said the series “combines laughter and tears.” “Besides the tragic plot,” she said in a statement, “there is some comedy too, because her forgetfulness is funny sometimes.”

 

Tango

Levant stars Bassel Khayyat, Bassem Moughnieh, Daniella Rahme and Dana Mardini play married couples and best friends (and tango dancers!) Sami and Farah and Omar and Lina.

When a terrible car accident leaves Farah dead and Omar in a coma, it becomes apparent that the two were having an affair.

Lina and Sami must deal with the fallout of both the accident and the revelations that follow. Rami Hanna directs.

 

Secret of the Nile

Netflix’s Ramadan TV research revealed that a typical MENA viewer would clock up an extra 90 hours in front of a screen over the month, according to its press office.

So, of course, the streaming giant is doing its best to cater to that increased demand with some popular content.

Egyptian drama “Secret of the Nile” is already a proven success. It first aired on Egypt’s CBC in 2016, under the name “Grand Hotel,” and subscribers can binge on all 30 episodes of the first Egyptian series to air on Netflix.

Set in the 1950s, the series covers the journey of protagonist Ali (Amr Youssef) as he investigates the mysterious disappearance of his sister Doha (Dina El-Sherbiny) from her place of employment, the luxurious Grand Hotel.

Along the way, he uncovers a number of secrets, and falls in love.

 

Layali Eugenie

Throwbacks are big this Ramadan, it seems. This Egyptian romantic drama — directed by Hani Khalil and adapted from a Spanish original — is another period piece, this time set in Cairo and Port Said in the 1940s.

The story centers on Farid, a doctor (played by Tunisian heartthrob Dhafer L’Abidine, who’s appeared in a few Western movies, including “Sex and the City 2”), recently separated from his wife Aida.

When his sister-in-law (who happens to be a princess, played by Egyptian star Amina Khalil) is falsely accused of murdering her husband, she turns to Farid for help.

 


Blues artist Hindi Zahra pays tribute to her homeland

Updated 16 December 2018
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Blues artist Hindi Zahra pays tribute to her homeland

DUBAI: Moroccan singer Hindi Zahra recently bought her mesmerizing brand of music to the Louvre Abu Dhabi, where she performed as part of the Rain of Light festival on Friday.
Arab News caught up with the singer, who has been compared the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Patti Smith, before the show to find out more about her foot-tapping style of music and the album that her performances are based on, “Homeland.”
The Paris-based musician pays tribute to her home country of Morocco in the album, which features a mix of English and Amazigh-language tracks.
“It is the country that gave me everything,” the artist, whose stage name is simply her real name inverted, told Arab News.
“It gave me… mixed culture — African culture, Mediterranean culture. My openness toward other cultures comes from my Moroccan roots,” she added.
Hindi was raised on a steady diet of jazz, rock and blues, which she said her uncles collected due to a familial interest in international music.
That could be part of the reason why she is so comfortable performing in multiple languages.
“I am comfortable with both (English and Amazigh), but because I… grew up with a lot of Afro-American music, it was really natural for me to improvise in English.”
In addition to a clear appreciation and understanding of Western jazz and rock music, Hindi spoke fondly about a legendary Egyptian artist whom she said has inspired her.
Abdel Halim Hafez, who worked during the country’s golden age of entertainment between the 1950s to 70s, played an important role in shaping Hindi’s own style.
“I love the way he delivered feelings through music,” she said of the late opera singer who died in 1977.
Imbued with an appreciation for a wide range of international styles, Hindi released her first album when she was 30 years old — even though she says she was ready 10 years earlier.
She waited a decade so she could produce music on her own terms, under her own label, she said.
“I am shocked about the condition of women in the industry, so it was very important for me to be free and to own my music so nobody owns me.”
After all this, her only hope when it comes to performing is “that (the audience) will dance,” she said.
“If I see them enjoying (the) music to the point that they dance, this is the most important.”