DUBAI: The historical fantasy Orchidea — which has been dubbed the Arabic version of “Game of Thrones,” cost $5 million to produce — is set to hit TV screens on Saturday.
Directed by renowned Syrian actor-director Hatem Ali, the show features an ensemble cast that includes Bassel Khayat, Jamal Soleiman, Salloum Haddad, Abed Fahed, Sulafa Memar, Qais Sheikh Najib, Samer Al-Masri and Yara Sabri.
Rather than mimicking “Game of Thrones,” it tells the story of a great war between three kingdoms believed to have been inspired by ancient Assyria, Egypt and Sumeria.
More than 1,000 costumes were produced for the series, all of which were designed in Syria by Rajaa Makhlouf over the course of a six weeks.
Filmed primarily in Bucharest earlier this year by a crew from Syria, Romania and Poland, the story begins when the king of Assyria invades the kingdom of Orchidea, killing its king (Aktham bin Uday) and taking control of the kingdom.
Uday’s widow flees with her two children Atabah and Ramlah and pledges them to the king of Samara before she dies. The king then raises the children and nurtures them until they are fully grown. Then, just as Atabah is preparing to reclaim the throne of his kingdom, it becomes apparent that the king of Assyria wishes to marry his sister, Princess Ramlah, whom the king of Samara also loves.
Abdul Hadi Al-Sheikh, executive director of Abu Dhabi TV, described the show as “a drama series inspired by myths and the time of palaces and Mamluks.”
“Orchidea is one of the largest historical dramas produced in 2017 in the Arab world and will take viewers on a journey through fictional kingdoms that are waging war,” said Al-Sheikh. “They will witness the ambitions of rulers and the struggle for power and revenge in a dramatic artistic narrative.”
The show is expected to attract viewers thanks to its “historical scenes, clothes and decorations inspired by antiquity,” while the main plot line will see Prince Atabah and Princess Ramlah begin a “journey of revenge and the restoration of the rule of their father.”
“The month of Ramadan is one of the most important months in the marathon of producing drama television productions,” said Al-Sheikh.
“The Abu Dhabi TV network is a leader in the television industry, which is keen to raise the ceiling of Arab productions. Hence, Abu Dhabi TV has included the Syrian historical fantasy Orchidea in its line-up… a drama that brings together all Arabs.”
Al Sheikh said the series harnesses the latest production technologies and embraces global best practices, leading to dramatic cinematography and a show that re-ignites the tradition of epic Syrian dramas.
Talking on MBC4’s “Entertainment Tonight” during production, producer Hilal Arnaout explained: “Two years ago, Hatem Ali and I said we wanted to create an epic series to reignite the existence of Syrian drama shows.”
Producer Nour Helal added: “Orchidea is a project that has not been done before, particularly in the Arab world. It is the first time we create fantasy work like this and have an ensemble cast of so many stars.”
A-list actors from the world of Syrian drama don’t come cheaply, which is one of the reasons why the budget was so high.
“Of course, with such actors who are stars one cannot make this show for anything lower in terms of budget,” said Arnaout. “They all believed in the show, none of them were insisting on a particular rate or had any specific rules and requirements.”