CAIRO: Fans of the controversial Egyptian puppet Abla Fahita can catch the star’s first live performances in Saudi Arabia at the Jeddah Season festival this week.
The satirical character first appeared in 2010 in an online commercial for a telecoms company. She proved so popular that she was given her own TV show, “Abla Fahita Live from the Duplex,” appeared in other commercials and released a number of songs.
In 2013, Abla was embroiled in a controversy when Egyptian Ahmed Spider accused the character of conspiring against Egypt after appearing in a commercial which he claimed contained a coded message about a planned attack. The claims were investigated but no action was taken.
“Abla Fahita Live from the Duplex,” which began in 2014, was welcomed by many Egyptians as a replacement for Bassem Yousef’s satirical news program “The Show” after it ended, and many members of the team from the Yousef show worked on Abla’s program.
Big-name guests who have appeared on the puppet’s show include Egyptian composer Amr Mustafa, actor Asir Yassin and singer Hani Shaker.
Abla also joined forces with Arab Idol judge Hassan El-Shafei in 2014 to write and record the song “Ma Maestlhoshi.” It was a huge online success, racking up more than 20 million views on YouTube.
The Jeddah performances are not the puppet’s first appearances outside of Egypt; Abla appeared at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2015, 2016 and 2017.
In March 2018, Egyptian channel CBC announced that Abla’s TV program was being indefinitely suspended. It has yet to return.
Of course, the question everyone wants an answer to is who is the puppeteer behind Abla’s success? A member of the TV show’s production team told Arab News that the person is not famous or a known name, but refused to reveal any more information.
“Yes, we know the person but we swore we would not expose the character to people,” he said. “The program has been very successful in Egypt, and as a team we were working like a beehive to make it work.”
Abla’s appearance has changed over time as new versions of the puppet appeared. At one point she announced that she would travel abroad for plastic surgery. She then appeared in a few videos with her face covered, before unveiling a completely new look and style.
Saudi journalist Mees Hammad said that Abla’s performances in Saudi Arabia are good news in light of the increasingly open attitudes in the Kingdom to the performing arts, and Arab arts in particular.
“Fahita will be a great success in the Kingdom, because she is a very funny puppet and has a lot of popularity in the Arab world, especially after her appearance in her previous shows and on the red carpet at the Dubai Film Festival.”