Albert Square meets Arab world with new MBC soap

The drama is by Tony Jordan, the screenwriter and producer of the British series “East Enders.” (Supplied)
Updated 01 August 2019

Albert Square meets Arab world with new MBC soap

LONDON: MBC Studios has teamed up with Abu Dhabi’s twofour54 and Image Nation to produce an Arabic-language soap opera called “Inheritance.”

The soap was created for MBC Studios by Tony Jordan who was lead writer on the UK soap EastEnders, set around the fictional east London neighborhood of Albert Square.

The deal will see a dedicated studio built for the show in Abu Dhabi which will also serve as the main location for filming. 

Media free zone twofour54 will invest directly in the production, and MBC is set to benefit from the Abu Dhabi Film Commission’s 30 percent rebate on production spend in the emirate, the pair said in a statement on Wednesday.




CEO of MBC Studios Peter Smith. (Supplied)

“We are thrilled to have agreed to a long-term production deal — the first of its kind in the Arab world,” said MBC Studios Managing Director Peter Smith.

The show’s backers describe it as the Arab world’s first soap opera because they say that at present, while there are many Arabic drama series, none are scheduled to run indefinitely — a defining characteristic of a soap opera.

“Inheritance” will shoot for more than 250 days of the year, and it is expected to generate over 200 jobs in the first year. 

Maryam Eid AlMheiri, vice chair of twofour54, described the deal as a “landmark moment” in Arab entertainment and cultural history. 

Efforts to create more homegrown Arabic-language drama comes as global video on demand players from Netflix to Amazon eye the Middle East as a potentially lucrative and under-served market.

MBC Digital Managing Director Johannes Larcher last month told Arab News that it was boosting investment in its “Shahid” Arabic-language video-on-demand platform in the second half of the year.

“We have viewers from North America to Europe who are Arab speakers and who want to use Shahid to stay in touch with their countries of origin and their culture,” Larcher told Arab News in an interview.

The development of ‘Inheritance’ is the latest milestone in twofour54’s longstanding partnership with MBC. In 2015, MBC and twofour54 signed a three-year agreement in 2015 to grow the number of quality Arabic drama productions in Abu Dhabi and the region. That partnership produced a broad range of Arabic content, including “Haret El Sheikh,” “Hob Bila Hudood,” season one of “Boxing Girls,” and the first two seasons of “Al-Asouf.”

The first episode of “Inheritance” is expected to air in the first quarter of 2020.


Top UK band Jamiroquai lauds ‘magical’ concert venue for Saudi festival performance

Updated 20 min 12 sec ago

Top UK band Jamiroquai lauds ‘magical’ concert venue for Saudi festival performance

  • Jay Kay: “We were delighted to be invited to this ancient and unique city and are eager to learn more about its culture and history”
  • During their career, Jamiroquai have sold more than 26 million albums worldwide

ALULA: The lead singer of world-famous band Jamiroquai has said he “can’t wait” to perform at AlUla’s “magical” concert venue this weekend.

The award-winning English funk and acid jazz group will be taking to the stage at the Maraya Concert Hall during the second Winter at Tantora festival.

Singer-songwriter and the band’s lead vocalist, Jay Kay, said: “We were delighted to be invited to this ancient and unique city and are eager to learn more about its culture and history.

“We also can’t wait to see how our funky sounds work in what looks like a truly one-of-a-kind venue, the magical, mirrored Maraya Concert Hall. It is a privilege to be able to play around the world and look forward to bringing the party to AlUla.”

The hall is the largest mirror-constructed theater in the world, can hold 500 people, and is fitted with a high-quality sound system. The event, organized by the Royal Commission for AlUla, is being held in the city to showcase its unique location, scenic landscapes, history and culture.

Jamiroquai, from London, will perform a selection of their greatest hits which helped define music in the 1990s and beyond.

Fronted by Kay, the group was formed in 1992, and is best known for hits including “Canned Heat,” “Virtual Insanity,” which won video of the year at the 1997 MTV Video Music Awards, and “Deeper Underground,” which topped the charts in the UK. All eight of their albums made it into the British top 10 charts with three reaching the No. 1 spot.  

During their career, Jamiroquai have sold more than 26 million albums worldwide. Their third album, “Traveling Without Moving” (1996), was named in the Guinness Book of Records as the best-selling funk album in history.

The band also won the Ivor Novello Award for outstanding song collection from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors, in addition to a Grammy, two Billboard Music Awards, and 16 nominations for The BRIT Awards. The Winter at Tantora festival includes many other attractions including local markets, a winter garden, farms and the Old Town of AlUla.

Over the course of 12 weeks, the festival is presenting a range of activities merging Eastern and Western culture, embodying AlUla’s heritage as a meeting point for different civilizations from around the world.

The event takes place every weekend until March 7, and visitors will get the chance to tour the historic heritage sites before they close to the public until October this year. Musical and artistic performances by some of the most respected Arab and international artists will also be staged.