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.

This Lebanese food shop is providing meals for Beirut blast victims

Updated 12 August 2020

This Lebanese food shop is providing meals for Beirut blast victims

DUBAI: On the night of the Beirut port blasts, which killed 154 civilians and injured thousands on August 4, Lebanese food shop owner Nabil Khoury and his brother decided to launch one of the very first initiatives for distributing packaged meals to those impacted by the catastrophe. Within a week, more than 3,000 meals have been cooked in the kitchen of Khoury’s vegetarian delicatessen, “Dry & Raw.”

In an Instagram post, the company shared: “We are all one in this. This is the least we can do for you, for us and for our country.”

With the help of staff and numerous young volunteers, along with Khoury’s loyal clients (who generously donated meat and poultry), a variety of hot meals incorporating carbohydrates and proteins, sandwiches and salads have been distributed to many, including selfless medical doctors, volunteers and families in need.

“With the donations, I cannot tell you how much people love to help each other — it’s overwhelming,” Khoury, 45, told Arab News.

He collaborated with the Lebanese Red Cross, the Lebanese Food Bank and local NGO Hot Pot Meal to deliver food to different parts of Beirut, such as Gemmayze, Mar Mikhael and Karantina, which were all severely damaged by the explosions.

“No picture or video could describe the damage that has occurred,” he explained, adding how the country was already suffering from an economic meltdown and the coronavirus pandemic. “In the early hours, people were busy helping each other, takingothers to hospitals, and burying the dead. But now, they are very angry at the whole system. Our government has resigned, but this is not the solution — the whole corrupt system has to step down. This explosion broke the last bone in our back.”

Having previously worked for NGOs, Khoury opened “Dry & Raw” in February 2020; a few months after the October uprising that witnessed nationwide anti-government protests.

Encouraging local food production, Khoury claims the conceptual shop is the “first of its kind” in Lebanon, offering organic, vegan, gluten-free and vegetarian foods, which have been produced in-house.

In addition, select produce is grown at the shop’s own farm.

Khoury recalled: “People criticized the fact that we opened the shop in the midst of an economic crisis, but we said: ‘This is the future and we should really start local production now’.”