A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Monday, July 15, 2013

I've Been Neglecting the Important Stuff: This Year's Ramadan Soaps

Egyptian politics has been so front and center lately that I realize I've neglected to say anything about one of the most important issues in the Arab world during Ramadan: the month-long soap opera-style TV series that dominate Arab TV during the month of fasting. Egypt and Syria crank out dozens that are viewed throughout the Arab world (the Levant, the Gulf, etc.), and despite a coup in the first and a civil war in the second, they have not neglected their publics. (For background, see my post around this time last year.) Besides soap operas, there is a category of shows known as fawazir Ramadan, musical extravaganzas so called because they often involve riddles or fawazir.

Daily News Egypt offers a review of the Egyptian selection this year (though many are multinational and also seen elsewhere) in "Ramadan's Series, Only for the Brave": there's one about a belly dancer (as the reviewer notes, "Nothing says spirituality more than the inside of nightclubs"), one about young girls marrying older men, and the like. Ahram Online notes the Egyptian offerings have many with political themes.

Elsewhere, the other country known for producing and exporting Arabic Ramadan soap series, Syria, managed to produce the usual series despite the fact that a full scale civil war is under way. Also see here for another report on Syria. And another Syrian soap actually filmed in the UAE, recreating Damascus in Abu Dhabi for this year.

Also, Al-Bawaba has a slideshow about series that nearly were axed due to incompatibility with the holy month.

In recent years, Turkish soap operas have also been extremely popular in the Arab world, though some Arab actresses are complaining they're providing unfair competition.

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