With the start of every Ramadan many Arab families start planning their time around the Ramadan TV series. Arabic TV channels compete to attract the largest number of viewers by showing the best TV series available. TV Channels began advertising these series two months before Ramadan. The streets and malls were plastered with huge ads for big-budget Ramadan shows.
Many years ago, Egyptian TV series dominated the field. In the past few years, Syrian drama, with many historical series showing the life of old Syrian society, holding sway. One of the best TV Series to be aired in the past four years is Bab Al-Hara. This year, Bab Al-Hara will enter its final season.
Viewers are hoping for some interesting TV series this Ramadan. The Egyptians came up with ‘A Queen in Exile’ featuring Queen Nazli, the mother of King Farouk; it is expected to attract large numbers of viewers especially following the great success of the King Farouk series. Another famous series this year is ‘Memories in the Flesh’ and the Egyptian comedy series ‘Zuhra and Her Five Husbands’.
After Iftar, the streets are generally empty. Saudi and Arab families gathering around the TV to watch their favorite TV series. Watching these series have become an obsession to a level where people discuss developments during family visits or over the phone.
“In Ramadan, people are hungry to watch the best TV series,” said Hind Al-Arifi, a Saudi housewife aged 40 and mother of seven children. She added, “In the past we used to listen to stories told by ‘Hakawati’, narrators, in public locations. Men tend to meet in traditional coffeehouses to hear stories from the ‘Hakawati’. Women also gathered to narrate stories at home.” She added that nowadays television has replaced the ‘Hakawati’ and become a very popular medium of entertainment.
Nuha Al-Shaher, a Palestinian housewife, said, “It is during the month of Ramadan that people tend to stay at home more. Some stay at home because of traffic jams outside. The majority of them stay home because of the TV series presented during this month. There are new TV series every hour until after midnight.”
Arab viewers are divided between Egyptian and Syrian TV series. Many families favor Syrian drama because it focuses on family values, relationships between a father and his children, a mother and her children and relations between siblings. Egyptian TV series are still popular among Arab viewers and manage to attract a fair section of viewers.
Dania Al-Radi, a sociology expert, said that Arab families missed old traditions. She added, “For example, the majority of people missing strong family ties and old values favored the Bab Al-Hara series. People love the parts where children and men show great respect to their parents, elders of the neighborhood and society in general.” She said that TV in Ramadan brings families together. TV series and special programs in Ramadan are the ideal way to get together and share quality time. According to Al-Radi, some parents find the series the ideal way to boost their children’s knowledge and introduce new culture to them.
“A new kind of literary and biographical series appeared recently to narrate the life story of famous people in the Arab World such as the Syrian singer Asmahan, the Egyptian actress Layla Mourad and the last king of Egypt King Farouk. These biographies attracted a large audience from different cultural and age groups. Arab families realize that the presentation of such biographical series can boost their children’s knowledge and enrich their culture in place of the school subjects. This year there will be two biographies. The first one is about Cleopatra and the other about Queen Nazli,” said Al-Radi.
Hanan Al-Desawi, an Egyptian teacher at a private school, said, “I prefer such biographical series where my children will obtain historical information. As I am living in Saudi Arabia, my son has little knowledge of Pharaonic civilization and Egyptian history. This year he will watch both Cleopatra and Queen Nazli in order to obtain more information about Egyptian history.”