‘Faten Amal Harby’
Starring: Nelly Karim, Fadia Adel Ghany, Mohamed Al-Tagy
Where: MBC Shahid
When surveying the crowded Ramadan television landscape, in which little is known about each series before it drops at the start of the Holy Month, one question usually proves most pertinent: Who is starring? This is a star-driven business, after all, and as a rule of thumb, the series featuring the most popular and respected actors in the region tend to be the ones worth keeping an eye on. Last year, “Newton’s Cradle,” starring Mona Zaki, proved to be far and away the most popular Arabic-language series of the year, finding renewed success as it moved to Netflix at the end of the year. This year, the biggest hit could well feature another of Egypt’s most beloved stars in Nelly Karim. “Faten Amal Harby” follows a divorced mother who enters into a conflict with her former mother-in-law over the custody of her two daughters as she attempts to remarry, and it promises to be an honest look at the difficulties facing women in modern Egypt.
Starring: Najah Safkouni, Jalal Shamout, Salma Al-Masri
One of the most popular shows in Arab television history returns for its 12th season. “Bab Al-Hara” is a decades-spanning saga following a family in Damascus, Syria during the inter-war period when the country struggled to break free from French colonial rule. The show was a phenomenon in the mid-2000s, with its second season reportedly watched by 50 million viewers, and it maintains its popularity more than 15 years since its debut in 2006. The latest season follows the same family in the Al-Dabe’ neighborhood. While the cast of characters has grown increasingly sprawling over its many seasons — a rarity for Ramadan series — the show, through its ups and downs, is still appointment viewing for many families across the region.
Starring: Nasser Al-Qasabi, Abdullah Al-Sinani, Habib Al-Habib, Reem Abdullah
Where: MBC Shahid
The popular Saudi drama returns for its third season. Each season thus far has brought to life a different decade, with the first series tackling the Kingdom’s changes in the 1970s and the sequel capturing the 1980s. This time around, it’s the turn of the Nineties, a decade in which political and cultural events rocked the lives of people in Riyadh and beyond. While the show has turned a spotlight on the intergenerational struggles that helped shape modern-day Saudi Arabia, it has also stirred much debate across Saudi social media, leading to a broadened dissection of the recent history of the Kingdom. As the series moves closer to the present, the third season promises to be its most talked-about yet, all told with the style and talent that has made the show a phenomenon in the Kingdom.
Starring: Mohamed Ramadan, Dina El-Sherbiny, Ahmed Magdy
Where: MBC Shahid
Mohamed Ramadan is arguably the most hotly debated superstar in all of the Arab world. But the Egyptian actor and rapper is undeniably one of the most popular figures on Arabic television, and in Ramadan every year the 33-year-old tends to reinvent himself; pushing into new territory. In 2019’s “Zelzal,” he played a man who lost everything in an earthquake. In 2020’s “The Prince” he played the reluctant new leader of a sprawling family following the death of his parents, and 2021’s “Mousa” explored 1940s Egypt with heavy drama and a sometimes-comedic touch. In “El Meshwar,” Ramadan has his most interesting screen partner yet, teaming up with Egyptian actress Dina El-Sherbiny (“Horoob Etirari: Forced Escape,” “Detention Letter”) as a husband and wife caught in the throes of a curse, in what is being billed as a horror/suspense series from acclaimed writer Mariam Naoum, who is also writing the upcoming “The Alexandria Killings.”
Starring: Hayat Al-Fahad, Hamad Al-Omani, Laila Al-Samman
Where: Dubai TV
In 2020, the Kuwaiti drama “Umm Haroun” became the most widely-discussed Ramadan series of the year. So all eyes are on the first lady of Kuwaiti drama, 73-year-old Hayat Al-Fahad this year, as she once again explores the lesser-known moments of the Gulf’s history. “Sanawat Al-Jarish” (Years of El Jarish) chronicles the years of drought that the Gulf region faced during World War II. Al-Fahad herself has claimed that the story is based on reality, and is intended to inform the Gulf’s younger generations about the lives of their ancestors, the hardships they faced, and how tragic wars can be. The show’s poster invokes the writing of famed Palestinian writer Mahmoud Darwish, quoting his poem “The War Will End” — “The war would end/The leaders shake hands/And that woman will remain waiting for her martyred son.”
Starring: Asser Yassin, Ahmed Dawoud, Tara Emad, Saba Mubarak
A version of “Suits” tailor-made for the Arab world? Talk about bespoke. A reimagining of the popular US series that ran for nine acclaimed seasons from 2011 until 2019, “Suits Arabia” brings together some of the region’s biggest names both in front of and behind the camera, including Asser Yassin and Ahmed Dawoud as the show’s leading duo, and Tara Emad (pictured) as Rachel, a role that once introduced both the world and Prince Harry himself to Megan Markle. The show, co-written by superstar producer Mo Hefzy (“Perfect Strangers,” “Paranormal,” “Sheikh Jackson”), focuses on two men in a cutthroat law firm — one with falsified qualifications and a photographic memory, and the other an elite closer intent on keeping his friend’s secret. With a long-term future planned, the show’s first two seasons will air over 30 episodes during Ramadan, with a slight twist on the original show’s format to offer new surprises while also capturing what audiences worldwide loved about the original.
‘Lahme w Bas’
Starring: Mohammad Orfali
Need a break from the intense soap operas? Syrian chef Mohammad Orfali has you covered. After all, how could we talk about the month of Ramadan without spotlighting the tremendous, incomparable food that each iftar and sahoor brings? On “Lahme w Bas” the award-winning chef and co-founder of Orfali Bros Bistro — named 2021’s sixth best restaurant in the MENA region by 50 Best earlier this year — takes viewers on a journey as he prepares a mix of traditional and international meat-based dishes.
The cooking show will be broken into courses, covering starters, salads, sides and main dishes, all made to inspire the next day’s iftar and sahoor. This is your chance to get insights from one of the brightest rising stars in the region, helping you imitate a style all his own.
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