From a historical battle to the war within one’s mind
In the days and weeks leading up to Ramadan, rumours abounded of a new Arabic series unlike the usual soap opera fare on television. Orchidea, it was said, is a Syrian drama largely based on HBO’s hugely popular Game of Thrones series.
Promos for the show featured the tagline “Ramadan is coming”, a nod to Game of Thrones’ now ubiquitous “Winter is coming”. Online memes presented images of the Orchidea cast in full costume, alongside their supposed counterparts in George R Martin’s fantasy epic. The tactics worked in that Orchidea was one of the most anticipated shows for Ramadan. However, now that a few episodes of the Arab show have aired, it seems similarities between the two shows are few and far between.
Directed by Syrian filmmaker Hatem Ali, and shot in different parts of Romania and France, Orchidea is a historical fantasy with a big budget; it reportedly cost US$5 million (Dh18.4 million) to shoot. It features an ensemble Syrian cast, including Jamal Suleiman, Salloum Haddad, Abed Fahed, Samer Al Masry and Yara Sabri.
The engrossing plot revolves around a war between three kingdoms, believed to have been inspired by ancient Assyria, Egypt and Sumeria. Three main characters have emerged so far: Queen Khatoon (Sulafa Memar), Prince Namek (Qais Sheikh Najib) and Princess Ramlah (Emme Sayah). It makes for some riveting watching, if only for the elaborate costumes and impressive sets.
Airs daily at 11pm on Abu Dhabi TV
Meaning “the Sweetness of Life”, this Egyptian drama starring Hend Sabry is based on a Spanish soap opera, which has been adapted into Arabic. Unlike most shows airing this year, where the plot line deals with wars and terrorism and despair and conflict, this is a feel-good drama that takes a more positive outlook on life.
Sabry plays the role of Amina, whose days are practically a copy of one another.
She trudges through life, ex- pecting nothing and hoping for very little. Then, a few days before her wedding, Amina is diagnosed with cancer, and her entire world is turned upside down. She starts questioning everything – starting with her priorities, choices and relationships. It becomes apparent quickly who she can rely on, and who should be removed from her life.
Cancer, certainly, is no light subject, but the story unfolds with a healthy dose of comic relief to combat the tragedy and drama. Amina’s positive outlook is inspiring and the viewer can’t help but wonder how things will progress for the young woman, and how she plans to turn her life around.
Airs daily at 3pm on MBC Drama
his son Ramy.
Emam plays the role of 60-yearold Adly, who has toiled in a library – his haven – for his entire career. Now, however, his career is in a shambles and he may lose his job. His marriage fares no better.
His wife, played by a wart-covered, frizzy-haired Hala Sedki, is a grim, snoring horror, and Adly often prays for death to take him, or better yet, for his wife to die so that he can get rid of her. To add salt to the wound, his wife’s useless, unemployed brother and his inconsiderate family live in Adly’s house.
The only way out of this terrible life, it seems, is to resort to magic, and Adly is persuaded to seek the help of a sorcerer who gives him a spell to cast in his home. The spell goes awry, however, and a gorgeous djinn woman, played by Ghada Adel, appears out of nowhere to take over their lives. Afareet Adly Allam is vintage Adel Emam silliness.
Airs daily on MBC and MBC Masr at 10pm
Clockwise from top, Orchidea is historical fantasy; Hend Sabry in Halawet Al Donia; Adel Emam in Afareet Adly Allam.