From a his­tor­i­cal bat­tle to the war within one’s mind

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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.

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