I love Arab “maselselat” (drama shows). They have intrigue, romance, betrayal, clashing, friendship, and every ingredient that makes for good drama.
Here are some popular Arabic maselselat worth their salt. Note, they don’t have English subtitles or dubbing, unfortunately. If you find sites that have the subbing or dubbing, let me know in the comments so I can share with non-Arabic-speaking friends!
This one reigns as king. Going for 13 seasons (so far), this drama, translated as “The Neighborhood’s Gate,” is one of the most popular television series in the Arab world. The show takes place in the 1930s and 1940s, set (and filmed in) Syria (even during the ongoing Syrian struggle for freedom). The show’s story centers on when Syria and Palestine were under French and British Mandate, a time of Western colonialism in the Middle East. What makes the show so popular is that it offers the last period of Syrian history as it existed with Ottoman influence, just prior to colonialism and post-colonialism. The show’s director, Bassam al-Malla, said he intended to create that nostalgia for “a world with values, honor, gallantry… and the revolutionary spirit.”
Saleh Abdul Jawad, a professor of political science at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank, called the show “an escape to the past”…”This is yearning for values, for men to be men and women to be women, where roles aren’t challenged,” he said.
You can find it on WatanTv or on Youtube.
Deemed the Arabic version of Game of Thrones, Orchidea is a historical fantasy series that takes inspiration from ancient Assyria, Egypt, and Sumeria, weaving a tale of a grand war between three kingdoms. Orchidea stands on its own, however, and doesn’t necessarily follow a GoT outline. Instead, it presents a unique narrative rather than mimicking its Western counterpart. Abdul Hadi Al-Sheikh, the executive director of Abu Dhabi TV, describes Orchidea as a drama series that draws inspiration from myths and the opulent era of palaces and Mamluks. With its historical settings, intricately designed costumes, and lavish decorations, Orchidea promises to transport viewers to a bygone era while exploring the ambitions of rulers and their relentless struggle for dominance and retribution. The show is directed by Syrian filmmaker Hatem Ali, and shot in different parts of Romania and France.
You can find it on Abu Dhabi TV.
The Writer (al-Kitabi)
This one is easily found on Netflix and has English translation. It is such a great example of Levantine Arabic, which is the dialect spoke in Syria, Palestine, and Lebanon.
Inspired by Agatha Christie in terms of murder and intrigue, the show follows the investigation of the murder of a young university student, with one of the suspects being the famous fictional writer Younes Jibran. He the aims to prove his innocence with the help of the lawyer Majdouline, who is not who she seems or claims to be…
Image from Albawaba