A bitter public quarrel between two of Egypt's biggest celebrities, which could have been lifted from the pages of a hit Ramadan soap opera, has gripped the nation during the holy month.
The feud between popular talk show host Amr Adib and actor-rapper Mohamed Ramadan has reached new heights after mockery by one prompted the other to sue for defamation.
The tussle is providing millions of television viewers and social media users with a generous dose of entertainment (and distraction), with views and analysis of every twist and turn in this ongoing saga becoming part of the national conversation.
"Adib's fight with Mohamed Ramadan has got to be the most entertaining event of the lockdown era; they're both pretty intense," Omar Hussein, an Egyptian radio host, 31, tells The National.
“Both are really vocal, both are loved by millions of fans and both have shown a unique talent for stirring up controversy in the past,” adds Abeer Hassan, a professor of media studies.
The pair have been rowing for close to two years, but their differences took a dramatic turn in recent days with venomous disagreements playing out on social media and through their respective media platforms.
Adib last weekend said he was suing Ramadan for slander after the actor-rapper posted videos online from his hit TV shows in which he confronts another character and ends up slapping them across the face. The character that Ramadan is seen slapping has been morphed to represent Adib.
"I am not one of those people who likes to sue others, but one must seek retribution through the law alone," Adib said during last Saturday's episode of his show Al Hekaya Ma' Amr Adib, shown on Saudi-owned MBC.
But Ramadan appears to court controversy, possibly seeing it as good for business.
His fight with Adeeb is rooted in an entirely different controversy involving a pilot who in April was awarded 6 million Egyptian pounds ($383,150) in damages after a drawn out and highly publicised legal battle against Ramadan.
That case is from a 2019 incident when Ramadan posted a video in the pilot's seat of a private plane to impress fans. The stunt led to former air force pilot Ashraf Abdul Al-Yusr being slapped with a lifetime flying ban by aviation authorities.
Abul Al-Yusr's health rapidly deteriorated two weeks before the court verdict and he died last weekend. The family has not specified the cause of death.
Ramadan has used the cockpit clip in the music video for his hit song, Mesh Batfatesh fel Matar (I Don't Get Searched at the Airport). The move has fuelled controversy and turned many Egyptians against him.
"Mohamed Ramadan really concerns me in general. He is being celebrated for his bad behaviour and I worry about the millions of young people who worship him. I just hope Amr Adib teaches him a lesson about manners and the consequences of one's actions," says Zeena Mohamed, 53.
“I like Mohamed Ramadan, he’s a great actor. But he might have gone too far this time. He ruined that poor pilot’s life,” says Hussein Ismail, 22.
Many commentators, including Adib, have called Ramadan irresponsible and insensitive for his behaviour following Abul Al-Yusr's flight ban. Adib began to publicly criticise Ramadan on his TV show, watched by millions in Egypt and across the Arab world, giving rise to the enmity between the two celebrities.
Ramadan appeared to double down after the verdict and shared a clip of himself throwing $100 bills into a pool. Though the actor quickly explained the money was fake and it was part of a coming advertisement, Adib blasted the rapper on his show.
“People are struggling to make money and you throw it … even if it is fake,” he said.
So far, Egyptian social media users appear to be overwhelmingly on Adib's side. Many have expressed sympathy for the pilot's family and said they appreciated the talk show host's promise to "teach him [Ramadan] some manners".
"Amr Adib destroyed Mohamed Ramadan, and he honestly deserves it," one Egyptian Twitter user wrote.
However, there are many in Egypt who feel that the rapper is being singled out. "Adib came down hard on Ramadan after the money video, without knowing the full story. Media in Egypt has reached a new low," one social media user suggested.
Ramadan has yet to make any public statements regarding the lawsuits, but if past actions are any indication, he will likely hit back soon in his signature sardonic style.