'Al Mirath': Saudi soap opera opens with a disputed will, a secret child and a murder conspiracy

MBC's 'Al Mirath' tells the story of two Saudi families embroiled in a battle over inheritance, and there's already a twist

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With a disputed will, a secret child, a death and a murder conspiracy, MBC's new show Al Mirath – which made its debut on Sunday, March 1 – has all the sugar and spice of a riveting soap opera (however, only fans of the genre are likely to get into it).

Al Mirath begins in Riyadh with a death.

Construction magnate Abdulmohsin Al Behitani has died, leaving behind his wife and two daughters. His nephew, Zeid, confronts the old man on his deathbed. “Your entire empire was built on my shoulders. Just die already. You should have died a long time ago,” he says to the bewildered dying man. “Now is my time.”

However, Zeid’s plans seem to be upended when Al Behitani’s lawyer reads his will. In it is the announcement of a son, Yusuf, from a previous marriage. The two families have no time to mourn as they have to adapt to this news.

Al Behitani’s brother, furious at having his share of the will taken by the long-lost Yusuf, refuses to attend the funeral. His son, Zeid, tries to convince the family otherwise. “Let us attend the funeral and bury Al Behitani and his son together,” he says. Ominous.

Al Behitani’s immediate family seem to be just as baffled by the knowledge of Yusuf’s existence, but react to the news in a much more graceful way. “Why? Why did he keep it a secret for all this time? Why did he choose to let us know after he died?” Al Behitani’s daughter, Hoor, asks her mother. “It was his way of easing our pain. To shock us with something more shocking than his death,” her mother, Juwairiyya, replies.

Meanwhile, Yusuf, prepares to travel to Riyadh after receiving news of his father's death. His wife tries to deter him, warning him not to follow Al Behitani’s path. But Yusuf is eager to “claim what is rightfully mine.”

The first cliffhanger 

The first episode ends with a cliffhanger. This is a soap opera, after all.

Yusuf’s arrival to the Al Behitani house is announced, and as the families rises to greet him in walks not Yusuf, but the man he had been conversing with in the business lounge of the airport, and to whom he had confided his story.

“Salaam u Aleikum,” the impostor says to the family. “I am Yusuf Abdulmohsin Al Behitani.”

The debut episode of Al Mirath has laid the foundations for what promises to be a riveting soap opera. The show marks the first leap into the Arabic soap opera genre.

Until now, Arabic drama shows were mostly focused around the month of Ramadan and rarely went over 60 episodes. In contrast, Al Mirath's first season will be comprised of a whopping 250 episodes, and will run well into next year.

Like any soap opera, Al Mirath's success and plot elements will be dependent on viewership numbers and appeal. But we have a sneaking suspicion that the show will pave the way for many more Arabic soap serials to come.

Ali Jaber, MBC Group's TV Director, said Al Mirath marked a pioneering moment for the broadcasting group. "We have created the very first authentic Saudi soap opera," he said at the launch event in Abu Dhabi last week. "It lives, breathes and speaks Saudi in terms of the locations it is set in, the events, the relationships and the family dynamics."

The show – developed by MBC Studios, twofour54 and Image Nation Abu Dhabi – also has a special connection to the UAE: most of it was filmed in a warehouse in Musaffah, Abu Dhabi.

Al Mirath will air Sunday to Wednesday at 8pm on MBC1, and episodes are available on MBC’s streaming platform Shahid