This year's holy month promises to be another boon for lovers of quality Arabic television. Once again, some of the biggest stars in the region are returning to the small screen, with A-list names including legendary Egyptian actor Adel Iman, Saudi Arabian funnyman Nasser Al Qasabi and screen veterans Yousra and Boumi Fouad. When it comes to stories, the plots are as varied as they are dynamic, with a television adaptation of a Naguib Mahfouz novel, and a historical drama tracing the life and times of one of the UAE's most-acclaimed poets. With more than 100 programmes premiering this month, we give you 20 productions to look out for.
What time do they air?
We have to wait for the broadcasters to reveal that information. In a quirk of the regional television industry, channels keep broadcasting times close to their chest to stop rivals from making final adjustments to their schedule. With the exception of OSN and a few smaller stations, details of the broadcasting time will be revealed hours before Ramadan begins, so make sure to hop on their websites to get updates.
THE BIG DRAMAS
Awalem Khafiah (SBC)
Veteran actor Adel Imam will star alongside top billing names, including Heba Magdy, Bouchra, Mai Selim and Salah Abdallah, in "Invisible Worlds", a series that promises scores of superstar guest appearances. Imam's role is that of a high-profile journalist who finds the diary of a celebrity who had allegedly committed suicide. Or was it murder? Imam and his female assistant are on a quest to reveal the truth, at any cost. For details go to www.sbc.sa
Ladayna Aqwal Okhra (CBC)
When Egyptian Yousra lends her name to a project, it's one the entire Arab world wants to watch. Her Ramadan 2018 TV thriller, Ladayna Aqwal Okhra (We Have Different Testimonies), is no different. As a law consultant, Yousra's character, Mervat Mahran, is brought on board to tackle a case. Suddenly, her life is ripped apart after an accident involving her son. This is another one that promises cliff-hangers and plenty of suspense. For details got to cbc-eg.com
Did Majhoul (ART)
Classy Egyptian actress Ghada Abdel Raziq returns with another Ramadan drama and, true to form, takes on another role of a strong woman living on the edge. This time around she plays an interior decorator who, after suffering a traumatic accident, realises all she took for granted was not as it seems. Look out for the music in this series. It was reported last week that Lebanese diva Elissa was enlisted to sing the theme song. For details, go to osn.com
Arabic literary fans are in for a treat as this drama is based on the Naguib Mahfouz novel Al Shareeda. The social drama returns to the screen after it first received a film adaptation in 1980. The plot remains relevant, with the story revolving around a romance between two Cairoites (Abed Fahed and Nadine Najeem) from different social classes. The drama poses the question of whether love can survive when you come from opposite sides of the tracks. For details, go to mbc.net.
After his runaway success last Ramadan in Zel El Rais (The President's Shadow), this year Yasser Galal plays Rahim, an Egyptian businessman who works in money laundering and dollar smuggling. After a short stint in prison, Rahim discovers his wealth has been seized and his family is gone. The series, which co-stars Nour, Mohamed Riad, Hassan Hosny, Rogina and Dina, follows Rahim's journey of revenge and the quest to locate his family. For details, go to cbc-eg.com.
Nesr El Saeed (Dubai TV)
When Mohamed Ramadan, a Sa’idi policeman named Zain, falls in love with Fairouz (played by Dorra Zarrouk), an artist from a higher social standing, they refuse to let class and background keep them apart. After marrying against her family’s wishes, the couple move to Qena and action, drama and romance ensue, as do deadly conflicts with a dictatorial character played by Sayed Ragab, meaning it’s an edge-of-your-seat series that will have you hooked from start to finish.
Ramadan wouldn't be complete without popular Egyptian actress Nelly Karim on television screens, and this year is no exception. She stars in Ikhtefaa' (Disappearance) as a university professor living in Russia with her husband, a writer, played by Hesham Selim. When her husband suddenly disappears, her search brings her to Egypt, where the surprises just keep coming. Expect plenty of suspense in this one. For details, go to dmc.com.eg.
Qanoon Omer (MBC)
Rising star Hamada Hilal returns to Ramadan with this latest drama, following a struggling mechanic who falls in love with his boss's daughter. If that's not challenging enough, the relationship plunges him into a world where greed is rife and honesty is a liability. The drama also has a strong cast that boasts Ayman Assi, Mustafa Abu Saree and Fatima Al Nasir. For details, go to mbc.net
Khafet Yad (MBC)
Boumi Fouad is one of Arab cinema's most underrated actors, who is adept at comedy and drama. The Egyptian returns with a slightly more serious turn in Khafet Yad. Playing a lonely policeman, we follow Fouad's character as he struggles with his career and home life. The series will not be devoid of good humour, however, with a supporting cast including funny men Mohamed Salam and Mohamed Tharwat. For details, go to mbc.net.
Al Wasiyat (Abu Dhabi TV)
A sweet comedy in more ways than one. Egyptian actor Akram Hosny plays Ibrahim, the son of a successful chocolatier who placed his son's face on the wrapper of the most popular sweet in the country. That said, Ibrahim despises his dad and has been counting the days until he passes away and he finally inherits the business. When that day arrives, Ibrahim finds out his father left him with a bunch of tasks to complete in order to take charge of the family empire. For details, go to abudhabitv.ae.
Bel Hagm El Aa’eely (Dubai TV)
This "Family-Size" Egyptian comedy has megastars Mervat Amin and Yehia El Fakharany finally reuniting 30 years after their last collaboration. El Fakharany plays retired ambassador Nader, who decides to follow his passion for food by opening a restaurant and hotel, where he is the main chef in a tourist village. When his wife and four children come to visit, chaos ensues. It's a social family drama that promises plenty of slapstick laughs. For details, go to dmi.ae.
Azmi and Ashgan (Dubai TV)
Ramadan is proving incomplete without a slapstick comedy by the Ghanem family. Samir Ghanem stars in Azmi and Ashgan, together with his daughter Amy this time around, rather than his usual sidekick Donia. In the show, two criminals find themselves in funny situations as they try to avoid getting arrested by the police. For details, go to dmi.ae.
Popular Egyptian action star Amr Yousef plays a medical college graduate named Tayea from Upper Egypt, who has his own opinions on the region's infamous "revenge" cases. However, he gets involved in several problems, including the smuggling of antiquities, which puts him in a tight spot, especially when his best friend is a police officer. For details, go to sbc.sa.
Al Assouf (MBC)
A Saudi Arabian drama with a local twist: the veteran Saudi comic Nasser Al Qasabi changes gears with his latest Ramadan television outing. Al Assouf is a modern historical drama that looks at the family and social aspects of the kingdom in the 1970s. The drama focuses on some of the key events in Saudi Arabia's development, in addition to recalling a simpler time before the oil boom when family life was paramount. Al Assouf was shot in Abu Dhabi within studios provided by Twofour54. For details go to mbc.net
Ater Al Rouh (OSN)
What makes this drama so anticipated is not so much the plot, but the talent involved in the production. Leading the cast is the Kuwaiti actress Huda Hussein, who will once again team up with screenwriter Alaa Hamza and director Mohamed Al Qafas – the trio were behind last year's Ramadan smash hit Hayat Al Thania. This time around, Hussein plays a determined and yet vulnerable psychologist who learns more about herself through the treatment of others. For details, go to osn.com.
Al Mahlab Bin Aby Sufrat (Abu Dhabi TV)
A biographical drama that takes a look at the Islamic warrior known as Al Mahlab (played by Syrian Mu'tassem Al Nahar). With historical accounts tracing him back to the 7th century, and with his roots in the UAE-Oman border town of Dibba, the show follows Al Mahlab from when he first served under the Islamic caliphate of Mu'awiyah to his military campaigns as well as his time as the governor of central Asia's Khorosan. For details, go to abudhabitv.ae
Al Majdy Bin Daher (Al Emarat)
This is one of the biggest productions of this year's Ramadan season. The local drama follows the life of the Emirati poet Al Majdy bin Daher as he works on the first collections of prose that would go on to be described as Nabati poetry. The drama, set in the 18th century, looks at what would become the UAE in a time when the major sources of income were pearl diving, fishing and boat building. For details, go to abudhabitv.ae.
Layali Eugenie (OSN)
It's 1940s Egypt, and a young princess is accused of killing her husband. His brother then tries to help her prove her innocence, but the two end up eventually falling in love. The all-star cast features Dhaffer L'Abidine, Amina Khalil, Engy El Mokadem and Mariam El Khosht. For details, go to osn.com
Qawafel Al Khair (Sharjah TV)
This will be the fourth year running for Qawafel Al Khair – or the Convoys of Giving – a humanitarian show that presents the projects undertaken by Sharjah Charity International (SCI) worldwide, in countries such as Niger, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Mauritania, while in the first season it visited a number of Asian countries, including Indonesia, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India. It attracted widespread public attention; and will continue to support humanitarian causes in its fourth season, through addressing aspects of health, educational and social issues, in addition to projects dedicated to orphans, low-income people and widows.
Al Imam Al Tayeb (Al Emarat)
A daily programme of spiritual discussions hosted by the well-respected Sheikh Ahmed Al Tayeb, the current Grand Imam of Al Azhar mosque in Cairo. The religious scholar will provide advice on not only how to reap the spiritual benefits of the holy month, but also on how to deal with some of life's challenges through the Islamic principle of moderation. For details, go to emarattv.ae.
Read more about Ramadan: