So many shows, so little time.
Ramadan is the period when all major regional networks unveil their marquee programmes to capture what they deem is a captive family audience in the evenings.
From big-budget dramas and comedies, to a Gulf version of US prison drama Orange is the New Black, the holy month is once again a time to welcome the most captivating programmes you will see all year.
With each show screening daily, it can be impossible to keep up with them during the month. Fortunately, most of these will be available for streaming from the broadcaster’s website in addition to being re-run after Ramadan.
What time do they run?
We don’t know just yet. In what can only be regarded as a quirk of the regional television industry, most channels keep their broadcast time a secret, and only reveal them hours before Ramadan begins. This is to ensure rivals don’t make any last-minute scheduling adjustments. Therefore, the best advice is to log on their websites to get updates.
The big dramas
'Kalabsh 3' (MBC 4)
The success of this Egyptian series proves that Ramadan television is not all just sweeping romance epics. Amir Karara returns in the role of crusading cop Selim Al Ansari as he battles it out with Cairo's criminal gangs. The show is defined by its pulsating soundtrack and exciting action set pieces, which makes great use of the Egyptian city's gritty landscape. For details go to www.mbc.net
'Khamsa We Nos' (OSN Ya Hala Al Oula)
A sprawling pan-Arab drama that follows the life and tribulations of Ghamar Al Ghanem (Kossai Khaului), a businessman with political influence. His life enters choppy waters once he falls in love with a high-profile doctor, Bayan Al Deen (Nadine Njiem), who also happens to be the object of affection for Ghamar's bodyguard, Jad Ali (Mo'tasem Al Nahar). The love triangle eventually turns vicious as conflict, betrayal and politics come into play. 8pm. For details go to www.osn.net
'Zelzal' (MBC 1)
There is no Ramadan TV without Mohamed Ramadan, and the wiry Egyptian actor is back in another drama series this year. The setting is Egypt in 1992, and the country has just experienced a devastating earthquake. Ramadan is a poor labourer who hopes to secure an apartment so he can begin a family, but he faces constant setbacks. For details go to www.mbc.net
'Weld Al Ghlaba' (MBC Masr)
Ahmed El Saka may be known for his high-octane action films, but the Egyptian actor also posses an underrated emotional range that makes him suited for this drama. Here, he plays the role of man in dire financial straits. With his teaching and taxi driving jobs not enough to pay the bills, he enters the murky criminal world of drug dealing. For details go to www.mbc.net
'Daqeeqat Samt' (Abu Dhabi TV)
Abed Fahad and Rana Shamees star in this Lebanese drama with a twist. The opening episode finds Ameer (Fahad) convicted of a crime and sentenced to death. However, hours before his execution he is let go while another prisoner hanged in his place. The series unfolds as Ameer discovers his benefactors and what they want in return. For details, go to www.abudhabitv.ae
'Al Hayba 3' (MBC 4)
The Lebanese hit series is full of drama on and off the screen. This time around, burly Syrian actor Taim Hassan, who plays Jabal, the ringleader of a crime family, will team with third female lead in as many seasons. Cyrine Abdel Nour will appear as Jabal's love interest and confidant as he tries to keep the family safe from competing syndicates. For details go to www.mbc.net
'Lams Aktaf' (CBC)
After a crises of conscious, wrestler Adham (Yassir Jalal) decides to leave his life of crime behind to be on the straight and narrow. He decides to return to the place where he can redeem himself: the wrestling mat. For details go to www.cbc-eg.com
The key comedies
'Hogan' (Abu Dhabi TV)
A rags-to-riches tale of young street kid whose physical prowess earned him the nickname of Hogan (Mohammed Emma). With an ability to move cars with his bare hands and twist metal coins with his fingers and teeth, in addition to chewing glass, he gets the attention of influential people who take him from the town to the big city. For details, go to www.abudhabitv.ae
'Super Mero' (Al Nahar TV)
Egyptian star Amy Ghanem returns to the small screen in this comedy. A caped crusader at night and hardworking journalist by day, Super Mero attempts to fight crime while maintaining a semblance of a normal life. The cast also features her father, the acclaimed Egyptian funnyman Samir Ghanem.
'Al Assouf' (MBC 1)
After the success of its inaugural season last Ramadan, veteran Saudi comic Nasser Al Qasabi returns in this modern historical drama that looks at the family and social character of the Kingdom in the 1970s. The drama has been praised for highlighting a different side of Saudi Arabia; a simpler time before the oil boom when family life was at the centre of society. For details go to www.mbc.net
'1003 ص.ب' (Al Emarat)
With its title translating to PO BOX 1003, this Emirati drama is an adaptation of the novel by Abu Dhabi Poetry Academy manager Sultan Al Amimi. Set in the 1980s and shot in the UAE and London, it follows the life of an Emirati student who travels to the UK to study, where she comes across a photo of a man called Essa. Intrigued, they began to exchange their thoughts through letters and their relationship grows. Starring Jasim Al Kharaz and Mitha'a Mohamed. For details, go to www.emarattv.ae
'Wa Ma Adrak Ma Omy' (OSN Ya Hala Al Oula)
The story of a family matriarch with a dark secret. Known for her spiteful nature, she managed to convince her children that she is suffering from a major medical condition. When the lie is uncovered, a series of events unfold that sheds light on the secrets behind her anger and agony. 5.30pm. For details go to www.osn.net
'Agenda' (Dubai TV)
A Kuwaiti drama that deals with the separate struggles of its two characters. There is the recently widowed Hajar, who is attempting to stake out her own existence as a single mother within an unforgiving society. Then there is the former jailbird Malik, who begins his new life while fighting to prove his innocence. For details go to www.dubaitv.ae
'Al Tawash' (Sama Dubai)
Veteran Emirati actor Ahmed Al Jasmi stars as the title character. In his eternal search for respect, Al Tawash is always getting into trouble with members of his local Bedouin community. For details go to www.samadubai.ae
'Dinar Nasib Mokhtar' (KTV1)
Kuwait has a great tradition of using comedy to deal with social issues. This series is in that vein as it follows Medhat (Abdul Hamid Al Asabky), as he tries to convince his sister that her new husband Nasib (Abdul Rahman Al A'ql) is a thief. The series also stars Gulf comedy stalwart Ahmed Al Jawhar. For details go www.media.gov.kw
Arabic adaptation of foreign works
'Outhra' (MBC 1)
Loosely based on the hit female prison drama show Orange is the New Black, this series is widely viewed in the industry as one of the first Gulf dramas based on a US source material. While understandably much less racier than the original, Outhra's strong cast and gritty plotlines promise to pack a punch. Starring Shajoun Al Hajiry and Haifa Hassan. www.mbc.net
'Zai Al Shams' (MBC Masr)
The taut Egyptian drama takes its inspiration from hit Italian series The Two Friends. Rising star Dina El Sherbiny stars as a determined lawyer investigating the murder of a colleague. Her subsequent revelations lead to the upper echelons of Cairo's elite. For details go to www.mbc.net
'Ramez Galal Fi Al Shalal' (MBC Masr)
There is a fine line between entertainment and cruelty. The Arab world's most notorious television prankster Ramez Galal returns with another elaborate stunt to scare regional celebrities. This time around, the setting is lush forests and rivers. The unknowing celebrities are lured – one per episode - into a raft and when that trip goes horribly wrong, they find themselves in a strange land where they are to be hunted by the indigenous population. The best moment, as always, is the celebrity's realisation that their nightmare is in fact a joke. Some explode in anger, while others break down in tears. Some will laugh, others will be appalled. For details go to www.mbc.net
'Wa Dhakir' (Al Emarat)
Shot live each afternoon from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, presenters Mousa Al Zubaidi and Hilal Khalifa use each episode to reflect on certain lessons and wisdoms derived from Islamic teachings and history. For details, go to www.emarattv.ae
'Al Rawi' (Dubai TV)
The popular informative series returns for its 10th season. Hosted by Jamal Bin Huwaireb, Al Rawi profiles present and past influential and unknown figures that contributed to the development of the UAE. Each episode features interviews and reports about the subject. For details go to www.dubaitv.ae