What to watch in Ramadan: The latest slate of TV shows to hit your screens this month
DUBAI: It is no secret that Ramadan TV series are among the most eagerly anticipated of the year, with fans across the Middle East — and the world — settling in to watch the latest hot new show after iftar each evening.
This year, regional production houses are offering up a slate of shows, including classic comedies, heart-felt roadtrips and even a docuseries focused on Anas Bukhash, who is famous for his YouTube talk show #ABTalks and has interviewed the likes of American Palestinian Netflix star Mo Amer, NBA legend Shaquille O’Neal, Gigi and Bella Hadid’s father Mohamed, and Mohammed Diab, director of Marvel’s “Moon Knight,” among others.
‘A Sitdown with Anas and Hala’
Starring: Anas Bukhash, Hala Kazim
With #ABtalks, Anas Bukhash has cemented himself as a top Arabic-language interviewer, inviting stars from across the region onto his show for a series of often-heartfelt conversations about the human experience. In “A Sitdown with Anas and Hala” he hosts a very special guest — his own mother. The six-episode docuseries will follow Anas and Hala as they discuss grief, creating boundaries, and making connections, all on a quest to find their inner selves. Airing weekly in 30-minute episodes, each installment will find the two in their home as they discuss life, the universe, and everything.
‘Gaafar El Omda’
Starring: Mohamed Ramadan, Zeina, Hala Sedki
Where: MBC Shahid
Love him or hate him, Mohamed Ramadan is the prime Arabic-language television season’s biggest star, each year turning in a role that becomes both must-watch and hotly debated, driven either by his on- or off-screen antics. Two years ago, his period piece “Moussa,” set in 1940s Egypt, was condemned by his peers after a seemingly unflattering portrayal of Egyptian comedy icon Ismail Yassine. Last year, “El Meshwar,” a series in which he plays a man in the throes of a curse, was also poorly received by many. “Gaafar El Omda” looks to be a return to form for the talented leading man, reuniting him with writer Mohammed Samy, who previously crafted the acclaimed Ramadan 2020 hit “Al Prince.” This time around, he plays a rich businessman and village elder named Gaafar, who offers a woman a loan on the condition that she become his wife for 400 days.
‘El Keteeba 101’
Starring: Asser Yassin, Amr Youssef, Khaled Elsawy
Where: MBC Shahid
After a huge hit last year with “Suits Arabia,” an Arabic-language remake of the popular American legal series, Asser Yassin is back with a gun in his hand in “El Keteeba 101,” a military drama that pairs him with acclaimed actor Amr Youssef (from 2016’s massive hit “Grand Hotel”). The series is set in the Sinai Peninsula in 2014, as the Egyptian Army’s 101st Battalion wages war against terrorist organizations, striving to overcome what appear to be impossible odds. Yassin has cemented himself as one of the best action stars in the Arab world, especially after his 2022 hit “The Eight,” and a pairing with Youssef should prove impossible to resist.
Starring: Saad Aziz, Saleh Abu Amra, Muhammad Al-Shehri
Where: MBC1 and MBC Shahid
Perhaps the greatest joy of the Ramadan television season is the surprises. In Saudi Arabia last year, that was “Road Trip” (Sikat Safar), a hilarious and heartfelt dramedy following three brothers who set off on the road after the death of their father. The second season reunites the trio of Mohammed Alshehri, Saleh Abuamrh, and Saad Aziz, this time to help their uncle run a small hotel that is threatened with demolition, all set in the gorgeous backdrop of the green southern part of the Kingdom. After Abuamrh’s widely-loved portrayal as the boss in the Saudi Arabian remake of “The Office,” expect this series to fully transition from underdog hit to Ramadan mainstay.
Starring: Ibrahem Al-Hajjaj, Fayez Bin Jurays, Khalid Al-Farraj
Where: MBC Shahid
Saudi comedian Ibrahim Al-Hajjaj is undoubtedly the most popular actor in the country at the moment, with his action-comedy “Sattar” still setting box-office records in the Kingdom, inching closer to number two on the all-time list overall, and his Netflix hit “Al Khallat+” still ranking in the country’s top five after nine weeks of release. Expect the second season of his Ramadan hit to be even bigger than the first, then. Here, Al-Hajjaj returns in a comedy following a conflict between two brothers who are attempting to run a company together but can’t seem to agree on how. Season two promises an unexpected love story, with Al-Hajjaj’s unique brand of physical comedy on full display throughout the month.
Starring: Ahmad Fahmy, Ahmed Salah El-Saadany, Shams
After two decades behind the camera making only films, Egyptian director Khaled Youssef is making his hotly anticipated TV debut with this historical drama that follows a young man in search of the secret shrine of Sultan Hamed, supposedly in a village in the Egyptian countryside. The show is set across two timelines, one present day, and one in the French-Egyptian war of 1798, with parallel characters existing across both. A strongly political filmmaker who serves in the Egyptian parliament, Youssef’s films often tackle social justice and corruption with the gritty cinema veritè style and signature use of improvisation that has made him one of the Arab world’s most distinctive voices.
‘Al Kabeer Awi’
Cast: Ahmed Mekky, Bayoumi Fouad, Mohamed Sallam, Rahma Ahmed
Where: MBC Shahid
Now in its seventh season, this long-running Egyptian hit continues to capitalize on the undeniable charisma of star Ahmed Mekky as the titular Al Kabeer, the mayor of Al-Mazareeta, a small town in the northern part of the country, as well as his twin brother, who returns to the country from the US to claim their father’s fortune. As the series has progressed, Mekky even added a third and fourth brother to the mix, while never losing audiences, even as the plots grew increasingly absurd. The latest season follows Al Kabeer after his latest marriage, and a mysterious potion transforms his grown son into a child.
‘Bab Al Hara’
Starring: Nizar Abu Hajar, Nijah Sefkouni, Fadia Khattab, Tayser Iddriss
No Ramadan TV list would be complete without the show that has become most synonymous with the season. “Bab Al Hara,” set to debut its 13th season, is still going strong, though many fans may debate in which season the show dropped from its peak. It follows the same family in Syria as the country continues its social and political transformation. In this season, set in 1945 and 1946, beloved star Nizar Abu Hajar returns as the characters grapple with an Evacuation Day that will see the final French soldiers leave the country ahead of April 17, 1946 — Syrian Independence Day. With Abu Hajar back front and center, will “Bab Al Hara” recapture its former glory? Stay tuned.