Ramadan in Egypt is a time of communal gathering, charity, prayer — and also a time of marathon television-watching. With dozens of series available across channels and platforms, viewers have lots to choose from when deciding what to tune into.
Like the U.S. soap opera, or the Mexican telenovela, the staple dramas occupying the bulk of Egyptian screens during Ramadan were initially developed to cater to a primarily female audience.
Despite this, for the first few years of Egyptian broadcast television’s history, none of these productions were directed by women. In 1965, pioneer filmmaker Elweya Zaki became the first woman to direct an Egyptian television drama — namely, her directorial debut, El Mozayyaf (‘The Phony’).
In the decades since, women have occupied an ever-growing place in the world of Ramadan entertainment, both as stars and creators of the series that shape audiences’ evenings. As such, Egyptian television’s peak season is both a chance to celebrate the advances made, and contemplate the long way that the industry still has to go in terms of gender equality.
On this occasion, here are six series created by women or focusing on women’s issues airing this Ramadan:
1. Taghyeer Gaw (Change of Scenery)
Set between Egypt and Lebanon, Taghyeer Gaw chronicles the tumultuous tides of Sherifa (Menna Shalaby) and her mother’s relationship, as the latter struggles with substance abuse. The story is penned by Mona El-Shimi and directed by Mariam Abou Ouf, whose 2021 series Leih La’ (‘Why Not?’) sparked widespread debate about women’s personal freedoms in Egypt.
The fifteen-episode series will air from 7 April onward on the television network MBC Masr and will be streamable on Shahid.
2. El Harsha El Saba’a (Seventh Year Itch)
Written by Mariam Naoum and directed by Karim El Shennawy, El Harsha El Saba’a is a comedy series following the steep highs and lows of a married couple’s relationship. The show brings together many cast members of the 2021 series Khali Balak Men Zizi (‘Beware of Zizi’), also created by the two veteran filmmakers, including lead actors Amina Khalil and Ali Kassem.
The series is airing on the television channel MBC Masr and can be streamed on Shahid.
Starring beloved Egyptian actors Reham Abdel Ghafour and Mohamed Mamdouh in the lead roles, ‘Rashid’ follows a couple whose lives are sidetracked when the titular character is arrested and condemned to a heavy prison sentence. Behind the show’s script and direction are, respectively, Wissam Sabry and Mai Mamdouh.
The series is airing on the television channel MBC Masr and available to stream on Shahid.
4. Taht El Wesaya (Under Guardianship)
Co-written by Khaled and Sherine Diab and directed by Mohamed Shaker Khodeir, Taht El Wesaya stars Mona Zaki in the role of Hanan, a single mother of two who takes on a job in a seaport and struggles to navigate a deeply patriarchal world after her husband’s passing.
The fifteen-episode series will air from 7 April onwards on the television channel DMC and will be available to stream on WatchIt.
5. Omla Nadra (Hard Currency)
Written by Medhat El Adl and directed by Mohamed El-Adl, Omla Nadra tackles the contentious issue of women’s inheritance rights in Egypt. The show stars iconic actress Nelly Karim in the role of Nadra, an Upper Egyptian woman fighting to keep her land title following her husband’s passing.
The series is airing on the television network CBC.
6. Hadret El Omda (Mrs. Mayor)
Written by popular television host Ibrahim Issa and directed by Adel Adeeb, Hadret El Omda stars Egyptian singer and pop cultural icon Ruby as the newly inducted ‘omda’ (mayor) of an Upper Egyptian town, a role traditionally reserved for men. Through her story, the show tackles issues of gender and class disparity, and socio economic discrepancies between urban and rural spaces in Egypt.
The series is airing on the television channel Al Hayah and is available to stream on WatchIt.