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Soap Opera Production in Syria

Claudia Wiens | Syria

Bab al-Hara "The Neighbourhood's Gate" is one of the most popular television series in the Arab world, watched by tens of millions of people from the nice villa in Saudi Arabia to poor informal areas in Cairo, from villages in Morocco to Arab immigrants in Berlin. They often film at original places like this Ottoman House in Damascus' old city.

Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month, is tv time. Only for Ramadan more than 100 new series are produced, about 40 of them in Syria. The best and most loved ones are turned - thanks to satellites technology - into a pan-Arab event, full of dreams, traumata, hope and insults. Bab al-Hara "The Neighbourhood's Gate" is one of the most popular television series in the Arab world, watched by tens of millions of people from the nice villa in Saudi Arabia to poor informal areas in Cairo, from villages in Morocco to Arab immigrants in Berlin.

The series chronicles the daily happenings and family dramas in a neighborhood in Damascus, Syria in the inter-war period under French rule when the local population yearned for independence. The appeal is cross-generational, and viewers include Muslims, Christians, Druze and Jews from Arab countries.

But not all soap operas or Syrian Drama as they are called in Syria are conservative. Many directors are trying to tackle topics of modern society like AIDS, homosexuality, corruption and religious hypocrisy.

This was an assignment for GEO
 

You might wonder why I'm showing a happy reportage from Syria while right now a horrible civil war kills dozens of people every day. I realised that many people started to accept the state of civil war as the normal situation of Syria. Violence, refugees, extremists. War is always that happens to other countries, to "those" countries, where people have dark skin, are religious and whatever pre-conceptions fill our minds. With my story I would like to remind people that Syria was a normal country where people were living normal lives. Syrians were not war mongering extremists waiting for a chance to kill their brothers.

The other day I sat in a plane from Istanbul to Cairo (I live in both cities) and around me was a Syrian family fleeing from Aleppo to Cairo. Beside me said the 16 years old daughter. She told me about her destroyed school in Aleppo and  how she was so sad that her education can’t continue, how they were constantly hiding from bomb attacks. But in her eyes and heart was also hope. She was excited to be in a plane for the first time in her life and she asked me if I thought  that she could continue education in Cairo and find friends. But ultimately she wanted to return as soon as possible to Aleppo, a peaceful Aleppo. A normal life!

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