Egypt: where the soap operas stop

Oh the drama. Literally. The violence is not over but sometimes you get a glimpse of the oddest things in a crisis, soap operas being one of them. So here is the news: Egyptian TV networks are cancelling soap operas.

turkish soap opera b

Mind you, it’s not a part of the emergency declaration, but most soap operas in the Middle East are produced in Turkey. The government of Turkey these days is run by an increasingly radical government that is of late very friendly with the Muslim Brotherhood and on 14 August the two countries recalled their ambassadors which is a diplomatic way of spitting in the other guy’s eye and telling him to stuff it.

In the past, Turkey and the Brotherhood were often at odds, but lately they’ve kissed and made up. It happens. The most recent straw was when Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Egyptian military leaders should stand trial for removing his radical Egyptian pal Morsi. Turkish soap operas are produced in Arabic and generate a lot of money for Turkish television companies. So, pulling all the soaps, and we mean all of the soaps, is a financial blow.

Look, we understand all about soap operas coming from another country: until recently most soaps in Russia were from MEXICO. That explains why the cognate (borrowed word) “Novela” is a pretty well understood term in Russia. Now before you go running off with the idea that Russians were speaking the same dialect of Spanish spoken along the southern USA border, we should let you know that the scenes were over-dubbed in Russian.

Today most Russian soap operas are produced in Russia and India. Around the world soap operas are the same. The story lines are apparently inspired by families from Alabama with some rich farmer or businessman who has sex with his granddaughter. She gets pregnant with twin boys who then grow up to divide the family asunder as each son aspires to control the family business. Naturally, all the while the sons are carrying on affairs with the wives and girlfriends of their cousins.

Add in the discovery of oil and make sure to insert a doctor or two and damn, you can keep folks glued to the set for months. In any country! Wait! Rich and doctors… Forget what we said about Alabama. Maybe the inspiration comes from Texas.

Still, we just can’t imagine the content of a Arab soap opera. How the heck does one write a decent story line for soap operas targeted primarily at audiences who walk around all day while wrapped up in over-sized bathrobes?

They have oil, plenty of it, and women are property so there must be something to get a good Novela going. The Turkish authorities have slowly injected politics into their soap operas along with other themes, like learning to kiss. “You have to understand that there are people still living even in (Istanbul) who say they only learned how to kiss or learned there is kissing involved in lovemaking by watching ‘Noor,’ ”according to Istanbul University professor of Television, Sengul Ozerkan.

The set for the soap opera "Noor" is this waterfront mansion.
The set for the soap opera “Noor” is this waterfront mansion.

We should point out that the popular show “Noor” is distributed in no less than 56 countries. Okay, now make that 55 other countries.

While there isn’t much kissing going on between the Turkish government and the Egyptian military these days, frankly both countries have problems of a magnitude that overrides any suggestion of sitting down to watch a Novela. For Egyptians, the soaps are going away but at this stage in the crisis their absence might just go unnoticed.