This post first appeared on Art Dubai's blog, part of their
Posting Ramadan 2013 series where they invited guest bloggers
to write Ramadan themed posts. This was my submission.
Let me start by saying this is an unabashedly nostalgic post about Ramadan and TV, about memories I cherish from my childhood.
One of my earliest memories and associations with Ramadan is watching Fawazeer Ramadan with Nelly on TV.
Fawazeer means riddles in Arabic and Fawazeer Ramadan is an old loved tradition that started on Egyptian radio in the 1960s, which soon moved into television.
I recall seeing Fawazeer Ramadan on TV in the late 1970s/early 1980s, watching the very glamorous Nelly singing and dancing, and making her viewers guess the riddle*. She starred in Fawazeer Ramadan between 1975 and 1981 and had another run on TV from late-mid 1990s.
Nelly is an Egyptian actress, singer, dancer, and comes from a family of entertainers. She started off as a child actress in the 1960s (following the footsteps of her older sister Feyrouz, one of the most famous Egyptian child actresses in the 1950s and cousin Lebleba).
Opening credits of Fawazeer Ramadan - Arusti (1980)
Closing credits of Fawazeer Ramadan - Arusti (1980)
Sherihan, another star of Fawazeer took over between 1985-87 – but to me, no one could ever replace Nelly.
To many Sherihan is the favourite, but to me Nelly has and will always be the queen of the Fawazeer and Sherihan is its princess who tried to emulate her. Nelly had style; grace and she just seemed like a warm and friendly person. Sherihan always looked like she was performing where as Nelly just made everything look a lot more fun and relaxed.
One of the most memorable and loved Fawazeer is El-Khatba (The Matchmaker); it was the theme for the 1981 Fawazeer. Over the 30 episodes during Ramadan, we watched Nelly the matchmaker bringing 30 potential husbands to young women wishing to get married and us viewers had to guess the profession of each one after each episode.
Opening credits of Fawazeer Ramadan - El Khatbah (1981)
Closing credits of Fawazeer Ramadan - El Khatbah (1981)
My family and I loved watching Nelly’s Fawazeer. It was a time when we had a handful of channels on TV and it was something most of the Arab world tuned into and watched after iftar - a family tradition across the region.
Looking at some of the clips today, yes, they’re cheesy, but they’re fun and I still remember some of the lyrics to the opening and closing credits, especially El Khatba.
I stopped watching Fawazeer years ago, so if there is a current Fazwazeer star, I’m certainly not aware of him/her. But once in a while every Ramadan, I will look up Nelly’s Fawazeer online and reminisce.
Comparing to TV rituals during Ramadan today, I miss sitting with my family and watching something we all genuinely like. There are 100s of channels and sadly nothing to watch. I flick from channel to channel desperately hoping to find a great show, something for the family to enjoy watching together after we’ve had our iftar.
The past few years saw a surge of animated series made in the UAE like Sha’biat Cartoon, Freej, and Khusa Boosa. My family and I found something new to watch after iftar, current issues were addressed in a critically humourous way, but sadly, over the years, the makers of these shows have not been able to maintain the quality of writing and the bombardment of TV commercials that appear every few minutes during the shows are very quite off putting.
As for the famous TV series during Ramadan, based on what I see in the promo ads, I have no interest in watching them – a lot of over acting, actresses with heavy make up and heavier lips, stale story lines and nothing uplifting. What am I left with? The news channel – and that’s not a barrel of laughs, especially these days (or Masterchef Australia which has become a recent obsession of mine, especially Junior Masterchef Australia).
So today, I enjoy iftar with my family, but shortly after that, we all go our separate ways. I miss having something that brings us together to watch on TV in the living room.
If you’d like to know more about Fawazeer Ramadan, I suggest you check out these links:
* I always wondered if people actually took part in these Fawazeer. If they did, how did they participate, how were the winners selected and notified? Answers on a postcard please.