There is more at stake than viewing figures for television series being broadcast on Dubai TV and Sama Dubai this Ramadan - a prize of US$1 million (Dh3.67m) is also up for grabs this year for the most popular show of the holy month. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, put up the money for a competition to be decided by the public voting via SMS text messages.
The objective is to motivate Arab and Emirati television producers to strive for better quality and creativity, said Ahmed al Sheikh, Sheikh Mohammed's media adviser, in a statement issued by WAM, the state news agency. On Dubai TV, soap operas that are in the running for the prize include Khas Jeddan (Very Confidential), starring Yusra, an Egyptian actress, and directed by Ghada Saleem. It focuses on psychological, social and political problems in Arab society, with Yusra playing the role of a psychiatrist working in clinics in Dubai and Egypt. Each episode features a case and how she goes about solving it.
The Syrian series Zaman al Aar (Era of Shame) explores current Arab lifestyles and modern concepts of shame. It is directed by Rasha Sherbatji and stars Tayem Hassan and Bassam Koussa. The Emirati comedy Ajeeb Ghareeb (Strange and Weird), features a retired father who loses all his money on the stock market during the financial crisis. As a result, he moves his family to a flat where they encounter various mishaps and problems. It is directed by the Syrian director Arif al Taweel, and stars Ahmad al Jismi.
Also showing are the Khaleeji comedy Ghashamsham 4, the Egyptian comedy Hakki be rakbati (My Right is in my Neck), the Khaleeji soap opera Omr al Shakka (The Age of Suffering), the Bedouin show Jamr al Ghada, and the historical drama Balqees, about the life of the Queen of Sheba. On Sama Dubai are the Khaleeji shows Hadeel al Layl (Cooing of the Night), Al Jeeran (The Neighbours), the Emirati comedy Hanna ow Ranna (Hanna or Ranna) and Sawalif Taffash (Taffash's Story).
One viewer, Fatima Amer, 25, a financial analyst, said she thought that Balqees had a good chance of winning. "The actress Seba Mubarak who plays Balqees is really good. And the storyline is interesting. It is a combination of history, suspense and a woman's struggle." However, Rasha al Achi, a 23-year-old Lebanese banker, preferred Khas Jeddan. "Compared to the rest of the competing shows, I think Yusra's Khas Jeddan is the best. The first few episodes were very strong," she said.