x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Egyptian chat show presents lessons from a changed country

Al Ghesh Mamnoua puts Egypt's political class in the hot seat as they face questions from the youth of Tahrir Square.

Muna Abdul Wahab, the host of Al Ghesh Mamnoua. Courtesy OSN
Muna Abdul Wahab, the host of Al Ghesh Mamnoua. Courtesy OSN

A new Arabic talk show from OSN is giving new meaning to teacher-student relations. Al Ghesh Mamnoua turns the tables on Egypt's political class as they face questions from youth involved in the recent Egyptian revolution.

The show

Showing on Thursday and Friday nights on OSN, Al Ghesh Mamnoua (it means Cheating is Forbidden in Arabic) picks up from the recent Egyptian revolution by bringing together the formerly warring political and cultural classes and young people, for fun and informal discussions on the state of the country.

Class resumes

The programme's format has already generated much interest. Programme guests appear in a Cairo classroom in front of "students", young people directly involved in the protests in Tahrir Square. They will go through three rounds of questions, focusing on their public life as well as personal and ideological stances. In a neat twist, the programme concludes with the students marking the guests on the quality and transparency of their responses and issuing them their final grades. "It is a very unique concept and this is what excites me about it," says Abdul Wahab. "It brings both the students and the young people together in the classroom where they can talk about a lot of things. During the shooting we found the guests, although appearing calm throughout, were really nervous about their marks and some were actually scared."

The teacher

Muna Abdul Wahab is no stranger to putting guests on their toes. The 28-year-old was the host of the successful "mock interview series" Al Hukum Bad Al Mawazala. The guests, again Egyptian and cultural leaders, were tricked into believing that Abdul Wahab was a foreign journalist and the interview was for broadcast outside Egypt. The show's magic lay in discovering whether guests change their tune when speaking to a non-Egyptian audience.

Abdul Wahab says her new role is more challenging as it involves more than just firing off questions. "There is a lot more to it as I am, in a way, the teacher," she says. "I have to make sure the conversation between the guest and judges goes smoothly and also make sure the guests stick to the question. So you are being a host, moderating and being an interviewer as well."

The students

You will seldom see more enthusiastic students on screen. From the 30 or so students attending each class, a core group of about 12 were protesters directly involved in the events in Tahrir Square. This group was selected for their tough opinions and will remain throughout the series. As well as guest responses, Al Ghesh Mamnoua will also present discussions between students of differing viewpoints. "Expect some interesting discussions among them as well," Abdul Wahab says. "They have a lot to say and sometimes they don't agree with each other, not just the guests."

The guests

They are a who's who of Egyptian politics, culture and celebrity. Previous guests have included the politician Anwar El Balkimy and the Egyptian imam Safwat Hegazi. Already signed up to appear on the programme are the Muslim Brotherhood member Ahmed Abu Baraka and the famed Egyptian writer and activist Nawal El Saadawi.

Sign of the times

Abdul Wahab says the programme reflects Egypt's new-found interest in politics and social justice. "It is really a great time to be here and I feel so proud," she says. "Everybody here is now talking about politics and history. You will find the most simple man telling you what they think of what's happening in Egypt right now, it is just great."

Al Ghesh Mamnoua is on OSN YaHala! HD on Thursdays and Fridays at 10pm