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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

The show must go on

The return of Iftah Ya Sim Sim, the Arabic version of Sesame Street, will help entrench language skills in the UAE

No Arabic children’s television show was as popular and influential in the Middle East in the 1980s as Iftah Ya Sim Sim, the local adaptation of the American series Sesame Street. That’s because it offered an alternative way of learning that hardly existed in the Arab world at the time, just as Sesame Street had previously done in the West.

Those who grew up watching Iftah Ya Sim Sim – which ended in 1990 when the First Gulf War halted its filming in Kuwait – remember how it influenced children through characters that familiarised them with the various accents that existed among Arabs, from Egypt, to the Levant and the Gulf. Fortunately, not all of that is relegated to history, with plans to relaunch the series through twofour54, Abu Dhabi’s media free zone.

The new series is significant for two reasons. First, it will encourage Emiratis and other Arabs to become more involved in filmmaking. Secondly, and more importantly, it will focus on locally relevant Arabic-language content that will seek to educate present and future generations.

At a time when Arab children are increasingly deviating from their language and culture because of programming from nations like the United States and India, initiatives like this will help to reverse the trend.