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DUBAI: UAE's 'Freej' to become first globally distributed animated Arab series

January 17, 2010 |  8:25 am

Picture 26

Mix equal parts "Golden Girls" and "Fantastic Four," then boil three times like thick Arabic coffee, and what you get is "Freej," the hit show about four Emirati grandmothers in the big city.

The producers of the 3-D animated series are in negotiations to have the show dubbed and syndicated for global distribution, making it the first Arab production to do so, the entertainment site Wikeez is reporting.

"Freej" chronicles the adventures of Um Saeed, Um Saloom, Um Allawi and Um Khammas, four elderly women living on the outskirts of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, as they attempt to reconcile their traditional ways of life with the city's fast-paced corporate culture.

Hilarity inevitably ensues, but viewers are often left wondering whether the joke is on these provincial grandmothers in their mud-brick homes or those living in the sterile high-rises that tower in the background.

"In Arab culture, a grandmother is the heart of the family," the show's creator, Mohammad Saeed Harib, said of his heroines in an interview with Time Out Dubai in 2006. "Your grandmother is the only person who can advise and insult you in the same sentence."

Although the show isn't exactly critical of Dubai's ecstatic charge toward consumer capitalism and unchecked growth, much of the humor is derived from misunderstandings that occur between the quick-witted and wise women with their heavily accented Emirati Arabic and the cosmopolitan residents of Dubai.

In one episode, the women visit Dubai's Global Village, a sort of "Small World"-themed mall where Um Saeed tries to haggle with the owner of a textile shop. Um Saeed, who appears unfamiliar with the concept of price tags, eventually succeeds in driving the price down through sheer clueless obstinacy.

Natives of the Persian Gulf may recognize in Freej their own struggle to merge the familiar with the foreign, but the show's appeal outside the region will be the real test of its universality.

-- Meris Lutz in Beirut

Image: The heroines of "Freej" from the show's website.

Video: The promo for Season 2 of the hit show. Credit: Darshan Prajapati via Vimeo