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EGYPT: Ramadan is fasting, praying and soap operas!

August 14, 2010 |  8:40 am


The fierce competition between TV channels in Egypt to win audiences and advertising money during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan bombards Muslims with soap operas and historical dramas that distract them from performing their religious traditions.

Ramadan began Wednesday as Egyptian TV and independent satellite channels began showing 48 new soap operas and nearly the same number of other programs produced specially for the holy month.

Statistics from the Pan Arab Research Center (PARC) show that Ramadan is the advertising high season in Egypt, with $146 million spent during the holy month last year, a remarkable 62% increase over any other time of the year. Millions of Egyptians watch soap operas after breaking their fast after sunset and before beginning it again after morning prayers.

Egypt is one of the fastest-growing advertising markets in the world,” Reg Lascaris, the president of the advertising group TBWA in the Africa, Middle East and Mediterranean region, told The National newspaper.  

The big spending on advertising during Ramadan inspired Egyptian TV to launch a new channel called “Drama 2.” Tarek Nour, owner of an advertising agency and a veteran in the industry, launched  “Cairo and People” last year, a channel that broadcasts only during Ramadan.

The indulgence of escaping into soap operas and other TV shows is seen by many religious leaders as a threat to the spiritual value of the holy month. “Ramadan is a worship month, not a month for watching soap operas” Ahmed Hemaya, the Imam of Sultan Hassan mosque in Cairo – one of Egypt’s oldest mosques --said in a recent interview with Egyptian TV.

“Fasting teaches us patience and to control our desires and instincts … over-watching TV distracts many Muslims from Tarawih prayers,” the imam added.

-- Nasry Esmat in Los Angeles

Photo: Egyptians gathering around television sets in a cafe in Ramadan. Credit: Agence France-Presse