Egypt entertainment industry counts the cost of virus crisis

Sherif Mounir and Yasmine, center, were set to work in a series that has been postponed. (Social media)
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Updated 03 April 2020

Egypt entertainment industry counts the cost of virus crisis

  • The affected shows include “Light Black,” starring Lebanese singer/actress Haifaa Wahby

Egypt’s entertainment industry has been hit hard by precautionary measures taken by the government to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The makers of popular Ramadan programs have suffered the most from the production shutdown, as they were in the middle of filming shows that were due to begin in the last week of April. Work on most Egyptian series, which are popular throughout the Arab world, has now stopped and most have not announced a date for production to resume.

The affected shows include “Light Black,” starring Lebanese singer/actress Haifaa Wahby. It was initially announced that production would shift to Lebanon, only for Lebanese authorities to introduce a ban on filming. The series also features Rojina, Ahmed Fahmy, Moatasem El-Nahar, Sabry Fawaz, Omar El-Saeed, Feras Saeed and Rania Mansour. It is written by Amin Gamal and directed by Karim El-Adl.

Egyptian series “Women of Gold” was also affected by this, since most of its scenes were due to be filmed in Lebanon. It stars Nadia El-Gendy, Hala Fakher, Nabila Ebeid and Samiha Ayoub, and is directed by Wael Ehsan.

Filming of “Why Should We Love Again?” — starring Yasmine Abdel-Aziz, Sherif Mounir, Karim Fahmy and Sawsan Badr — has likewise been postponed. It is written by Amr Mahmoud Yassin and directed by Hossam Aly.

Filming of “Thread of Silk,” starring Mai Ezzeldin, was due to take place during the first 10 days of April but this has been halted. It stars Mai Ezzeldin, Mahmoud Abdel-Moghny, Youssef Othman, Hanady Mehanna, Sawsan Badr and Ahmed Khalil, and was written by Mohamed Soliman and directed by Ibrahim Fakhr.

The cast and crew of “Moon at Life’s End,” starring Bushra and directed by Tamer Hamza, have been placed on indefinite hiatus. Observers predict the show is unlikely to be released during Ramadan because filming began only recently. In addition, “El-Moez Sultana,” starring Ghada Abdel-Razek, and “Eyewitness,” starring Hassan El-Raddad, are postponed indefinitely.

“Penetration,” starring Ahmed Eid and Mai Selim, is also on hold. Much of it was due to be filmed in Saudi Arabia, but the Kingdom is limiting flights and has imposed a curfew.

Other series, including “Our Nights,” “Timon and Pumbaa,” and “Second Chance” remain in limbo with no date for production to resume.

Production of a few shows is continuing, however, including “Counter Attack,” starring Ahmed Ezz. This has reportedly led to led to arguments on the set, especially after producers increased the working day to 16 hours. The production team requested a week off, to protect them from the coronavirus, in keeping with the example set by some other Ramadan productions. Their bosses refused the request.

In an attempt to ease tensions, Ezz called on the producers to supply face masks and disinfect frequently used filming locations.

Filming is said to be complete on about 90 percent of action actor Mohamed Ramadan’s series “The Prince,” so it is likely to be broadcast during Ramadan. The producers of “The Choice,” in which Amir Karara portrays Armed Forces martyr Ahmed El-Mansy, said that filming is going well.

Government-mandated precautionary measures to counter the spread of the coronavirus meant only a handful of people could attend the funeral of renowned Egyptian comedian George Sedhom this week.

It was held in the Virgin Mary Church and in Saint Athnasios Church in Cairo, but the only mourners were his wife, a few close relatives, the head of the actors union Ashraf Zaki, and actor Hany Ramzy.

Meanwhile, former actor Rola Mahmoud has confirmed she was infected with the coronavirus during a visit to London. She is the first Egyptian actress confirmed as infected.

Egyptian rapper Marwan Pablo has announced that he is quitting the entertainment industry due to the spread of the virus. In a message to fans, posted on Instagram, he said that he will not go reverse his decision.

Many Egyptians reacted angrily to claims by singer Enas Ezzeldin that she was infected with the coronavirus, even though her test came back negative.

Egypt closed cinemas and theaters several weeks ago to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Art exhibitions have also been canceled. Reda Picasso, owner of the Picasso East Art Gallery in Cairo, said some artists are instead displaying their work online and through social media. He added that business was down by about 50 percent since the beginning of March.

AlUla cultural and heritage site to reopen in October

Updated 02 June 2020

AlUla cultural and heritage site to reopen in October

  • Historic destination in northwest of Kingdom will now be accessible to visitors all year round

JEDDAH: When you’re already a quarter-of-a-million years old, a few months out of action because of a coronavirus pandemic is no more than a blip in time.

It is therefore safe to say that when visitors return to AlUla, the culture and heritage destination in northwest Saudi Arabia, not a lot will have changed.

AlUla’s attractions, including the Kingdom’s first UNESCO world heritage site, will reopen in October — and they will now be accessible all year round.

Walks, treks and trails will be available, guided by the local Rawi (Arabic storyteller) or self-guided, for visitors who want to delve deeper into the stories and customs of the region.

A visit to AlUla is a transformative experience to all who have visited — its vast open spaces, its secrets of civilizations gone by and the pure wonder of its landmarks.

“We are developing immersive, light-touch experiences that harness the power and silence of the landscapes, experiences like guided stargazing in a desert night sky that has inspired science, religion, philosophy, art and literature for millennia,” said Phillip Jones of the Royal Commission for AlUla.

Adventure tourists can tear around in a desert buggy or take to the skies in a vintage light aircraft to see volcanic craters and the lava fields of Harrat Khaybar. 

For families, Hijrat Noura, or Princess Noura Farm, offers a chance to observe the local flora and fauna. Winter Park, developed for the Winter at Tantora festival, will also return.

“A visit to AlUla is a transformative experience to all who have visited — its vast open spaces, its secrets of civilizations gone by and the pure wonder of its landmarks,” Jones said.