Netflix: Three Arabic language shows to watch in November
For most in the northern hemisphere, November heralds the start of winter and long nights huddled around TV screens.
The season is ideal for losing yourself in a mysterious disappearance or atmospheric drama, and thankfully there is no shortage of candidates on platforms like Netflix.
The streaming service has a rich catalogue of offerings from the Arab world, from period dramas heavily influenced by Agatha Christie to more modern fares that incorporate contemporary geopolitical circumstances.
Here we’ve picked three Arabic-language shows to keep you busy this November.
Suggestions are based on the British version of Netflix and some shows might not be available in other regions.
Secret of the Nile
A remake of the Spanish drama Gran Hotel (The Grand Hotel), Egyptian drama Secret of the Nile follows a young man named Ali as he tries to figure out what happened to his sister, who worked as a maid at a prestigious hotel in Aswan.
Ali’s hunt for his sibling digresses, as he predictably falls in love with the daughter of the hotel’s owners and stumbles across intrigues that threaten the family’s control of the institution.
A nostalgic homage to pre-Nasserite Egypt, Secret of the Nile is notable for its attention to detail, both aesthetic and in its dialogue.
The filmmakers have expertly crafted the period and despite its dramatic plot, a sense of realism is reinforced through casting choices and the use of language appropriate to the historical era in which the story is set.
For example, staff at the hotel speak a version of the Egyptian dialect heavily influenced by Ottoman Turkish and the British colonial legacy is visible via the use of European extras at the hotel.
Such attention to detail allows even the most pedantic of viewers to enjoy the mysteries contained within the plot unravel without raising eyebrows too often.
Imagine a blend between Gone Girl and an Agatha Christie novel, and you might come close to Lebanese drama The Writer.
Younes Gibran is a novelist dealing with the breakdown of his marriage and is having an affair with a young woman who is later found murdered.
The circumstances of her death bear an uncanny resemblance to the plot of a book Gibran was working on and so the writer becomes a prime suspect.
Gibran then spends the series attempting to evade capture, and trying to find the real perpetrator of the killing, encountering a motley assortment of shady characters along the way.
When stuck in a bind, the novelist turns to one of his creations, a character named Mr Helmy for ways out.
Inspired by Christie and with an aesthetic to match, The Writer is one for audiences who can look past sometimes stilted dialogue and don’t mind melodrama.
Also set in Lebanon, Al Hayba follows a Canadian-Lebanese widow, Alia, as she travels back to her homeland with her 10-year-old son Joe to bury her husband.
While there she encounters his deeply traditional family and is plunged into the world of Lebanese clan politics.
The series follows Alia as she tries to balance her Canadian upbringing with the conservative Lebanese community she now finds herself in.
Her primary antagonist is the family matriarch Em Jabal, a sharp-tongued mother-in-law archetype who is the de facto head of the Sheikh al-Jabal clan.
But family politics are just one aspect of the show, as the series also touches upon the criminal underworld and the clan’s role in smuggling goods, including weapons, back and forth between Syria and Lebanon.
Matters come to a head when Alia finds herself drawn to the chief of the rival Al Jabal clan, adding a romantic dimension to the drama.
The show’s popularity has caught the attention of international distributors, including the Turkish production house, Ay Yapim, which is producing a Turkish-language version.