Religious and historical shows are known to be fixtures on television during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, however, viewers this year will be eagerly anticipating to break their fast watching a ground-breaking series which chronicles the life of the second Righteous Caliph (thani al-Khulafa’ al-Rashidin), Omar ibn al-Khattab, also known as the Great Farooq.
Mazen Hayek, MBC Group’s Official Spokesman, tells Al Arabiya that “Omar” is anticipated to be the biggest and most important TV drama series ever produced in recent Middle Eastern TV history.
The series, which is the result of a joint collaboration between MBC Group and Qatar Media Incorporated, follows the life of Omar and his accomplishments, most notably the foundation of an Islamic state.
It also portrays Omar’s noble character to the audience, and the values he embodied such as good governance, equity, heroism and justice.
Given the significance of the main character and story to Muslims around the globe, the series is expected to attract audiences worldwide. The show will be airing in the Middle East and North Africa via MBC1, while ATV, a leading private TV network in Turkey, will air the Turkish dubbed version simultaneously with MBC in Ramadan; and MNC TV network in Indonesia, will air the subtitled version first, then the dubbed later.
Audiences in South East Asia, Europe and French speaking countries should also brace themselves; as the series is heading their way soon.
“O3 Productions which is the production arm of the MBC group is now in the final, contractual phases of closing the deals with leading networks and countries. There could well be a French version to-be considered for French speaking audiences in Africa, and one in English considered for Europe,” Hayek said.
As with any historical program, the project went through extensive research and authentication. In addition, a committee of prominent scholars and religious figures was formed to validate the text and made sure of the accurate interpretation of historical events, facts, and figures.
The trailer and available previews of the show indicates a huge amount of work high production values, 3D animation, props, and makeup in this year-and-a-half production. “If you think of similar treatments, you can only think of Robin Hood, Braveheart, and such Hollywood epic movies. We don’t have the exact budget of these big movies, but we’re talking of the same treatment in visual representation, at least.”
With a few days left to go before Ramadan starts; the hype surrounding this new series is at its peak… including among the media and advertising experts.
Faysal Zok, managing director of Initiative Media in Saudi Arabia expects the show to be a hit, given the extensive process in creating it.
“Historical series have proven success when done right, examples of that are the success of Hareem Al Sultan on OSN and Dubai TV, and Al Hassan Wa Al Hussein last Ramadan on Rotana Khaleejiah,” he said.
One aspect of the show which people are eager to find out about is whether the face of Omar will be shown on screen, since some Muslims believe that such a highly revered religious icon should not be portrayed.
“The series is expected to feature the faces of the Caliphs (Sahaba) and Omar, which is expected to create a controversy as to whether this is right or wrong, though we understood that MBC Group has already taken an approval from the three religious sources in the region (KSA, Egypt, and Qatar),” said Zok.
For his part, Hayek said viewers will have to wait until the first night the show is expected to air on MBC1 to find out whether Omar’s face will be shown. “The question about the series is not about whether the face is finally shown or not but, the real question is whether this mega TV historical series gives justice to Omar’s history or not. As a matter of fact, it does!”
Watch the trailer for “Omar” (in Arabic)