Five Television Series From The Middle East to Check Out on Netflix5 min readReading Time: 4 minutes
Media and art have a curious way of broadening our perspectives and shattering any preconceived notions — even despite possible language barriers or lack of knowledge in cultural and historical contexts. It wasn’t too long ago when nobody knew what a Bimbimbap is. Go further back and there was a time when Japanese exports were seen as cheap and unreliable. Today, partially due to the influence of Western media, many unfortunately hold negative connotations of the Middle East. Hopefully, that too can change soon.
From the powerful performances in Tunisian drama A Son to the gorgeous cinematography of A Tale Of Three Sisters, the recently concluded Middle East Film Festival presented a lineup that truly showcased the vibrancy of the Middle East. These films brought forward raw and affecting stories that gave us a peek at life in the region.
We thought to keep the ball rolling with a genre-spanning selection of Middle Eastern television series to check out on Netflix.
Based on a series of horror literature by beloved Egyptian novelist Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, Paranormal is Netflix’s first Egyptian original series. Despite its generic title, the series is anything but, being the first programme from the country to reach Netflix’s Worldwide Top 10 charts.
Set in the 1960s, the thriller follows down-on-his-luck university professor Refaat as his everyday life is slowly consumed by the supernatural. Teaming with Maggie, his old flame from university, the self-loathing professor tries his best to save his family from supernatural occurrences.
Although the middle-aged and sheepish Refaat may be unconventional as a series lead, he does feel right at home with Paranormal’s overall kooky and lighthearted tone. The six-parter follows a monster-of-the-week format. There is plenty of entertainment to be had from the professor’s befuddlement, primarily from his frustration with being unable to explain anything with science. There are sweet and tender moments he shares with Maggie as well that are sure to leave as much of an impression as the mythological creatures.
The series made its debut in late 2020 and there are stirrings of a second season coming soon. For now, catch Paranormal on Netflix by following the link below:
Fans of mystery will have a lot to chew on with The Writer. There are enough intrigues and twists here to keep anyone entranced and savouring for the next episode.
The Lebanese series begins with the murder of a university student. With the murder paralleling the plot in his best-selling novel, author Younes finds himself at the top of the suspect list. Through the help of lawyer Majdouline, Younes looks to clear his name while navigating through an intricate web filled with schemes and deception.
Spanning 30 episodes, The Writer does feel a tad too long especially with its tinges of melodrama. What may keep viewers invested is the charisma of the stunning leads, lending an air of irresistible sophistication to the series. Bassel Khayat, who portrays the charming yet smug author, is magnetic in his role. With a meaty and riveting mystery at its core, The Writer should be on every part-time detective’s watchlist.
Stream The Writer by following the link below:
Perhaps the best-known series from this list, Fauda is a thriller set amidst the Israel-Palestine conflict. The series follows an Israeli counter-terrorism team operating inside Palestinian territories. Yet as the series unfolds, the team realises that achieving their goal of protecting their country is hardly black and white. Fans of similarly tense political dramas, such as Homeland, will definitely enjoy Fauda.
The intense action sequences make Fauda gripping television, especially given the tense situation of its context. Those unfamiliar with the conflict will not be too lost either. However, how the series portrays the region has to be taken into account. Now in its third season, Fauda has been the subject of controversy for how it portrays an Israeli-only perspective of the asymmetric conflict. While there are hints of biases, the series does integrate stories from both sides that humanises the conflict in heartrending ways.
Stream Fauda by following the link below:
The first Emirati series to run on Netflix explores real-life cases from the country through the eyes of a determined female lawyer. Farah is an American law school graduate who, instead of joining her father’s law firm, wants to start her own practice in the UAE.
Justice is particularly enlightening for showcasing the legal system of a part of the world unfamiliar to most, with Islamic law at its centre. In between Farah’s investigation are side-stories exploring women’s rights in the country. One negative of the series is how it tends to err towards being a soap drama. Regardless, Justice does represent a strong step forward for the representation of Arab women in non-Western media through its bold premise and resolute lead.
Catch Justice by following the link below:
Secret of the Nile
Capping off the list is the highly-acclaimed drama Secret of the Nile. A remake of the popular Spanish drama series Gran Hotel, Secret of the Nile combines the posh sophistication of Downton Abbey with the rich tapestry of Egyptian culture — and a healthy dose of mystery to top it all off.
The series follows the ongoings of the Grand Hotel, where only the wealthiest Egyptians and their servants reside. The story begins when Ali finds that his sister, who works at the hotel, has disappeared and with none of the staff willing to shed light on how and why. Ali gets a job as a waiter at the hotel and soon falls in love with the hotel owner’s daughter. But class divides make their forbidden romance seemingly all but impossible.
The world over has fawned over Secret of the Nile’s exquisite sets, gorgeous cinematography and solid performances. The series may turn out to be your next obsession too.
Stream Secret of the Nile by clicking here.
For the full selection of Middle Eastern programming on Netflix, follow this link.