Saudi farmer sells sheep to watch Turkish soaps

Some 3 to 4 million Saudis tune in each evening


A devoted fan of the hit Turkish soap operas has gone to extreme lengths to ensure quality time with the stars of the shows – she sold her entire herd of livestock to avoid distractions while the TV programs were on, a press report said on Thursday.

The older woman, who lives on a farm, told the Saudi press she could not devote her full attention to the TV series because she needed to milk her sheep regularly and care for them. So she decided to sell the livestock, the Saudi Gazette reported.

Turkish soaps ‘Noor’ and ‘Sanawat Ad-Dayaa’ (Years of Loss) have captivated audiences – mostly female – across the Arab world. In Saudi Arabia alone, some three to four million viewers watch the soap each evening, according to ratings released by news and entertainment broadcaster MBC, the parent company of Al Arabiya.

MBC began airing the Turkish shows -- dubbed into the spoken Syrian Arabic dialect -- four months ago.

Since then, reports have surfaced of women divorcing their husbands because they are not as good-looking or romantic as the lead characters in the soaps, particularly Muhannad, played by 24-year-old Turkish actor and model Kivanc Tatlitu.

Similarly, a number of husbands have divorced their wives after finding pictures of Muhannad on their mobile phones or in their bedrooms; or because the star-struck women are neglecting their duties towards their children and homes.

The apparent frenzy has led Saudi’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheikh to term the soaps “evil” and “un-Islamic.”

The drama, which drew poor ratings when first shown in Turkey in 2005, centers around a family whose patriarch strives to ensure his sons focus on the family business and maintain cohesion without straying into romantic temptation, the Gazette added.