Taking place in a real café in the west of Cairo, “Coffee Shop,” an all-male drama, focuses on discussions between Amr, a staunch Egyptian patriot, and Sherif, who aspires to live a more Western lifestyle.
The show is due to be broadcast this Ramadan on al-Hafez, a Salafist Islamist channel known for its conservative programs.
The sitcom's creator seemingly attempts to champion a non-Western lifestyle in Egypt.
“Every time Amr ends up being right and Sherif ends up being wrong,” said Sayed Said, the creator and chief scriptwriter of “Coffee Shop,” in a report by The Guardian.
Said says the existing content shown during Ramadan is sexualized and fails to represent conservative Egyptians.
“The basic aim of the series is to show that you can make a good show without depicting naked women,” Said said.
Last Ramadan, the al-Hafez channel featured a reality series showing teenagers compete to memorize large portions of the Quran.
“It’s a response to the accusation that the Islamic media is very backward and uncreative. We’re trying to show that it is creative and that we understand drama,” al-Hafez’s owner, Atef Abdel-Rashid, told The Guardian.
Ramadan is Egypt’s busiest, most profitable television season, where seasonal soap operas are commonly associated with female stars and romantic storylines.
‘Complete denial of reality’
Critics have said that the show is more evidence of Egyptian culture becoming increasingly conservative since the 2011 revolution.
“An all-male show can’t be reflective of society if it doesn’t have any women,” Yara Goubran, star of a competing Ramadan series, told The Guardian.
However, since the revolution, some artists say that they have more freedom of expression, and recently, directors have been more prepared to show non-conservative lifestyles on Egyptian television dramas.
This Ramadan, several dramas share a common theme of religious hypocrisy, portraying religious figures abusing their power for political gain, a possible nod towards the ruling Muslim Brotherhood and other affiliated groups.
“It’s ironic that al-Hafez is emerging at a time when TV drama has never been more liberal, or taken so many risks,” said Joe Fahim, a film critic quoted by The Guardian.
“What al-Hafez is doing is not only futile, but it doesn’t really make any sense. Not only do they misunderstand the public, but also they are in complete denial of the reality of the Egyptian street,” added Fahim.