The Sultan and the Shah… on TV

Mashari Althaydi
Mashari Althaydi
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News about a new historical series tackling the conflict between the Safavids and the Ottomans in the Islamic middle centuries has caught my attention.

Al Arabiya producer Sabah Nahi watched a few episodes of this series, entitled “the Sultan and the Shah.” He described it as an “epic drama that addresses a conflict between two leading empires at the time in the Arab world; namely the Ottomans, represented by Sultan Selim I, who defended his reign, and the Safavids, led by the Shah Ismail Safavi.”

The director of this series is Jordanian, Mohammad Aziziah. The executive producer Dr. Mohsen al-Ali said that they relied on important historical sources from various Persian, Turkish and Arab sides, to verify the facts and become inspired by their implications.

Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese, Jordanian and Egyptian actors starred this series among others. However, the series focuses on two main characters leading these wars: Ottoman Sultan Selim I and the Safavid Shah Ismail.

I have not watched the series yet to be able to comment on its content, historical story, production quality and the message that it wants to convey. However, such a series that took nearly two years to be make, as Aziziah said, should reach the minimum requirements of such a production.

We stress on the need for historical stories to be told because our main problem today is that we still linger negatively in our past

Mshari Al Thaydi

It is now time for other Arab-made dramas, movies and documentaries to be produced with a professional insight similar to those seen on the Discovery and National Geographic channels, for example.

If Arab artists were able to provide the historical sensitive era in a high-caliber and clever output, a multifaceted text with rich sources, and flawless acting, directing and music, they would have spared unnecessary and empty discussions about historical issues.

We stress on the need for historical stories to be told because our main problem today is that we still linger negatively in our past, from Iraq to Syria and Yemen and other countries.

We are a nation that is still living in its past. Once we distance ourselves from our past, we will be able to look at it calmly, understand it and analyze it with interest, disregarding the consequences.

Some of the examples include but are not limited to Karbala, Zaid bin Ali, the battle of Nahrawan, al-Amin and al-Ma’mun, Abu Muslim al-Khurasani, Marwan al-Himar, Saqr Quraish, Helping the State and the rest of the Buyids, Tatars, Salah ed-Din, Qutuz, Qarmatians, Hasan Bin Sabbah, the fall of Baghdad, al-Tusi, the crusader invasions, Louis IX, the Portuguese invasion, Zaydi war against Bani Rasul, etc.

It is true that ancient Egyptian and Syrian dramas have tackled some of these, but what I am talking about is a western-style production, or at least series that are similar to the historic non-commercial Turkish series, of course.

So, is it time for a new era of Arab drama?

The article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat.

Saudi journalist Mshari Al Thaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Al Thaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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