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A weekly update on your favorite Ramadan TV shows

Ten days into the fray, this Ramadan's standout series seem to be Faten Hamama's much-hyped return to the small screen in Wagh Al-Qamar (Face of the Moon), and Youssra's national unity vehicle, Awan Al-Ward (Flowers Bloom).

Wagh Al-Qamar

Wagh Al-Qamar (Face of the Moon) came full circle during its final episode, neatly connecting all the threads it had left hanging through its 18-episode run. The soap opera tells the story of TV presenter Ibtisam (Faten Hamama), and her perfect mega-rich family. Husband Karim Abul-Ezz (Gamil Ratib) is a successful businesman, and their three children, Sarah and Samah from Ibtisam's previous marriage, and Wael are all bright and ambitious.

But then, one day, Ibtisam's long-lost, thought-to-be-dead husband Mustafa Qura (Ahmed Ramzy) suddenly reappears, and messes all this perfection up. Turns out he never died after all. Now Mustafa claims that Karim had him killed when an arms deal they were both involved in went wrong. He narrowly escaped and his driver was buried in his stead. Ibtisam didn't even know that Karim and Mustafa knew each other in the first place.

Ibtisam tries to keep Mustafa's reappearance a secret from her family throughout the show, hoping he will just go away again and leave them all alone. After all, Karim had brought up her two daughters like his own.

But Mustafa's reappearance is driving a wedge between her and her family, and everyone can tell there is something very wrong. Plus, Mustafa is determined to play a part in Samah and Sara's lives. In Sara's case, he helps her discover that her fiancee is a creep who deals in stolen antiquities, and his lawyer helps get Sara off the hook when the fiancee leaves a precious statue in her car and she is arrested. In Samah's case, he advises Ibtisam to stop rejecting Samah's boyfriend, pop star Hashem (Wael Nour), who he says is really a good guy. The girls keep seeing the bald Mustafa, but whenever they ask Ibtisam who he is, she denies even knowing him.

Meanwhile, Mustafa is desperately trying to get Ibtisam back, going to the courts to prove that her marriage to Karim is invalid since he is still alive. But to prove it's really him, he has to get people who knew him then to now swear in front of the courts that he is who he says he is. Trouble is, Karim is always getting to them first, and convincing them not to appear. In the end, only Ibtisam can save him, and destroy her own marriage in the process, by swearing in front of the court.

In the last three episodes the family finally find out that the strange bald guy is really their long-lost father. Sara is ecstatic, and moves out of the house to stay with him. Samah is a little less excited, but eventually comes around. To complicate matters, Mustafa is dying of leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant, which Sara selflessly volunteers for. His doctor (Mahmoud Qabil) is impressed and asks her to marry him, and she agrees.

All this sets the scene for the final episode, which culminates in Sara's wedding to the doctor. Mustafa throws the party, and Ibtisam urges Karim to go with her. Karim refuses, saying it's not the right time for him to face his former friend and current enemy. During the wedding, Mustafa is ill and goes back to his hotel room. Karim shows up at the wedding and Ibtisam tells him to go see Mustafa.
The two meet in the dark hotel room and finally face each other and their sordid past. "Why did you woo Ibtisam less than a year after you thought I had died? Mustafa asks Karim.

"Because I loved her," Karim says.
Mustafa is satisfied that it wasn't just a matter of revenge for Karim, and passes out. He has gotten what he came back for. He has become a part of his daughter's lives again, and is sure his wife is in good hands. Ironically enough, it is Karim who takes him to the hospital, and is the last person to see Mustafa alive.
The show's final scene is back at Karim and Ibtisam's house, several years later. The family is all gathered happily at the table for iftar, just like before. Except now there's a new addition -- Sara and the doctor's new child, whose name is Mustafa.

Is the press being too harsh on Faten Hamama
Awan Al-Ward

Police officer Mahmoud Bekheit (Hisham Abdel-Hamid) and his lovely wife Amal's (Youssra) son has been kidnapped, from the hospital the day after he was born no less, and the grieving family has been sent an ultimatum. The child is in safe hands, but he wont be given back until Bekheit admits that he once performed a grave injustice to the unknown kidnapper. He must admit his mistake and own up.

That is the crux of the drama at present, and looks set to be until the series ends. What injustice did Bekheit commit, and will he discover it and make amends in time to save his son and marriage?

There is certainly something symbolic about this, considering the soap opera's primary theme, the unity of Muslim-Christian relations in Egypt. Amal's mother, after all, is Madame Rose, a Coptic Christian who married a Muslim, and this makes for plenty of cross-religious imagery and dialogue that shows just how harmonious the two religions are.
Meanwhile, the audience is left hanging, as we go through all the possible culprits. Could it be Bannoura, the me'allam who Bekheit arrested for running a mafia-like organization out of his coffeehouse? Could it be the street gang that was robbing people on dark roads? Will it be Amal's colleague who was always in love with her and sent her black flowers on the day she got married to Beklheit? Is it any of the family's Christian or Muslim relatives, upset at the marriage? Is it the crazy guy who once confronted Bekhiet in the street? Or is it, as so many people think, Bekheit's spurned former girlfriend, the famous TV presenter who once had to abort his child?

Scriptwriter Wahid Hamid has announced that he is not going to be revealing the identity of the kidnapper until the very last episode. He also claimed that he had not even written it yet, however unbelievable that may be.

There has been something strange happening, though, which may give us a clue. Twice or so into the show, there's a commercial break, and a phone number appears on screen, along with an announcement that an Awan al-Ward contest has been established. Viewers can call in with their opinion of who the kidnapper is in the hope of winning 5000 pounds. Is this a sly way of finding out who the audience thinks it is so that scriptwriter Hamid can then tailor the ending either to fit people's expectations, or else to completely surprise them?

Meanwhile the sometimes over-the-top dialogue on national unity continues, as does the broaching of taboo subjects like premarital sex.

The show features great, understated performances by both Abdel-Hamid and Youssra, and exciting dialogue and situations. Abdel-Rahman Abou Zahra and Said Saleh continue to be the supporting casts's high points, with Abou Zahra as Bekheit's boss, and Saleh as the very funny former swindler Sobhy Barquq who is helping Bekheit find the kidnapper.

Definitely a must-see.

Ramadan is also famous for its TV advertisements, with lots of companies busting their entire budget on this month's spots, knowing that millions are glued to the TV from sunset to dawn.
This week's best ad is the one for the ceramics store with the twilight-zone-like coffeehouse outside, where a lot of men, some awake and some asleep, are sitting at tables. One guy says he's been waiting for three hours, another says he's been waiting for seven hours, and a third guy tells them both that they still have a long wait ahead of them. It turns out that these men are waiting for their wives, who are inside picking out tiles. When a new guy walks up and tells the waiter he doesn't want to order anything because his wife told him she'd only be in the store for five minutes, there's a lot of sniggering from the others... The take is that there are so many wonderful patterns and styles of ceramics inside that the women will probably never come out.

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Read last week's introduction to the most popular shows this Ramadan

Updates on the second week of Wagh Al-Qamar and Awan Al-Ward

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