Netflix’s First Arabic Originals: From Kuwait’s The Cage To Egypt’s Paranormal

It has become known that Netflix is a big game player when it comes to producing international original series including Spain’s La Casa De Papel and Germany’s Dark. With their recent plummet in subscribers, losing almost a million between April and July, Netflix strives to create content that will attract more international audiences to their streaming platform. Other than their original European and Asian productions, they have also dipped their toes in the Middle East, producing some of the region’s most exciting narratives.

Their newest Arab edition is a Kuwaiti dramedy series called The Cage set to be released on Netflix on September 23rd of this year. This eight-episode series follows the life of a social counselor who helps a couple navigate the ins and outs of their marriage while he himself struggles to find his own footing in his personal life. Viewers will get to learn about the couple and take a journey with them through their decade-long relationship. It’s an overall refreshing take on how Arab relationships have taken on a new shape.

To celebrate Kuwait’s first Netflix original series, we decided to showcase many other Arab countries’ and their first entry into the popular streaming service’s world.

Jinn (Jordan)

Jinn is Netflix’s very first Arabic original series, joining the platform on the 13th of June, 2019. The story begins when Mira, the show’s protagonist, mistakenly releases a Jinn after the mysterious death of her classmate in the city of Petra. Through its five episodes, we join Mira and her group of friends as they attempt to unravel the supernatural realm ruled by Jinn. Throughout the series, the characters face peculiar supernatural phenomena from water spiraling from the school’s sink to the characters possessed by a Jinn teleporting and disappearing into a puff of black smoke.

Despite the show receiving positive critical acclaim for its portrayal of a fantasy teen drama, a genre we’re not used to seeing in the Arab world, it also suffered from negative backlash because of its depiction of several scenes deemed inappropriate by the Jordanian community as well as Jordan’s Public Security Department that attempted to stop the show from airing on Netflix. Despite the fact that the series is considered a mixed bag to the general public, it is still great to see a refreshing Arab take on the fantasy genre joining the popular streaming platform.

Dollar (Lebanon)

Lebanon’s first original Netflix series, released on August 8, 2019, makes you feel that a one-dollar banknote is the main star of the show. Its main protagonists, Zeina and Tarek, spend the entire series chasing after the banknote as it travels from the hands of a coffee vendor to a divorcée followed by a magician and his daughter. It is all for good reason though. It turns out that whoever gets their hands on that dollar bill will win a hefty prize of one million dollars.

Despite its unique and possibly exciting plot, the show didn’t bring the same hype when it came to its viewers. It overall rating on IMDB was 6.6 stars, a number considered low in comparison to the eight and above ratings given to more successful original Netflix productions. Nonetheless, it did give viewers a fun look at Beirut, its different districts and unique architecture as well as some of the city’s French influence.

Paranormal (Egypt)

Known among Egyptians as the Godfather, Ahmed Khaled Tawfik’s infamous fantasy series “Paranormal” could quite possibly have been populating the shelves of most of Egypt’s teenagers during the late 90s and early 2000s. The books were so popular, that their pages were taken and transformed into a 6-episode series produced by Netflix. Released on Nov 5, 2020, the famous protagonist of the series, Dr. Refaat Ismail is played by no other than the comedic actor, Ahmed Amin, as he shocks audiences by taking on a more sullen, serious character.

Each episode truly sinks into the supernatural with everything from mummies to ghosts to the chilling eerie mysterious role of Refaat’s childhood crush Shiraz played by the adorable Reem Abd El Kader. She seems to be the sole cause of most of the troubles he suffers throughout the series. That element of mystery as well as the original popularity of the book series is what pulled viewers towards the show, helping it to achieve an 8 star rating on IMDb.

Other notable original Arabic series include Jordan’s AlRawabi School for Girls as well as Egypt’s Finding Ola. Here’s hoping more Middle Eastern shows will continue to join the ranks of these game-changing Netflix-produced series.

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