TV drama canceled after tribes complain to King

An ambitious 30-episode drama series portraying the life of an 18th century tribal leader has been canceled after the tribe complained to the Saudi King that it distorted history.

ABU DHABI, September 9 ( – President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday issued orders to suspend airing of the Arabic serial Sa'adoun Al Awaji on Abu Dhabi TV.

The order came after calls from many Arab tribes, whose history is portrayed in the serial, according to WAM.

The multi-million dirham serial tells the story of a well-known tribal leader and poet, Shaikh Sa'adoun Al Awaji of the Inezza tribe, who was born in the north of the Arab Peninsula around 1750, and portrays Bedouin life at that time.

The 30-episode serial, which was shot in the Syrian city of Palmyra, stars Syrian actor Rashid Assaf and other Syrian, Jordanian, Saudi and Qatari actors. It was being aired exclusively on Abu Dhabi TV and re-aired on Emirates TV.

A direct descendant of Sa'adoun Al Awaji told Gulf News he had approved the scenario and the TV drama based on the story of his grandfather, Champions of the Desert, published more than 50 years ago.

"However, the ban was prompted by a letter sent to King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia by Shaikh Saleh Al Ama'at Al Awaji of the Inezza tribe, demanding that the Saudi king intervenes with the UAE authorities to suspend the serial which he considered distorting history of the Inezza tribe," said poet Shaikh Saud Saleh Bin Freih Bin Eqab Bin Sa'adoun Al Awaji, the descendant of the tribal leader Sa'adoun Al Awaji.


The ruling family in Saudi Arabia are from the Inezza tribe, which was involved in bitter conflicts with the Shammar tribe, he said in a telephone interview.

Poet Shaikh Saleh said he admired the TV drama, which is "far better than the Turkish and other nonsensical serials aired on Arab TV channels.

"All shaikhs of the Inezza tribe, except for Shaikh Saleh, were looking forward to watching the remaining episodes of the great serial," said poet Shaikh Saleh.

Hashem Al Qaissieh, director general of Al Reef Art Production, the producers of the serial, told Gulf News Shaikh Khalifa's decree banning the airing of the serial is respectfully enforced.

"Although we did our best to be objective and not to instigate tribal strife in any way, biographies of leaders and champions always cause controversies, especially in the Arab world," Al Qaissieh said.

Dr Falih Handhal, a researcher in history and heritage, echoed this view. "No wonder, leaders from both tribes object to airing the series because each party wants to tell what they feel about their history. It is next to impossible to persuade members of a tribe that their tribe had been defeated. Everyone sees his tribe as triumphant."

Dr Habib Ghuloom, an Emirati artiste, said that TV drama should respect the traditions of the Arabian Gulf. "These works should respect privacy and not cross any red lines in politics, religion and social life," he said.

This article was republished with permission from