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June 01, 2003

Will globalization bring liberalization?

Scantily clad lifeguards are soon to hit Egypt's beaches in a new Baywatch-style soap opera

Egypt seems caught between looking and staying backward with its anti-western mullahs and being lured by the trinkets of the West. The picture tells it all!
An unlikely topic has been cropping up in coffee shops all over Cairo in the last few weeks. Compared to raging political debates and a relentless onslaught of regional disasters, it is pure conversational candy, but it has, nonetheless, seized the collective imagination of the city. Baywatch may seem about as far from the reality of modern Egypt as Los Angeles is geographically from Sharm Al Sheikh, yet a copycat version of the beach babe-centered drama is underway.

The series, previously to be called Action in Hurghada, has now been renamed Shatti Al Ahlam (Beach of Dreams) although the substance of the proposed series remains the same. It may develop into a diluted version of its racier US relative, but it will still focus upon sun, sea, action and romance. Nagi William, media advisor for Propaganda International, the production company responsible for the 45-minute episodes, told the Cairo Times that American actor Sylvester Stallone will be participating in the September castings-cum-beauty contest at the resort of El Gouna near Hurghada on the Red Sea. In addition, he claims that Hollywood has agreed to distribute the series and therefore promote valuable relations between the Egyptian film industry and the American movie giants. "Key Hollywood players, both actors and production professionals, will attend the casting competition," he stated, although failing to mention anyone specific. The El Gouna event, known as the "Superstars Festival," will seek seven girls and three boys from the Arab world who will star in the series.

News of the production has sparked widespread criticism of the objectives behind its creation as well as its approach to issues that are sensitive in Egypt, such as on-screen nudity and the moral standards of actresses from the region.[...]
"The foreign view is that there is nothing but war and killing in the Middle East," coupled with an image of people riding camels, said Mansour. Douglas Nash, the marketing and public relations manager for PADI International, the diving company that is sponsoring the production, confirmed this image, saying, "People do not know enough about countries like Egypt, they see the region as one entity." [more]