Creating people's geographies
Its always a curious, interesting experience watching foreign language TV without subtitles. You can learn and discern a lot culturally, even without fully understanding the dialogue. At my parent’s place I often catch a bit of the Middle East stations on cable, and sometimes even watch the Lebanese soap The Storm Rages Twice to keep up some semblance of Arabic speaking skills.
Mum was watching a breathless ‘forbidden love’ Egyptian movie today made in the 1950s that featured a handsome young Omar Sharif, and it gave me the idea for this short cultural (for a change!) commentary.
Sharif’s is an interesting story. Born Michel Demitri Shalhoub of Lebanese/Syrian Christian parentage in Egypt, he converted to Islam in order to marry his Egyptian actress love, Faten Hamama in 1955, consequently taking the name Omar al-Sharif. He and Hamama were romantic leads in several Egyptian movies.
The multi-lingual Sharif hit the Hollywood big-time after being cast in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) alongside Peter O’Toole, and went on to star in Dr Zhivago in 1965.
As a speaker of only very rudimentary Arabic, I marvel at how my parents and relatives can understand and distinguish between so many different national ‘dialects’ of Arabic. Those raised as Arabic speakers can usually quite easily tell whether someone is speaking Egyptian Arabic, or Iraqi Arabic, or Lebanese Arabic, and so on.
I suppose for us English-speaking natives, we can also quite easily discern a Canadian from an American (for me, a common give-away is in how the Canadians pronounce ‘about’ like ‘aboot’), or a Pom/Brit from an Aussie or a Kiwi, notwithstanding also some of the significant internal regional accents. I personally like the New York and Southern accents in the US in particular; here in Australia we have nowhere near the internal regional diversity in accents, any linguistic differences are probably based more on socio-economic rather than geographic lines. Not much opportunity to channel Bernard Shaw’s Professor Higgins ;)
Aside from golden oldie Egyptian movies, Middle Eastern (ME) news, vintage Oum Koltoum and slickly produced interview/ chat-shows, also in my parent’s occasional television viewing repetoire is the Middle East and North African edition of Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
Originating in the UK, there are now over 50 global versions of the Millionaire format. Its a bit of ‘soft power’ cultural imperialism for the Brits who also, I think, exported the Idol franchise: in Portugal, it is Quem quer ser milionário?; in Russia its Кто хочет стать миллионером?; in Italy, Chi vuol essere milionario?; in India, कौन बनेगा करोड़पति ?; in Iceland, Viltu vinna milljón?; in Austria, Die Millionenshow; in Japan, クイズ $ ミリオネア.
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire — the other World Game?
In 2005 the ME edition changed to (transliterated) Man sa yarbah 2 malyoon, doubling the top prize to 2 rather than 1 million Saudi Riyals (equiv. to half a million US dollars). There have been 3 winners of the top prize, including a student of pharmacy from Gaza, Mohammad Tanirah.
According to Wikipedia, in Australia there have only been 2 millionaire winners of the full kit and kaboodle. The US Millionaire has had 13 top winners.
Taped in Cairo by the Saudi-owned MBC satellite channel, the ME edition Who Wants to Win Two Million, as it is known in Arabic, is hosted by debonaire Lebanese presenter George Kurdahi, with a multinational make-up of contestants from across the Middle East, except Israel, which has its own version (side-swipe: with its recent conspiring to keep millions OUT of the oPt, to add to the withholding of Palestinian tax credits and preventing the re-entry in the past of developers such as Sam Bahour: perhaps the Israeli edition should be Who Wants To Keep The Million(aire)s Out?)
Here are some screen shots I took (thumbnail, click on image for full-size) followed by a short minute and a half video from YouTube:
I inserted this short clip (some of it appears to be out-takes) because I enjoyed watching the mirth of the presenter George Kurdahi. The contestant here seems to be a real comedian. With my limited Arabic, I had to solicit help in translating what was so funny. It was explained to me but it doesn’t really translate very well, the humour gets lost in the translation. Nevertheless I thought its insertion would round off the post, its always good to see people laughing their heads off ;) Run-time: 1:30