Monday, July 19, 2010

The Jubilee of A Giant Baby

15 days remaining on the launch of TV
On the 21st of July 1960 the Arabic TV or as dubbed then "The giant baby" started its broadcast from Cairo launching the era of  TV in Egypt. The Arabic TV in Egypt was not the first one in the Arab world unlike the Egyptian radio , Lebanon and Iraq had got their own TV stations yet they did not have an impact on the Arab or Egyptian life like the Egyptian TV. 

A long pregnancy 

The idea of the TV was not a new one on the Egyptian society , just like the high dam the idea of having a TV network went back to 1947 when Le Progrès Egyptien published an important news that the cabinet of Mahmoud Pasha Fahmy El-Nukrashi had allocated LE 200,00 to build studio for radio and TV broadcast but due to the war in Palestine ,the money had gone to the ministry of war and the idea was just a small news in Egypt's most famous French speaking newspaper.

hafiz mahmoud
Hafiz Mahmoud
The idea came back to surface in 1951 when RTF Télévision filmed and aired the wedding of King Farouk from his second wife Nariman Sadek to France through Bab El-luk communication center , the success of that transmission encouraged it to suggest on Ali Pasha Maher cabinet the idea of introducing TV in to Egypt. The company held a gala party to promote the idea in order to gain the approval of the government , that event was not a luxurious gala party but rather what could be considered the first local TV transmission as they installed TV cameras in several locations in Cairo and transmitted from those locations to the gala party. According to what I read the first Egypt to appear on local TV transmission and speak to the viewers was the head of journalists' syndication then Hafiz Mahmoud who thanked the French for what they presented that night. Again Bab El-Luk communication center was used that night. That night was actually an experience to see if the transmission in Cairo was going to work or not. Due to the political tensions in Egypt then , the project was ignored and nobody had brains to remember that televised night gala.
Farouk went and the Free officers came , in 1953 television was in press again when the faculty of engineering in Cairo university held "The radio,television and radar exhibition" which showed the latest technologies then in these sectors. At the same year , at the same time it seems that exhibition reminded the French with Egypt and so the French press began to speak about French propositions to have a TV network in Cairo.
Gamal Salem
Gamal Salem
In 1954 after being the president of Egypt and removing Naguib , Nasser decided to implement a project presented by Gamal Salem : a new radio and TV station at Al-Moktam mount . Nasser allocated LE108,000 to build a HQ for that radio and TV station at Maspero street on the Nile Corniche. Earlier 1956 Egypt imported the equipments needed to that project and the construction started at the Maspero building and also at the transmission station at Moktam but it had to stop because later that year the Suez war erupted and Egypt found herself in a war against 3 countries. From 1956 to 1959 Egypt had become the United Arab Republic thanks to the Union with Syria but with no TV.
Arabic TV-Damascus
Like the phoenix the project was revived again in 1959 , it was not the Egyptian TV then but rather the Arabic TV. The UAR held a tender for the big project , it was not a one country network but two countries , the winning offer came from the States : RCA. According to what I read from  there were training courses in the States and also in the BBC for the staff at least in Egypt. The baby twin came to life in July 1960 as part of the revolution celebrations as The Arabic TV. The Arabic TV Cairo saw light for the first time on July 21,1960 while The Arabic TV Damascus saw light for the first time on July 23,1960. You can read more in Arabic about the history of The Arabic TV Damascus at the General organization of Radio and TV-Syria. Of course due to the not so good relations with Damascus our TV twin in Damascus is merely mentioned in Egypt, if it is mentioned at all. It was a golden opportunity to remedy our relations

A great history and lame present

Maspero Bld
The Egyptian TV has a very long history in those 50 years , its impact on the Egyptian and Arabic life can't be summarized in few lines except that it is the official TV of EGYPT , if you understand the complexity of Egypt, the personality of Egypt and the role of Egypt then you may understand the importance of that institution and the role it has been playing.
It is a fact that almost all TV stations in the Gulf used expertise from the Egyptian TV, it is a fact that its children from TV hosts, editors, staff and directors have been the best for long time up till now but unfortunately they began to lose their touch thanks to our current regime that had a huge opportunity in 29 years to reposition and to revive the TV but just like any institution in the country , its history being sold in secret auctions to the biggest bidder and its present destroyed but repressive policies that prohibited creativity.
This year the Egyptian TV failed to restore many of archived TV shows ,films and programs that were smuggled and sold to Art and Rotana , Sheikh Salah Kamel and Prince Walid Ibn Talal refused to return them back except for millions of dollar. FYI News Corp bought 20% of Rotana Corp. and wants to increase its share in the golden mine he found.
To celebrate its jubilee and to save its dignity in front of the increasing criticism to its failure in saving our heritage , the ERTVU has launched a new channel on the Nile Sat called the Arabic TV to air what is remaining from its archived programs  . You can watch one of its promos below

The Promo of the Arabic TV by

Yazeed , our Saudi friend who is in love with our wonderful Egyptian heritage has recorded that promo which includes a wonderful collection of programs.

The Jewels of The Arabic TV

The first of episode of "The White Piano" presented by legendary lyricist and poet Hussein El-Siyad had to pay its respect and loyalty to president Nasser. Famous singer and composer Mohamed Abdel Wahab1 ignored the cameras as you can see , it was something new for him. You can see beautiful sexy Shadia comfortable in front of the camera thanks of being a cinema star for two decades. 
The "White Piano" was like our "The Ed Sullivan Show"  , regardless of its tribute to president Nasser in its first episode as  it was fun to watch all those stars singing and acting in a Variety show. Up till now the Egyptian TV has failed to present a similar variety show like "The White Piano" and I do not know the real reason behind this, is it because we do not have real stars now like Abdel Wahab, Halim and Shadia anymore !!?? Is it because we do not have Avant-grade directors in TV like pioneer "Mohamed Salem" !!?? Is it because we do not have TV hosts like "Hussein El-Siyad" !!??
There was an attempt to revive variety shows in TV constantly but in vain , yes in 1970s we had "The international club" still it was not like "The White Piano" according to what I have heard. You can see a part from the international club show presented by Samir Sabri in the promo, he was hosting Nabila Ebeid2 who talked about her beginnings in the cinema.
The lady which sings in that concert is Sharifa Fadel and the girl making fun of her in the same concert was Lebleba3. I know Lebleba but I did not recognize Fadel at first as a young lady.
This promo includes treasures from the national TV archives , it is enough to see faces like Salah Jahin , Mahmoud El-Sadany and Dr.Taha Hussein , it is enough to see real TV hosts like poetic Hussein El-Siyad, the sweet Salwa Hegazy , powerful Laila Rostom , I need another blog seriously to speak and post all what that channel is going to air from TV shows , concerts and documentaries. 
Late poetess and TV star Salwa Hegazy

Family Memories

Prior to July 1960, before its official inauguration some few lucky Egyptians managed to reserve Philips TV sets earlier like my family " we were no.54 , my grand dad knew TV from his travels and managed to reserve one as soon as he knew it would be available in Egypt using his connections" .
My grandma remembers that standing still flower the Arabic  TV used to broadcast before the official inauguration .Old people then were amazed to see the little box working like the radio and showing footage like cinema .On the 21st July 1960 there was like a big family party in my grandparents' house, my grandparents invited all their curious relatives and also their neighbors who were interested enough to know what that buzz was about. It was really a party ,noisy summer dish party to be accurate and according to my grandma as soon as the first person had appeared on the TV speaking  , there was total silence in the living room.
My grandfather used to paid a LE 2 license fees monthly for having the TV , it came with the electricity bill as  TV license.
May be I am emotional when it comes to the Egyptian TV , please forgive me ,I was from the last generations that was raised on "Mama Nagwa" , "Papa Maged" , "a window on the world" , "the world sings"and the 8 PM TV series on Ch.1 followed by the 9 PM foreign TV series .

50 Years old baby

The Egyptian TV was always an important channel for the regime to control and also to spread its lies just like any state owned TV or any official media tool or even unofficial media channel still we can't ignore how much the Egyptian TV presented to the Egyptian and the Arabic family in general.
The Egyptian TV or the Arabic TV was dubbed in the official media in 1960 by "The giant baby" , it was for sure a giant baby but now it is not a baby anymore ; it is a 50 years old giant that wants freedom from his parents' restriction and control.
The Egyptian TV can beat any channel or network in the Arab world not only in Egypt through one way : freedom of expression. The Egyptian TV can be the BBC of the Middle East if we have a democratic regime that believes in the independence of the publicly owned media , this TV network should reflect its true owners ,the people not the regime. The Egyptian Union of radio and TV should be independent from the regime and the cabinet , it should follow the parliament.
Some say that I am a dreamer yet if we stop dreaming , we will die and this is why I will say : Happy 50th birthday Egyptian Arabic TV ,next year insh Allah you will be independent.
1. Mohamed Abdel Wahab attacked Nasser after his death in his memories.
2. She had not become "The star of Egypt" during that time , she become so in time of Mubarak !!
3. Lebleba was famous for imitating artists whether men or women since her childhood.


  1. very nice article Z ....!!! have you read mine about Amani Nashed????

  2. قولي يارب يازونوبيا القناة تستمر وتجيب برضه تلفزيون السبعينات ومسلسلات الثمانينات الحلوه و يبقى قناة كلها فلاش باك بجد احنا بنحتاجه لعدة.

    على الهامش :

    + احببت اضافتك وسردك الملم بتفاصيل اعرفها لاول مره .
    + من ضمن لقطات البرومو اتوقف على نقاط بسيطه :

    * اللقاء مع ساميه جمال راقي جدا ، وطريقة كلامها واختيارها لاثاث منزلها وعباراتها وردودها وسرعة بديهتها تشعرك انك امام سيدة صالون من الدرجة الاولى تنتقى عباراتها و تفكر بها وتقارنها ببعض الوجوه الاعلاميه التي تظهر لنا في التلفزيون ..تحزن ..فبعض الطبيبات والفنانات والراقصات يصبن بنوع من التهتك والتكسر عند الحديث بطريقة تثير الاشمئزاز ومفتعله للغايه .

    * التباين والتنوع في الاشكال - النجوم او المذيعين رغم ان المجال واحد يبقى لكل شخصية سماتها الخاصة التي تضيف لها بعدا مختلفا وتميز - ايضاالبرامج وطرق الطرح متعدده كذلك .

    * التهكم بحب و التعرض للاخر بطريقة محبه لا تؤذيه وفرض النية الحسنه واختيار العبارة المناسبه دون موسيقى حاده او تشنج - لتحديد ما اعني قول المذيعه تعليقا على الخرزه الزرقه التي يرتديها احمد رمزي يا اختي عليه ، ذكر نجوى ابراهيم لبقلظ كلمة واقي الراس :) عجبتني ، تقليد لبلبه لشريفه فاضل ، اتهام محمود السعدني لبنى عبدالعزيز بسرقة الطفايات ، سؤال مرفت امين لسعاد حسني عن الانجاب وعدم الالحاح والاكتفاء بابتسامه او ضحكة خفيفه - لا كما نرى حاليا وكان كل كلمة يقولها الضيف تصريح خطير - بسبب الموسيقى - وسبق وهمي .

    * الامل في بكره ... كان محسوس وكبير ... الله يارب يعيد الايام الحلوه والليالي الجميله في كل اركان الشرق الاوسط ويكفينا شر انفسنا وشر من يتربص بنا بشر .. هناك المزيد لكن اكتفي واكرر شكري .

  3. Nice write up. I haven't watched Egyptian TV for over 20 years. I don't think I am missing much!

  4. The lady at 11:00 is an awesome singer. I want to dance! :)

  5. @Akher Aym , yes I did read it is wonderful , she was a lady a true lady

    @Yazeed , Amin already I am sad that it will be stopped in Ramadan , they should air the Fawazeer and Alf laila from the beginning but may be they know nobody will watch the other channels then , most my family tune in to that channel now.
    You know in the past choosing TV hosts was truly hard process , from thousands they chose Laila Rostom , Mama Samiha and others using very hard exams not using connections like now

    @Abdelhadi , indeed you did not miss much from Safwat Al Sharif to Anas El-Fawki from worse to worst !!

    @Jason , lool she is not a singer , well not a pro , Lebleba
    She was imitating that singer before her Sharifa Fadel


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