The Definitive Guide to Living in the Capital , Cairo , Egypt

  • Ahmed DawoodAhmed El Sa'dany...
  • DramaMystery & Suspense
  • Out now
  • Sameh Abdelaziz
reviewed by
Cairo 360
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Zay El Shams: The Past Is Forever in the Present

“Zay El Shams” is one of our Ramadan favourites this year, co-starring Dina El Sherbiny, Ahmed Dawood, Riham Abdel Ghafour, Ahmed El Sa’dany, Sawsan Badr and other famous stars. The series is written by Mariam Naoom, and directed by Sameh Abdel Aziz. The series is going viral due to Dina El Sherbiny’s talent.

It’s the kind of show that lets you shed tears with your loved ones. It’s also the kind of show that builds some trust issues. The story revolves around Nour (Dina El Sherbiny), who is studying to obtain her PhD in law in London, whilst also working in a reputable law firm, with her Egyptian co-worker (Ahmed Dawood) by her side. Nour’s mother (Sawsan Badr) calls her to tell her that Nour’s sister, Farida (Riham Abdel Ghafour), has disappeared and left her two kids behind. Nour gets on the first plane back to Egypt. Initially, Nour does not think anything of Farida’s disappearance, as we learn early on that this is typical behaviour for Farida. We soon learn, however, that Farida’s body has been found floating in the Nile. Through a sequence of flashbacks, the series begins to explore the troubled nature of Farida and Nour’s relationship, especially as we come to discover that Omar (Ahmed El Sa’dany), Farida’s former husband and the father of Farida’s children, was actually once engaged to Nour. We also come to learn that Omar and Farida had an affair which caused Farida to wind up pregnant, forcing her to marry Omar. All this gets worse when Farida confesses the affair to Nour.

We won’t delve more into the plot to ensure we avoid spoilers, but you get the point. The series is a thrilling mystery, premised on the idea of troubled and complex family dynamics, revealed through flashbacks. Speaking of flashbacks, this series utilises this narrative tool very effectively; even when there is a flashback aiming to explain present circumstances, they still withhold some pieces of information. As such, viewers are not left confused, and have the opportunity to explore the nature of the characters, but viewers are simultaneously intrigued and thirsty for more details and information.

What we also love about this show is the fact that its characters are quite complex; no character is clearly good nor clearly evil. For this, we have to applaud scriptwriter Mariam Naoum, who was able to develop characters that allow us to explore ourselves as humans. This point is especially evident with Nour and Omar’s relationship after Farida’s disappearance. We find ourselves asking “is it alright to cheer for this relationship, especially considering that Omar was initially Nour’s fiancé before Farida stole him? Or would Nour still be betraying Farida, regardless of Farida’s actions past?” Ultimately, this series asks a very big question: “is the past just the past, or is the past forever alive and inevitably forming the present?”

As for the acting, Dina El Sherbiny truly excels, with subtle facial expressions when needed and more dramatic turns when necessary. We have to say, we gave this young actress a terrible review of her performance in Malika last year, so it is only fair to say that she has completely outdone herself this year. As for Sawsan Badr, this woman is truly capable of playing all roles; this year, she truly excels at playing the emotionally and psychologically unstable mother, who has ghosts in her own closet. 

Ahmed El Sa’dany does a great job at playing Omar; we love him, but we also hate him, and that’s exactly why we have to applaud him as an actor. Speaking of characters that are simultaneously loveable and hateable, we have to give it up to Riham Abdel Ghafour. Her portrayal of Farida is precisely as it should be: one that leaves audiences asking more and more questions. We don’t know whether she is selfish and reckless, or just a free spirit.

Given all this, it is safe to say that Zay El Shams has everything one could want in a Ramadan series: drama, mystery, suspense, forbidden love, betrayal, and complex characters. 

360 Tip

Kamla Abu Zekry was the series' initial director; however, Abu Zekry quit, and was replaced by Sameh Abdel Aziz.

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