When Books Are Brought to Life



Thu, 24 Aug 2017 - 10:10 GMT


Thu, 24 Aug 2017 - 10:10 GMT

la ttofe' el shams series and movie official poster

la ttofe' el shams series and movie official poster

23 August 2017: It’s never easy for a bookworm to see a screen adaptation of a novel they’ve read—especially when the work in discussion is a beloved classic of a novelist as timeless as Ihsan Abdel Quddus.

His novel La Tutfi Al-Shams (Don’t Set the Sun Off) and Bahaa Taher’s Wahet Al-Ghoroub (Sunset Oasis) are two adapted, televised literary works that plunged last Ramadan into endless debates on how true, and fair, the two were to their original texts.
La Tutfi Al-Shams tells the story of an upper-middle-class family in the 1950s who slid down the social ladder after the death of the patriarch

Sunset Oasis is an award-winning, best-selling novel set during the post-Urabi revolt period in the 1900s. It introduces readers to the undiscovered world of the Siwa oasis where the protagonist, Mahmoud, is sent off on a military assignment with his wife, the Irish-Egyptian Catherine who is in love with archeology. The screen adaptation was so controversial that, late last June, a group of residents from Siwa oasis sued the series makers for misrepresenting the original inhabitants of the oasis; something the people behind the lawsuit claim the original novel does not do.

Viewer reactions ranged from downright refusal to see any changes happening to the characters and storylines they’re familiar with, to appreciation of a faster-paced television adaptation. The audiences have had their say, and, this month, we ask experts to weigh in on the two much-discussed series.

La Tutfi Al-Shams


By the time of the novel’s release in 1960, La Tutfi Al-Shams was made into a novel-faithful version, starring Faten Hamama, Nadia Lotfy, Emad Hamdy, Ahmed Ramzy and Shokry Sarhan. It was also converted into a TV drama that garnered poor attention; so much so that when scenarist Tamer Habib first started on his more contemporary take on the novel this Ramadan, he was not aware of the older series based on the same novel. This year’s series was directed by Mohamed Shaker and featured Mervat Amin, Fathy Abdel Wahab, Ingy El Mokadem, Zaki Fatin Abdel Wahab and Sherine Reda, alongside a younger ensemble cast including Riham Abdel Ghafour, Gamila Awad, Amina Khalil, Ahmed Malek and Mohamed Mamdouh.

لاتطفىء-الشمس-1961-001 film

As soon as the series premiered last Ramadan, the comparison game began on social media platforms between the old and modern adaptations. Film critic Safaa Al Leithy tells us that the 2017 La Tutfi Al-Shams involuntarily fell into the comparison between the classic and new adaptations, which Karim Farghaly, a TV presenter and writer, finds unfair. Farghaly adds that a playwright doesn’t have to outright copy the exact original storyline and characters in the visual-translation of the novel and adds that there’s no point having a line-by-line comparison between the two.

Aside from the fact that Habib’s vision is set in the contemporary world while the original one is set in the 1950s, there are a number of clear differences between the movie and Habib’s modernized version. In the series, the older brother Ahmed resorts to substance abuse to escape the remorse of contributing to the demise of his younger brother’s life and goes to prison as means of self-purging. In the movie, however, he joins the army to fight in the 1956 war. In Habib’s text, Injy and Mahmoud end up splitting over the class divide, while in the novel Nabila and Mahmoud get together after the war is over.

NUORAW2 قصشغش

These differences weren’t well-received by everyone. On the one hand, Farghaly praises Habib for incorporating a gay character, Aya’s husband, into the new version and tastefully touching upon the controversial topic. On the other hand, film critic Tarek El Shenawy says the series was stripped of the social and historical context of the novel.

Accordingly, El Shenawy argues, it did not exactly transfer the spirit of the novel that was set in the 1950s when Egypt witnessed a great deal of radical changes due to the political situation, and the Egyptian family was no exception. He adds that he would have preferred to see the televised version adhere to the novel’s historical context.

“I would have loved to watch Tamer Habib’s self-invented work instead of rewriting Abdel Quddus’s own work whose essence was not truly captured on screen,” El Shenawy adds, noting that Habib hit the mark with his Ramadan 2016 series Grand Hotel which is why the audience had high expectations for his work this year.

Likewise, film critic Khairya El Beshlawi argues that the series failed to retain the spirit of the novel; it only represented the same storylines depicted in the book without a real context.

Wahet Al-Ghoroub


Wahet Al-Ghoroub, Bahaa Taher’s character-driven epic adventure, was presented on the small screen in Ramadan 2017 by director Kamla Abu Zekri. She introduced us to the unknown world of Siwa oasis and the traditions of its residents in the 19th century. The series starred Menna Shalaby and Khaled El Nabawy. Mariam Naoum wrote half the script while Hala Al-Zaghandy finished the second half.

The protagonist, Mahmoud, is a military officer accused of siding with the Urabi Revolution against King Farouk and the British allies in 19th century, and as a result is sent into exile in the isolated oasis of Siwa with his Irish wife Catherine. During their journey in Siwa, they both go through a self-discovery process and end up drifting apart.

The series exposes the locals’ traditions, which affects all its residents, including Malika, the female deuteragonist, played by the fresh-faced Rakeen Saad. Malika was a victim of sexist traditions and the ever-lasting absurd war between those living in the east of the oasis and those in the west. The series version introduced us to the character of Radwan, Malika’s husband, who was killed during a war between the westerners and the easterners, arguably symbolizing the absurdity of the purposeless yet inevitable war.

wa7t el 3'roub

Critic El Beshlawi praises the visual display delivered by Abu Zekri, adding that she managed to capture a magnificent, picturesque setting of Siwa, and she was accurate about the clothing and decorations.

Agreeing with El Beshlawi, activist and writer Sekina Fouad says that Abu Zekri, alongside the scriptwriters, managed to evoke the epic atmosphere of Siwa as it was portrayed in Taher’s novel, emphasizing it was never an easy win.

Scriptwriter and critic Rami Rizkallah argues that the incoherent script was the greatest shortcoming, inflicting the work with lack of the rhythm. Similarly, writer and critic Mahmoud Abdel Shakour says that the screenplay writer paid a lot of attention to the characters at first in a quite uneventful drama, with each story being told separately.


Abdel Shakour stresses that Wahet Al-Ghoroub should have been properly edited, adding that the cloying narration was not beneficial and what appears to be acceptable on paper may not work well when displayed on the screen.

When it comes to the plotlines, Safaa El Leithy thought the scriptwriters were so enamored by the novel that the they tried to remain as faithful as they could to the original in a way that actually backfired on them. She believes that events and plots should have lined up in parallel, especially that the sufferings of the protagonists are incredibly intertwined.

Meanwhile, screenwriter Naoum says, “I was enchanted by the epic world of the Oasis depicted in Taher’s masterpiece, as well as how it touches on the not-too much-covered Urabi revolt, and I felt the urge to bring it up.”

“The novel started off with the protagonist’s journey to Siwa and then events unfolded; I preferred to bring what’s been brought in the past to the present,” Naoum emphasizes, adding that she preferred that Siwa oasis be introduced in the third episode, which, after disagreements, did not end up happening. She admits that the scenario is slow-paced, but setting the episodes’ rhythm was entirely left to the director’s viewpoint.

Taking stock of the two adaptations, El Leithy describes how neither the radical departure from the original of the former work nor the faithful retelling of the latter managed to succeed on screen. “La Tutfi Al Shams wasn’t faithful to the original source to a disruptive level, and Wahet El Ghroub remained true to the original source to a disruptive level as well.” et



Leave a Comment

Be Social