Karim Abdel Aziz starring El-Zebaq- YOUM7
CAIRO- 24 June:Espionage stories always make interesting movies and soaps, and it’s a longstanding tradition to include a series on Egyptian intelligence agencies in the Ramadan drama lineup— the iconic “Raafat El-Hagan” and “Domou fi Oyoon Waqeha” (Tears in Obscene Eyes) being two of the best-loved productions.
The Mercury series-Youm7
This Ramadan “El-Zebaq” (The Mercury) serves as the Mukhabarat (General Intelligence Directorate, GID) offering, with well-loved actor Karim Abdel Aziz playing Egyptian agent Omar Salah. Working as a camera technician in a surveillance company, Salah whose “natural talent” and technical training bring him to the attention of the agency, is recruited to infiltrate an Israeli ring operating in Greece.
Karim Abdel Aziz in espionage series-Youm7
As Salah, Abdel Aziz is witty, shrewd and humorous and his effortless performance succeeds in making the audience relate to him and fall in love with the character.
Salah is planted and tasked with identifying members of the Mossad. The series shows the process through which Egypt’s national intelligence recruits agents, the various tests they require, the way missions are explained and training is given. Salah is then finally sent him to Greece to interact in the Arab community abroad.
Karim Abdel Aziz stars the espionage hit-Youm7
Starring alongside Abdel Aziz is Sherif Mounir, who excels in his role as capable intelligence colonel Khaled Sabry. It is Sabry who spots the Egyptian element in Greece and prepares for Salah’s insertion into the spy ring.
The events take place in 1998 at a time when relations between Egypt and Israel are protected by a peace treaty, unlike all the previous secret service stories where the various wars, martyrs, military accomplishments, victories and defeats were always in the heart of the dramatization. The relative closeness of time of the series makes it closer to a younger audience.
As the events evolve, audiences are shown how the Mossad work in Egypt to verify the information given and collected by the ring in Greece. Among them is star Nahla Salama who shines in her role of a seductress working for the other side. Salama owns a massage parlor and her convincing makeup and fashion choices actually bring viewers to love the beautiful diva.
Across the Mediterranean, another diva appears in Greece. Sara Stephan, played by the Lebanese star Carmen Lebbos, is a beautiful Arab lady who manages a nongovernmental organization protecting Arab immigrants. She gets targeted for recruitment by the Mossad ring but it seems that the character will not go in that direction, especially after she gets to know Salah upon reaching Greece. She feels an attraction to the suave Salah, who lets her down gently.
Salah is, as expected, a Don Juan character, a recurring quality among recruits of the Egyptian intelligence service on screen. Salah attracts a series of female characters: there’s Hanadi, the secretary of the surveillance company played by Nada Rahmy, who is a big funny girl and puts a smile on the audience’s face with her amusing flirtation with Salah. Then he attracts the daughter of his host in Greece, Khadiga who openly offers herself to him but he declines maintaining the eastern values of respecting women of the house and guiding her to keep her virtue.
After that Sara Stephan’s secretary, Mariam, played by Carmen Bsaibes, also falls in love with Salah. Mariam, with her angelical features, attracts our hero romantically, keeping viewers speculating about this love story will develop. The jealousy between the NGO owner and the secretary turns into an amusing catfight that keeps viewers entertained.
In fact the audience is entertained every episode, as the secrets of the world of espionage from training, surveillance, to interception and deduction of an opponent’s next move keep everyone on their toes waiting to see how this complicated chess game will end.
The general purpose of this type of series is to stimulate the national spirit and show that the state has strong, intelligent bodies to protect national interests. With the series winding to a close, it is clear the drama has succeeded in drawing in a neutral audience captivated by its thrilling events.
The scenes were filmed between Cairo and Athens and show the beauty of both cities. Drone cameras in airplanes without a pilot were used in Greece—drones are not allowed in Egypt due to security reasons.
Viewers were quick to notice the technology and also picked up on some technical mistakes in the translations from Hebrew of some names in the first episode. Another idiosyncrasy is the plasma screens shown in various episodes that did not exist in the late 1990s.
Despite the oversights, the series has proven very popular with viewers. A second season is on the cards but dates have yet to be determined.