The finale of Egypt’s popular satirical show featuring the well-known puppet “Abla Fahita” will air on TV on New Year’s Eve. The show is filmed on Mondays at the Radio Theatre, downtown Cairo. Thursday’s episode is the last of its second season.
This was the second season of the programme called “Live from the Duplex” broadcast on CBC Channel, where Abla Fahita presents a combination of social satire with some political content and a part of each episode dedicated to a famous person.
Abla Fahita’s interviewees are predominantly Egyptian actors, though she was able to speak to actors from other countries when she presented a part of an episode from the Dubai International Film Festival in December.
Abla Fahita has come to be known and loves as the critical female puppet with a sharp tongue. Her conversations are never free of sexual innuendos, and she often makes fun of her own show’s guests of honour.
Abla Fahita quips on the type of speech used by stereotypical housewives with an average education and social level, including through her own name: the title “abla” stems from old Arabic slang, meaning “Ms”.
The puppet is the personality of a widow with two children. Abla Fahita has created her own vernacular by “Arabising” English words, usually adding the letter “A” to the end of the words in a style often used by Egyptians.
She is mostly famous for using the word “el-weba” instead of “the web”, in reference to online websites or Internet usage. On el-weba, Abla Fahita has over 460,000 followers on Twitter and almost 2.5 million fans on her Facebook page.
Abla Fahita first started back in 2011 on social media and the character gradually developed. “Caro Carolina”, Abla Fahita’s daughter, often appears with her on the show.
Although the comparison is not entirely obvious, some of the content of her current show is reminiscent of political satirist Bassem Youssef.
As a puppet however, and by not focusing on politics, Abla Fahita has managed to get past censorship with 14 episodes, and there are several media reports that said a new season could be in the making soon.
However, surviving state censorship did not spare Abla Fahita criticism, and a legal lawsuit was even filed against her; she announced it herself in one of her episodes. Most of the disapproval came with regards to her sexual references, which were also a source of the condemnations directed at Bassem Youssef.
As a TV show, “Live from the Duplex” stands out, firstly because it is broadcast on one of the leading Egyptian satellite TV channels, CBC, which also formerly hosted Youssef’s programme.
The same channel hosts programmes for well-known TV presenters such as Magdy El-Galad, Khairy Ramadan, and Lamees El-Hadidy.
One of the recent political topics discussed by Abla Fahita was the recently-elected Egyptian parliament, since parliamentary elections were also subject of ridicule for her, after she claimed to “present herself as a parliamentary candidate”.
Her ridicule of the parliament led MP Saeed Hassaseen to attack Abla Fahita on TV, saying he would not allow MPs to be subject to her sarcasm. To that, Abla Fahita responded on her Twitter account: “I think I know who to speak of in the next episode.”
Among those, she also mocked controversial TV presenter and MP Tawfik Okasha, who announced his intention to run as parliamentary speaker, and the notorious Al-Zamalek Club President Mortada Mansour.
Azza El-Henawy, a TV presenter working for state media and famous for having been subject to censorship, said she has not been watching the show but “heard a lot about it” and is happy it has been able to go on without censorship.
She further told Daily News Egypt that she misses Bassem Youssef’s show. “Regardless of whether we agree or oppose the content of such satire programmes, we must allow them complete freedom because they help open up people’s minds,” she said.
She believes Youssef’s show sparked controversy because of some angry reactions but she is convinced that it is normal for people to have various reactions, depending on their level of education and their degree of open-mindedness.
“But even if it raises social debates, sarcasm is always a source of enlightenment,” El-Henawy said.