Celebrating the 30th anniversary of the MBC Group, the Arab region’s superstars will appear in a four-segment episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire on 18 September.
Hosted by George Kurdahi, the four-segment special episodes will see the participation of Yousra, Bassel Khaiat, Amina Khalil, Asser Yassin, Somaya El-Khashab, Nasser Al-Qasabi, Dhaffer L'Abidine, among other stars.
MBC regional hosts and producers flew to Portugal to shoot the anniversary episode in Lisbon’s Warner Bros studios on 8 September.
The evening began with the red carpet welcoming dozens of stars arriving to the studios. They exchanged their emotions about the years they spent with MBC, a Saudi-owned media conglomerate. Some of the stars launched their careers in the group on many of its channels, others added their already established names to the company.
Among the first personalities to be on the location was Raya Abirached, famed Lebanese TV presenter and media personality. Obviously, she felt at home and expressed her emotions about MBC saying: "MBC is my home, we are all like family,” Abirached commented to Ahram Online.
Raya Abirached interviews Dhaffer L'Abidine (Photo: Ati Metwaly)
Known for hosting a TV talent show Arabs Got Talent and dozens of interviews with international film icons attending international festivals, Abirached has walked a long, exciting, and at times exhausting path in the MBC studios. Her persistence, however, is one of the core components of her success.
“You always have to follow your own passion, don’t try to imitate anyone. Be yourself. Media is not only about being on camera; there are so many people who love media and who do not appear in front of cameras. Many of them are with us here today. They have all created this MBC magic so I always encourage people to consider jobs that do not necessarily place you in front of the camera, but which are essential for the company,” Abirached added.
The enthusiasm mixed with nostalgia was obvious throughout the evening. “MBC brought light on me and helped me grow,” Annabella Hilal told Ahram Online, recalling the days when she was selected by the company to present the leading live music talents show Arab Idol alongside Ahmed Fahmi. Later on, she began hosting Celebrity Duets Arab World on MBC 1.
Annabella Hilal (Photo: Ati Metwaly)
The Miss Lebanon 2005 runner-up, famous Lebanese model and TV presenter added that “the whole journey was life-changing and worth every minute of it.”
Operating across countries and having started broadcasting from London in 1991 before moving to Dubai Media City in 2002, not only is MBC Group a platform for the stars of the Arab world, but it is also a conglomerate of world citizens. One such example is Amani Mousa, head of Programming MBC Audio and Music at MBC Group.
“I am from everywhere. I am Iraqi, Lebanese, born in Kuwait, raised in the UK... You will find a lot of that in MBC,” Mousa, who has joined the company upon its opening, told Ahram Online.
“It is three decades of development and continuous transformation. Every time something is introduced I feel like this 17-year-old girl who walked into MBC 30 years ago. I am still learning and growing.”
Amani Mousa (Photo: Ati Metwaly)
With recent news of MBC (alongside Al-Arabiya and Al-Hadath) moving its headquarters from Dubai to Riyadh this month, a lot of thoughts and reflections come to the minds of MBC stars and staff as well as the viewers. While the group does not provide many details yet, a few stars attending the shooting revealed that a number of known MBC shows will have their upcoming seasons already shot in Riyadh to the anticipation of their hosts and the programmes’ followers across the Arab world.
The atmosphere at the location intertwined with the glamour of the red carpet and the ease of the stars chitchatting together away from the lights and cameras. Enveloped in a cool breeze, suits and dresses, a number of Egyptian stars added their shine to the crowd: from Asser Yassin to Amina Khalil and Somaya El-Khashab and Yousra.
With her natural elegance, Yousra shared her passion of supporting the young generation while learning from them. No wonder, MBC recruited her as one of the judges at MBC Project Runway Middle East in season 2 (2017) where she sat alongside Tunisian fashion icon Afef Jnifen and renowned Lebanese fashion designer Elie Saab.
Yosra (Photo: Ati Metwaly)
“We continue to develop constantly and this process also requires that we look at the young people. What are their expectations? How do they think? How should we talk to them? It is important to connect with the young people. They are full of fresh ideas. They should not feel that the older generation is detached from their interests,” Yousra told Ahram Online.
While alert to the young generation’s interests and new technologies surrounding them, Yousra revealed that she was happily surprised when Saheb Al-Maqam (The Enshrined Saint) proved very successful on MBC Shahid, the first free video-on-demand service in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Directed by Mohamed Gamal El-Adl, the 2020 film starred Yousra, Asser Yassin, Amina Khalil and Bayoumi Fouad.
“To be honest we were a bit worried that the film would not have many viewers. In fact, it was an unprecedented success. I was very happy,” Yousra added.
Following a few conversations, a friendly exchange of ideas and some laughter, the stars moved to the Warner Bros studio where George Kurdahi awaited them to join Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
Somaya El Khashab
Somaya El Khashab [centre] (Photo: Ati Metwaly)
In four segments shot during the evening and late night, four pairs of stars were featured answering Kurdahi’s questions. As per the programme’s rules, at times they were addressing the audience for help, and as such directing their questions to other stars seated in the studio.
For more details about the participants and the results, the viewers should wait until 18 September when the programme will be aired on MBC channels.
A Saudi-owned media conglomerate owned by Walid bin Ibrahim Al-Ibrahim, a Saudi billionaire, the Middle East Broadcasting Centre (MBC) kicked off with MBC channel on 18 September 1991 airing its programmes from London. The first commercially successful Middle East Arabic satellite TV station was launched by Al-Ibrahim and Saudi entrepreneur Saleh Kamal.
Starting with MBC 1, soon the company introduced Arabic TV series channels including MBC 2 (2003), MBC 3 (2004) and MBC 4 (2005), MBC MAX (2008) presenting Western movies to the Arab world.
Stars celebrate MBC's 30th anniversary in Lisbon. (Photo: Ati Metwaly)
Appealing to various audiences, MBC Drama was launched in 2010, giving viewers 24-hours access to a variety of Gulf, Syrian, and Egyptian dramas, followed by MBC Masr providing a coverage of the Egyptian affairs, MBC Action, alongside MBC Bollywood and MBC Variety TV channels in 2013.
The same year, the group launched the Corporate Social Responsibility initiative, MBC Hope, which as the MBC website reveals “maintains its obligation to moral and ethical commitment to the community.” Among the most recent additions to the company is MBC Masr 2 that saw light in 2014, MBC Persia (2018) broadcasting Hollywood films with Persian subtitles, and MBC Iraq that began airing in 2019.
The group also includes two radio stations, MBC FM launched in 1994 and Panorama FM (2004), as well as Shahid (2008).
Throughout its 30 years, MBC has aired hundreds of successful shows, such as Scoop hosted by Raya Abirached and Naglaa Bader, No Big Deal (“Tash Ma Tash”) a satirical comedy show starring Nasser Al-Qasabi and Abdullah Al-Sadhan, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire hosted by George Kurdahi, Top Chef Middle East, Arabs Got Talent, Arab Idol, Sada Al-Malaeb which is deemed as the most watched Sports programme in Saudi Arabia.
Since its founding, the MBC Group has reached high ranks across MENA and international media. It remains among the top watched channels across all Arab countries. In 2019, MBC was ranked the 37th Most Viewed Global Media Property in the world.
Set of 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire' (Photo: Ati Metwaly)
For more arts and culture news and updates, follow Ahram Online Arts and Culture on Twitter at @AhramOnlineArts and on Facebook at Ahram Online: Arts & Culture