Middle East Features
Egyptian TV show gives helping hand to those tying the knot (Feature)
By Nehal el-Sherif Sep 26, 2008, 9:59 GMT
Cairo - Hassan is a 36-year-old Egyptian waiter who earns 500 Egyptian pounds (93 US dollars) a month. His fiancée Heba is a university student, who works as a salesgirl on the side. She uses half the 400 pounds she earns to save for their wedding.
Hassan and Heba's tale - of saving long and hard with meagre wages to scrape together enough to get married - is replicated millions of times in Egypt, where for many settling down can be just too expensive.
But for Hassan and Heba, a little help may be at hand in the shape of Mahmoud Saad, presenter of the highly popular new show Doqou el- Mazaher (Start the Bridal Music).
The couple are two of the recent contestants on the show, aired on Egyptian national and satellite television, who stand to win a furnished flat - the object of every young couple's desires.
Egypt's real estate sector has seen dramatic growth in the last few years, but for the young finding an affordable place to live is a major obstacle.
The real-life stories on the show - contestants must answer questions about each other, as well as general knowledge rounds - have captured the public's attention. The popularity of Mahmoud Saad, famous for his talk show el-Beit Beitak (Make Yourself at Home), has boosted the appeal.
The 54-year-old show host was enthusiastic about the new show, for several reasons. 'It was a totally new genre for me and I wanted to try it,' he said.
The general public can send in text messages to swing the contest in favour of their favourite couple.
The programme is also in the line of Saad's favourite genre, programmes with a social dimension. 'We host young Egyptians and let them express themselves openly, and try to help some of them to achieve one of their dreams,' Saad told Deutsche Presse Agentur dpa.
Saad, originally a journalist, believes that it is his duty to help others because good things have happened to him. 'Everything I've become is because of people. I've got a nice, well-paid job. I've reached a good position, all because of people's love,' he stressed.
'I'm not reinventing the wheel while focusing on people's problems. I only try to pay back the love and trust people have given me,' explained Saad.
Abdel Kereem Sayed, a 60-year-old Egyptian grandfather, enjoys the show and tries to help the couple he believes need the flat more through sending text messages.
'The show makes me feel sorry for young people nowadays,' says Sayed. 'It is getting harder everyday for them to find a flat.'
He recalls it was not hard for him to find a place to stay in after he got married. 'It was easy to find a large flat that was also cheap,' he says, as he picks up his cell phone to start voting for the couple he sympathizes with more on tonight's show.