Icons of the Khaleeji past: Darb Al-Zalag

‘Commemorated by Saudi artist’

Arif Al-Bahrani

A Saudi artist has turned the walls of his motel into a canvas for his brush and black paint. Believing that art should be both beautiful and meaningful, he took it upon himself to paint scenes of a very popular classic Kuwaiti TV show “Darb Al-Zalag”, which is the Khaleeji equivalent of “Seinfeld” in the US. He is a determined artist “addicted” – as he described it – to the cozy and comedic world of Darb Al-Zalag, and believes it to be more than just a regular TV hit.

The show aired its first episode in 1977, and its depiction of the Arabian Gulf’s transformation from mud houses and wooden ships to air-conditioned offices and modern vehicles won viewers’ love and appreciation. The superb writing by its director Hamdi Farid only mirrored what was happening exactly in Kuwaiti households during the surge of wealth that started to overwhelm their traditions and psyches. Illiterate parents with educated sons jumping into philanthropy, trying different occupations and messing it all up because of their frustration of how overly complicated the government made everything – it was hilarious!

The show’s main protagonist was played by Abdulhussain Abdulredha, who was a superstar in the entire Arab peninsula. The series is still an Internet hit today, because we miss the days that were “Darb Al-Zalag”. (Darb Al-Zalag can be loosely translated to mean ‘the slippery road or path’).

The awe and wonder of luxury we had; the simplicity of how people once lived! People from various GCC countries who were born in the 1980s and 1990s, prior to this rush of Internet and “smart” everything technologies, still to this day feel the same kind of funny awkwardness between our humble way of life and this forced modernity.

Arif Al-Bahrani, the Saudi artist, wanted to capture just this! He knew that the best show that expressed such a concept was Darb Al-Zalag. This is who we really are without our sudden, temporary wealth.

Kuwait Times: Do you think you will preserve this nostalgia with your artistic project?
Arif Al-Bahrani: This is exactly why I chose the series’ scenes to be all over my motel’s walls – I thought about it being such an old series for youngsters to relate to, but I don’t care. I want its message to stick in everyone’s head!

Kuwait Times: For how long is this show going to continue to be an icon of Khaleeji entertainment?
Arif: As long as nobody is able to top its sincerity in projecting to the people their raw everyday issues. All of the show’s characters had honest attitudes that they never held back, and they spoke in the most authentic dialect possible!

Kuwait Times: Isn’t it a show that was exclusively Kuwaiti?
Arif: Never – all of us [GCC people] have been in the same exact predicaments and circumstances, and dealt with this strange phase between wealth and poverty in the same funny way the show presented.

By Jeri Al-Jeri

This article was published on 11/10/2018