Tash ma Tash Comedy but thought provoking in Saudi Arabia

Comedy but thought provoking
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Travel and Places

One of the most popular Saudi sitcoms is a show called “Tash ma Tash” (phonetic pronunciation).  While this show is a comedy it also manages to portray some of the serious issues of culture, tradition, politics and bureaucracy faced in the Kingdom.  This Ramadan in particular the show has had segments which present sensitive subjects that are typically not widely and openly discussed in the Kingdom.  For example one episode featured how through a series of events an unrelated man and woman ended up in the desert unaccompanied overnight and the resulting consequences based on the traditional culture and tradition. The show opened up with a father and his widowed daughter sitting in the front yard of their farm having tea.  The father is a diabetic with a weak heart and high cholesterol as well.  During their conversation the daughter also reveals she is not feeling well and several times puts her hand to her forehead as if to wipe away the pain she is feeling.  As a result she takes her leave from her father, gathers her children and departs for her own home.  The large family of about 10 bundles up into a grey SUV with their driver and the daughter waves goodbye to her father as she departs.The show then segues to a respectable Saudi man who is saying goodbye to his wife.  He is planning to meet friends in the desert at their camp.  After he says his goodbye he gets into his grey SUV and begins his journey.The next scene portrays the daughter and family stopping at a gas station/convenience store.  The driver drops the family at the entrance to the convenience store and pulls over to the gas pumps to fill the car.  The family goes into the store and does some light shopping selecting drinks and snacks.  Concurrently the Saudi man who is enroute to meet his friends stops at this same convenience store parking his SUV near the entrance.The daughter begins to feel quite ill while in the convenience store with her children.  She is clutching her head with her hands and seems to have difficulty walking.  She tells the family she will meet them back in the car.  She exits the shop, walks to the SUV parked outside and lays down on the backseat.  In the meantime, the Saudi man makes his own purchases, leaves the shop, enters into his vehicle and takes off back on the highway.  The daugher’s family continue to shop taking their time in the store and the driver hums to himself while he remained parked at the gas station.The lolling vehicle rocks the daughter to sleep.  She feels too poorly to realize her family did not rejoin her in the moving vehicle.  As she drifts into a sound sleep the vehicle pulls off the road onto the wide open desert where the Saudi man expects to join his friends for an evening of  companionship, bonding and bbq.By this time the family exited the convenience store and with the exception of an Aunt they are back in the vehicle.  The father calls to query how his daughter is feeling and he is told she is in the washroom with her Aunt.  However as time goes by and the Aunt rejoins the family unaccompanied by the daughter they begin to realize something is amiss.  They inform the father who in turn informs his sons that the daughter is missing.  The father tells them she was not feeling well and had advised the family she was going to lay down in the car and wait for them.Sadly the two elder brothers immediately think the worse; that this was some kind of master plan for the daughter to abscond away with someone.  They speak among themselves of how she is bringing disgrace upon the family.  They race to meet up with the rest of the family at the convenience store.  They query the driver, the family members but noone can shed any light on the situation.  None of them had seen the other grey SUV which had pulled up as they were either already in the store or in the driver’s case at the gas pumps.Meanwhile the Saudi man is driving across the rugged sand dunes of the desert.  He decides to call his friends and advise them of his progress and location.  But as he begins to dial from his mobile his car hits a bump on a dune and his mobile falls to the floor of his car.  As he reaches down to retrieve his mobile his hand and mind are diverted from steering the SUV and it becomes stuck with a wild jerk atop a sand dune.  The car rocks and then abruptly stalls.  The daughter is roughly awaked and as she sits up from her spot in the back seat both she and the Saudi man see one another and begin screaming in fright.  She covers her face in her hands while screaming and the Saudi man runs from the car.The show cuts back to the family.  They have now all located back at the father’s farm with the father.  The two other sons in the family have joined the group.  The children are inside and the father and his sons are speaking among themselves.  While the brothers are collectively insinuating that their sister has dishonored them and run off with an unknown male the father defends her innocence shouting that the brothers do not seem to know their sister and her high sense of honor and moral values.  Sadly the argument between the father and his sons accelerates with the father growing continually agitated.  He starts to have difficulty speaking and breathing and clutches his chest in pain.  It becomes obvious he is having a heart attack.In the desert the Saudi man remains outside of the vehicle but at least is now speaking calmly to the daughter who has not moved from her position in the backseat.  As a respectable Saudi man, he speaks to her while keeping his face averted and avoids looking at her directly.  They each begin to realize the unusual set of circumstances which brought the two of them together in the desert.  The Saudi man immediately realizes the severity of the implications of being alone in the desert with a Saudi woman who is not related to him.  The daughter however attempts to reassure him repeating that her father will understand.   Unfortunately the SUV remains stuck and wedged in sand so the Saudi man tries to call his friends for assistance but discovers there is no mobile signal at the present location.The sons take the father to the hospital.  The next scene has the two eldest sons watching their dad who at that point is unconscious.  The two sons remain skeptical and disbelieving about the disposition of their sister.  In disgust the eldest son leaves the room.  Shortly after his departure the father awakens but is weak and in bad condition.  He grabs his second son’s hand and with tears in his eyes repeats he knows his daughter is innocent.  The legacy he leaves this son is to let no harm or dishonor fall upon his daughter.  He shuts his eyes and the two younger sons enter the room.  Within minutes the father passes away.Night passes slowly in the desert.  Because the Saudi man was planning to meet with friends he fortunately had food and water in the SUV.  He prepares some food which he serves to himself as well as taking a plate to the Saudi woman.  Now they both take turns trying to get a signal from the mobile but to no avail.  As the sun begins to rise the Saudi man starts to dig the sand away from the tires in the attempt to get the car unstuck and operable.  Several hours pass without success but then he sees the dust of an approaching vehicle in the desert.  We see him waving and shouting for help.  The next scene has him once again driving the vehicle with the daughter sitting in the back.  As they leave the desert to reenter the highway a man in a Toyota sees them and a strange expression crosses his face.The sons who by now have buried their father receive a call stating that their sister is at an office maintained by the Ministry of Interior.  She and a Saudi man were picked up because it was learned they were unrelated to each other and yet unaccompanied together in the desert.  The brothers look at each other as if they have been vindicated and right in their thoughts about their sister.The Saudi man explains the situation to the Interior ministry officials.  While they remain skeptical the next scene has him back in his own home with his wife.  He is telling his wife what happened and how the events happened but sadly she does not believe him.  She is convinced that he had planned all along to go and meet another woman rather than have a night of camping with friends.The two younger brothers arrive to pick up their sister.  They treat her roughly and act as if the sight of her is foul to their eyes.  It is evident the elder brothers do not wish to even see her.  When she asks where is her father the brother seems to respond with relish “he is dead.”  The daughter continues to proclaim her innocence as she grieves for her father.  On return to the fathers farm she is unceremoniously pushed into a room where she is instructed to stay.  One of her daughter’s enters the room and both scared and pleased to see her mother.  The mother attempts to reassure her daughter all will be fine.The four brothers have a discussion outside on what to do about their sister.  They have heated words and especially in the case of the eldest brother.  In his eyes and view, she is forever tainted and dishonored the family in the worse way.  He gets out of his chair with a sharp sword.  He enters the room and on seeing the young girl with her mother, immediately orders her to get out and stay away.  As he saunters into the room with the sword hanging lose at his side the daughter immediately knows what it means.  He is going to kill her; to execute her; in order to avenge the family’s honor.  She begins to beg and plead and cry all the while scooting further away from him until her back is against the wall and there is nowhere to go.  The brother raises his arm with the sword in an arc above his head.  Just as one would expect the impact, for the sword to cut across her neck we see the silhouette of the second son who grabs the arm of the brother to stop the execution.This is where the show ended but not without leaving the viewing audience to think about the culture and traditions and serious ramifications one can face both within the law and within ones own family if caught out with someone unrelated.  Were the reactions of the Saudi man’s wife and the daughters family typical?  In many cases, probably yes.  This segment also highlighted how the authorities do have the right to apprehend and interrogate those whom they believe may have acted in a manner inappropriate and illegal under the Saudi law and traditions.I will not go into as much detail on some of the other episodes as I have on the one above but other episodes have included issues which some of the Saudi courts face and how they are being handled.  For example a young Saudi male was unable to pray and for that he was jailed.  One judge believed he warranted the death penalty for such an offense yet another judge overruled and instead put him to work in cleaning and maintaining a mosque.  Ultimately the young Saudi male started praying again at the end of the show and was therefore viewed as “saved.”  However the primary issue or lesson of this show was to illustrate issues judges faced and the differing ways they could be ruled.Another episode focused on the hows and why the Kingdom is behind in some areas of progress as compared to the rest of the world. This segment featured a committee of old traditional families who would meet to discuss and vote on whether women should drive; on whether movie theatres should exist, etc.  The committee would always have their reasons to vote down any progress and at the same time the show demonstrated consequences from stagnation.Tash ma Tash is an entertaining show and it should also be noted that this show is an example of the progress and openness taking place in the Kingdom.  The difference between the theme of the show and issues presented between this year and last year are vast.  Issues which would have been considered taboo are now being raised in a public forum through this show.  These same issues can help one understand more about the distinctions in the culture and traditions between East and West and therefore help bridge the gap towards further understanding.9:32 PM 0 Comments0 KudosAdd CommentEdit Remove

3 Responses

  1. Very interesting… as always! Cheers from Switzerland.

  2. […] Tash ma Tash is one of the most eagerly anticipated Ramadan shows in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the GCC.  Tash ma Tash has a reputation for episodes which challenge Saudi culture and society and this year has been no exception.  A recent Tash ma Tash show has taken on the issue of polygamy…but with a twist. […]

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