A Qatari soap opera which explores the impact of the high rents on a Qatari family has attracted harsh criticism as viewers saw the series as “unrealistic drama distorting the image of Qatar” by exaggerating the fallout of the crisis on the Qatari citizens.
The Hearts for Rent series, which is being screened by Qatar TV since the beginning of Ramadan, highlighted the woes of modernity on the post-oil family and social systems in Qatar and exposed new flaws in the community through a Qatari family who, under the pressure of the rental crisis, was forced to leave the Doha city for Al Khor coastal town to live in a tent.
The series, produced by Qatar TV, came under heavy fire from different directions.
According to viewers, the problems it sought to tackle were said to have been “hyped and exaggerated”.
Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed al-Buainain, a prominent Muslim scholar, criticised the series, saying that it went to unreal extremes in dealing with the impact of the rental crisis on Qatari families.
“Under no circumstances, a Qatari family could accept living with bachelors in one house. I do not deny that renting prices were soaring beyond the residents. But our government is providing every citizen with a plot of land and a loan to build his house,” Sheikh al-Buainain told a congregation during Friday prayer.
“I do not see any use of this series. If a citizen is living in a rented house and does not know how to manage his life affairs, then it is his own mistake and hence his problem. It should not be turned into a public debate and given all of this time of screening,” the scholar added.
Through Rashid’s family, the parents along with his four daughters, Wedad al-Kuwari, the renowned Qatari playwright has shed light on what she saw as the “absence of social solidarity among the Qatari community in the current time”.
“Have we ever seen a neighbour who does not know about his neighbour? Our neighbours have a wedding, but didn’t invite us,” Rashid’s wife lamented in one of the series scenes.
A remark on which her husband commented as saying: “The days of my mother and yours have gone. Take it easy, just when your daughters wed, don’t invite them either”.
Although the renting crisis which badly hit Qatar during the past few years was the main theme of the series, other secondary themes were interwoven in the drama as other problems including spinsterhood and the full reliance by the Qatari families on housemaids.
Al-Kuwari has borne the brunt of the criticism as viewers said she “used to focus on the negative side and paint a gloomy view of the Qatari family life”.
Another viewer saw the drama as “not logically coherent” and focusing only on the gloomy side of modern life in Qatar.
“If those girls (Rashid’s daughters) are getting such handsome salary and still burdened with bank loans, then it is their own problems and should not be generalised to include the whole society,” she said.
In what has been depicted as a “hunt for a suitable house”, Rashid’s family has undergone a series of black comic experiences since the landlord decided to hike the monthly rent.
The family was forced to live in a popular house along with bachelor expatriates before the father made up his mind to leave Doha and make for the Al Khor coastal town where he set up a tent as a “solution for the problem.”
However, setting up a tent in the desert was not the bitter pill that needs to be swallowed to address the problem as Rashid saw it as an “innovative solution for the problem”.
“Our stay here is an inspired idea. We are now saving the biggest part of our salaries by staying in this tent. The desert was the place where our parents and grandfathers lived for centuries,” Rashid told his wives who along with her daughters were not happy with the idea.
They did not even dare to tell their friends and colleagues about the address of their new abode.
Ghassan A., a Palestinian expatriate, who viewed several episodes of the series, said it is full of contradictions and exaggerations.
“A Qatari cannot live in a rented house with bachelors. If we took it as a comic relief, it is okay and can be accepted. But as a serious behaviour, it is unrealistic. How come that a father who owns a shop and three of his four daughters are getting handsome salaries but find it difficult to rent a decent house,” he added.
A Qatari columnist also yesterday slammed the series as “incoherent drama”, saying that it did not reflect the reality of things in the country at all.
“The series is full of mistakes and contradictions. It depicted our society as one whose citizens are suffering and being forced to live in tents set up in desert,” Ahmed Ali said.
“It is sarcastic that the series present the Qatari citizen as if he was a homeless and refugee. I challenge the lead character (Abdul Aziz Jassim, a Qatari actor who played the role of Rashid) to give me evidence showing that there is one Qatari who does not own a suitable house in the country,” Ali added.
The series also touched on the impact of housemaids’ presence in the Qatari household.
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