In a place where kidnappings have become an all-too common reality, one TV channel is trying to turn the terrifying situation into Ramadan entertainment fodder.
Egypt’s al-Hayat TV has begun airing “Ramz, The Desert Fox,” which pranks celebrities into thinking they’ve been kidnapped in the Sinai, in a bid for Ramadan viewers.
The show has become a not-so-unlikely hit in Egypt, according to Arabic media outlet Al Arabiya, with the laughs coming courtesy of the country’s prankster in chief, Ramz Jalal.
On the show, Arab celebrities are flown to Cairo and put on a bus headed to the resort town of Ghardaka on the Red Sea. Along the way, Jalal and his crew of “terrorists” hijack the bus, blow up part of it, and grab and blindfold the unsuspecting celebrity.
The mark is then subjected to a fake gunfight, with the camera rolling the whole time.
Once the blindfold is pulled off comes the reveal, with the celebrities shown the camera and crew and let it on the joke.
Not surprisingly some are not laughing, and according to al-Arabiya, many have attempted to beat up Jalal, who does his best to calm down the fuming star or starlet and avoid a bloody nose.
The prank may resonate because it is not so outlandish. There have been several kidnappings of tourists in the Sinai desert over the last several months, mostly by Bedouin agitating for better rights or the release of a relative. The captives are usually let go after a few days.
Egyptian security forces are only allowed to maintain a minimal presence in the peninsula, as per the peace accord with Israel.
Egypt is no stranger to pranks that some say go too far, as evidenced by a clip that surfaced last week of a number of personalities verbally and physically attacking actors pretending to be presenters and staff of an Israeli TV station, in a candid camera stunt gone awry.
Jalal himself staged a show last year in which he trapped celebrities in an elevator with a lion.
Hidden camera shows have become popular in the Arab world during Ramadan as channels compete for viewers during the holy month. In Morocco, one hidden camera TV show came under fire recently after a mark nearly fainted when faced with a corpse crawling out of a grave.
In 2010, a Moroccan religious official issued a fatwa against the shows, saying they could cause harm.
“Even if this lying is for fun, it is still a sin. There is a saying by the prophet that condemns anyone who lies for the sake of making people laugh,” he said.