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Subject: Arabic version of Sesame Street re-launches

Written By: Philip Eno on 09/03/15 at 6:26 am

The Arabic-language version of children's television favourite Sesame Street is to return to TV screens across the Middle East after a 25-year hiatus.

The programme was the first authorised foreign version of the long-running American educational and entertainment show, and ran from 1978 until the Gulf War interrupted production in 1990. Iftah Ya Simsim - meaning Open Sesame - will return to 10 channels in the region this week, with familiar faces appearing alongside uniquely Middle Eastern characters, Gulf News reports.

The re-launch has been a long time in coming - negotiations reportedly started in 2010, and it's taken two years to build an educational curriculum focusing on the Arabic language, maths and other subjects suitable for four to eight-year-olds. "Our children need content that is developed specifically for their needs and matches their cultural values," Noura al-Kaabi, chief executive of Abu Dhabi-based production hub twofour54, tells The National newspaper. Viewers will also be able to engage with the programme through YouTube, Instagram and Facebook pages.

Children's Television Workshop, which produces the original American Sesame Street, says Iftah Ya Simsim could reach some 45 million viewers across the Middle East. Education chiefs say the most important aspect will be its peaceful, inclusive message, which is lacking in some other children's TV programmes. "Many of the messages are not in line with our culture and some even promote violence," says Amal al-Qubaisi of the Abu Dhabi Education Council. "This show will not only engage our children through the use of classical Arabic, but also give them a social awareness."

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