"Bab al-Khalq", one of at least 70 Egyptian drama series airing on Arab satellite television channels for this year's Ramadan season, has attracted attention for its treatment of terrorism.
The series is about Mahfouz Zalata, an Arabic teacher who returns to Bab al-Khalq from Afghanistan in search of a better life, more than 25 years after he left the district.
Zalata decides to return to a normal life in the neighbourhood and renounce extremist thought but finds that many things have changed in Egyptian society during his absence.
He is constantly pursued by security agencies and feels like a stranger among family members, who have forgotten him due to his long absence.
The series, filmed in Egypt and Ukraine, stars Mahmoud Abdel Aziz, Izzat Abu Auf, Mahmoud al-Gendy, Ahmed Flux, Aida Riyad, Abeer Sabri and Tamer Hagras.
Abbas Mustafa, 55, a government employee with two sons, said he insists his sons watch the Ramadan series with him because of the sensitivity of the programme's theme.
"I deliberately sought to discuss the series with my two sons, especially because it relates to Islamist groups, to alert them to the perils of associating with such groups and to point out how some members of those groups distort the true face of Islam," he said.
"Young men do not readily discuss such topics with their parents because they consider them to be private, personal matters," he said.
Mustafa said the series provided him a way to raise these issues with his two sons and persuade them that they should not be drawn in by such ideas, which may distort their thinking.
Hassan Abdul Jalil, a 19-year-old university student, said he is only following a few Ramadan television series this year, including "Bab al-Khalq".
"I was drawn to it because of its star power at the beginning, but after the first few episodes I was impressed with the concept, especially since I was recently solicited to join a takfiri group," he said.
Abdul Jalil told Al-Shorfa he feels as if he is watching himself when he watches "Bab al-Khalq", and what would have become of him years later had he subscribed to the takfiri group's thinking.
He said he would have damaged his community with these extremist ideas.
"[The series] is a fictional story inspired by true events. It chronicles some of the changes that have taken place in Egyptian society in the past quarter-century, in particular the phenomenon of religious extremism and fanaticism, which is alien to Egyptian society," said Mohammed Suleiman, the scriptwriter.
Suleiman said the time the protagonist spends abroad chronicles changes that occur both in Zalata's life and Egyptian society as a whole.
Zalata is embroiled in an internal conflict as he struggles to adapt to those changes and maintain his moderate views against the pressure terrorist groups put on him, according to Suleiman.
"'Bab al-Khalq' could be any street or district in Egypt, since Egyptian society is religious by nature and follows a moderate line that rejects religious extremism and terrorism," he said.
Through his work, Suleiman said he seeks to send an indirect message.
Art is "entertainment that poses questions that may be answered or left to the viewer's imagination", he said.
Suleiman began writing the script in 2008 and completed it in late 2010 before protests began in January 2011. He later made minor modifications to the story for dramatization purposes and to adapt it to the screen.
In addition to terrorism, "Bab al-Khalq" also addresses government corruption and the monopolisation of power in a one-party system, he said. Adel Adeeb directed the show, and Mohamed Mahmoud Abdel Aziz and Raymond Makkar produced it.
"Drama programmes are one means of combating terrorism [because they] simplify the problem and its causes in a manner that suits the minds of ordinary viewers," said Dr. Basma Hosni, a sociology professor at Cairo University. "Drama strives to present an accurate portrayal of terrorism and the risks associated with it, and with being lured to it."
Hosni said "Bab al-Khalq" is notable for its rich, dramatic content that appeals to all members of a family.
"It revealed the truth about terrorists and their misrepresentation of religious concepts [because they] turn these into a tool for violence," she said. "The main character offers an accurate portrayal of the true Egyptian or Arab Muslim who uses reason and weighs his/her life experiences and is not impressed with money, clout or terrorist power."
"This kind of drama series is an important tool to build barriers against anyone who tries to corrupt the minds of the youth in particular," Hosni added.