BBC Wild Arabia

bbcwildarabiaAfter the epic that was David Attenborough’s Africa series, which ran on BBC TV in the UK recently, their next big nature extravaganza is Wild Arabia – due later this month on BBC2 in the UK (episode 1 airs 9pm on 22nd Feb, I believe).

The three-part series was filmed over almost two years in the UAE, Jordan and Oman, during 2011 and 2012. Apparently, it is set to feature the first high-definition images of Arabian leopards. Here’s an old news story from the Abu Dhabi National explaining more – and here’s the lowdown from BBC producer Chadden Hunter in a 2min video interview.

From the few clips currently available on the BBC website – click here to see them – it looks, frankly, sensational. Camera operator John Aitchison blogged some superb stills here – wow; those Dubai flamingoes! More pictures on a public Facebook page here and more crew blogging here.

All of this comes on the back of the original Wild Arabia, a natural history of the Middle East that went out on Radio 4 as three half-hour episodes in 2007. You can listen to the whole series online here. It’s well worth it – more serious and thoughtful than (in my entirely humble opinion) TV could ever be, presented by a field biologist (Tessa McGregor), focused squarely on nature across the region and drawing in opinion and observation from scientists and experts.

That makes me wonder how much of the new TV Wild Arabia is actually about the natural world. It seems that it’s more of a portrait of the contemporary Middle East, from urban society and cityscapes to ancient history, mixed in with typically beautiful BBC nature sequences too. That’s all good: animals without people is, rightly, a no-no nowadays.

Another question: how much of this is going to be a promo for Abu Dhabi and/or Dubai? It seems like the rest of Arabia gets pretty short shrift. I’d be interested to learn more about how the series came about – who pitched it, how the concept was developed, why they chose to limit the geographical scope.

My reservations notwithstanding, could this, finally, be an intelligent portrait of contemporary Arabia on mainstream, primetime TV? How wonderful if it is. But if so, how come it took the BBC’s Natural History Unit to deliver? Ha!

Anyway, it’s about time. Looking forward keenly.

You can pre-order the DVD here, before the series even airs.