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.


  1. flipthinks

    I am yet to catch up on Africa as my VPN has gone haywire but I was at home for the first episode and was suitably enthralled. Really looking forward to this series now, thanks for bringing it to my attention. I wonder if the Qatari oryx will make an appearance?

  2. Matthew Teller

    Thanks, flip. Qatari oryx? Hmm – the image of the oryx has been coopted by Qatar as their national animal, but the oryx is an Arabian beast. I wrote about it here:
    It does best in the wild emptinesses of Saudi Arabia, not in tiny Qatar – that’s another worry for me about this TV series: the UAE has lots and lots of oryx, from breeding and, erhmm, other sources, but they are all in captivity – some in an island zoo, some in private menageries, some in desert reserves.
    What with the UAE’s apparent deep involvement in the making of the Wild Arabia series, will the oryx’s presence in Abu Dhabi and Dubai be touted (as so often in the regional and world media) as a unmitigated success story of wildlife reintroduction – when, in truth, it is only partially that? How much of a part will greenwash play in the series? I’m looking forward to watching, to find out…

  3. carolemscott

    I’m very excited about this, so thank you for bringing it to our attention. This will be a ‘must watch’. Looking forward to exploring the links in your blog post this evening (so tempted now but work calls).

  4. ottomandandy

    Matthew, thank you so much for retweeting OttomanDandy. You honored us.

  5. Matthew Teller

    Carole, Muse, thanks so much.

  6. Randi Mackay

    Reblogged this on Sand between my toes… and commented:
    Another Exciting BBC Series Coming Soon… Must get the DVD!

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