Osama Anwar Okasha Image Credit: Supplied picture

Cairo: Egypt's celebrated tele-dramatist Osama Anwar Okasha, noted for his works on the nation's socio-political changes, died yesterday at a Cairo hospital. He was 69.

In mid-1980s, Okasha rose to fame across the Arab world when TV stations started broadcasting his epic serial Laili Al Helmia (The Nights of Al Halmia), a six-part work that traces the change in fortunes of several families against a background of turbulent social and political events in Egypt since the Second World War.

Born in the Nile Delta town of Tanta, Okasha studied sociology at the Ain Shams University Faculty of Arts in Cairo where he graduated in 1962. He worked as a government employee until 1981 when he decided to become a full-time writer.

Having 40 TV serials to his name, Okasha is credited with reshaping the Arabic TV drama with works based on a combination of realism and philosophical meditation. His last TV drama is Al Masrawia (The Egyptians), an epic shown on TV in 2007. Some critics have labelled him Najuib Mahfouz of Arabic TV drama.

Building on his fame, Okasha, a staunch supporter of the Nasser era (1954-1970), wrote the screenplays of a host of Egyptian films tackling corruption, power abuse, unemployment and oppression. He also wrote several plays shown on state and privately owned theatres. He was awarded the prestigious State Merit Prize for Arts in 2008.

In recent years, he published articles severely critical of the Egyptian government. Okasha angered many Islamists some years ago when he criticised Amr Bin Al Aas, a companion of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Muslims hold in high regard the Prophet's companions. Last month, President Hosni Mubarak ordered Okasha to receive medical treatment at the state's expense after he became serious.