Iftah Ya Simsim is the Arabic co-production of Sesame Street. The series debuted at Kuwait in the fall of 1979, and was the first Sesame co-production in Arabic. There were 130 half-hour episodes produced and broadcast on a weekday basis in various Arabic countries, before it returned to TV in 2015.
The original show featured Nu'man, a full-body camel, Malsun, the (originally yellow-green) parrot, Yaqut, a female lavender monster with colorful bumps on her head and a long nose, and Abla, a full-body cat. For the show's 2015 revival, Yaqut and Abla were dropped, and yellow monster girl Shams was introduced, along with Gargour (Grover) and several Anything Muppets, camels, cows, chickens, penguins and other birds that serve as side-characters. The new 2017 season will also introduce Elmo and Ka'aki (Cookie Monster) to the street.
The show's title means "Open Sesame," but the neighborhood itself in the original 1979 show was called Shari’ 'lshrin (translated as "Twentieth Street"). Key locations included a juice stand Khalil's Refreshments, located at No. 8, and Hisham's Shop, at No. 4, which sells newspapers. The large house on No. 3 is the home of Hamad the engineer and his wife, Fatima the teacher. Their next-door neighbor is Laila the nurse, and beyond is a small park. The park contains a playground, fountain, and garden, and attracts the local children. The grandfatherly peddler Abdullah plies his trade there, selling toys, books, and games from his pushcart and regaling the kids with stories. 
The Arab states of the Persian Gulf Joint Program Production Institution bought the co-production rights for a nine-year period in 1977. The Children's Television Workshop provided technical assistance, research, and provided a consulting producer. As with other co-productions, CTW also supplied Muppet sketches, cartoons, and film inserts, which were then selected and dubbed into Arabic. The studio "street" scenes were taped between May and December 1978. Although produced in Kuwait, much like the original version of Plaza Sésamo, the series was intended for the entire Arab-speaking world, and the cast included a mixture of Kuwaitis, Saudi Arabians, Iraquis, and children from twelve different Arab countries, including Algeria.
In 1990, during the Persian Gulf War, Iraqi forces invading Kuwait captured videotapes of the series and the Nu'man costume and brought them back to Iraq before being driven out by US forces. In 2003, Iraq was invaded by US forces but they have never been able to find the videotapes nor the Nu'man costume. To this day, the video tapes and the Nu'man costume remain unrecovered.
In 2011, it was announced that the Arab Bureau of Education for the Gulf States would be creating a new version for the Gulf nations. The new version began production in 2014 and debuted on September 1, 2015.
In 2011, a Kuwaiti telephone company recreated the characters and used them in a commercial. They also produced promotion plush and a 1 GB Nu'man USB flash drive.
Episode gallery (1979)
Episode list, 2015
- Episode 1: The Neighbors
- Episode 2: First Day At School
- Episode 3: Hot Summer Day
- Episode 4: To The Sea
- Episode 5: Date Harvest
- Episode 6: Little Birdie
- Episode 7: Breakfast Play
- Episode 8: Hadeed The Iron Friend
- Episode 9: The Visitor
- Episode 10: Come And Play With Me
- Episode 11: Obstacle Course
- Episode 12: Slow Down Shams
- Episode 13: Gone With the Wind
- Episode 14: Super Noman
- Episode 15: Cardboard Planes
- Episode 16: Heavy Weights
- Episode 17: I Can Be Anything
- Episode 18: Imagination
- Episode 19: Hide and Seek
- Episode 20: Amal's Glasses
Puppeteers (Kuwait Production)
- Abdullah Hubail as Nu'Man (1979-1989)
- Tawfiq al-Asha as Malsun (1979-1989)
- Unknown performer as Yaqut (1979-1989)
Puppeteers (UAE Production)
- Nazier Khawaldeh as Gargur (Grover, 2015-2015)
- Abdullah Qassim as No'Man (2015-Present)
- Maher Mozwaq as Melsoon (2015-Present)
- Asma Al Shamsi as Shams (2015-Present)
- Michel Jabali as Habeeb & AMs (2015-Present)
- Ammar Sabban as Gargur (Grover, 2016-Present)
- Ammar Sabban as Ka'aki (Cookie Monster, 2016-Present)
- Abdullah Rafa as International Elmo (Elmo, 2016-Present)
Muppet Voices (UAE Production)
- Abdullah Qassim as Anis (Ernie, 2016-Present)
- Ammar Sabban as Badr (Bert, 2016-Present)
- Ammar Sabban as Addad (Count Von Count, 2016-Present)
- Ammar Sabban & Michel Jabali as Two Headed Monster (2017-Present)
Human Cast (Kuwait Production)
- Abdul Majid Quasim as Khalil (1979-1989)
- Ahmad al-Salah as Abdullah (1979-1989)
- Jasim Nabban as Hamad (1979-1989)
- Ahlam Salah as Fatima (1979-1989)
- Sana Younus as Laila (1979-1989)
- Ka'id al-Na'Mani as Hisham (1979-1989)
Human Cast (UAE Production)
- Abdullah Rafa as Rashid (2015-Present)
- Fatima Al-Ta'ee as Amal (2015-Present)
- Executive Producer: Ibrahim al-Yusuf
- Chief Producer: Faisal al-Yasiri
- Chief Writer: Yasir al-Malih
- Associate Research Directors: Dr. Abdullah al-Dannan (linguistics), Dr. Said Abdul Rahman (psychological and educational affairs)
- ↑ Tracy, William. "Sesame Opens!", Aramco World Magazine, Volume 30, No. 5. September/October 1979.
- ↑ Christensen, Jen. "Reaching the next generation with 'Muppet diplomacy'", CNN.com. August 13, 2009.
- ↑ "20 years on, ‘Iftah Ya Simsim’ coming back to educate Gulf" June 5, 2011
- ↑ "Sesame Workshop and Arab Bureau of Education for the Gulf States Renew MOU for Iftah Ya Simsim". June 30, 2014. Sesameworkshop.org.
- ↑ http://kidscreen.com/2015/09/02/arabic-language-sesame-street-returns-after-25-year-hiatus/