Pokémon in the Arab world

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Pokémon in the Arab world
Pokemon logo Arabic.png
The Arab world Flag.png
Flag of the Arab League
Language Arabic
Continent Arab world
Original anime airdates
EP001 2000
AG001 December 24, 2005
DP001 Never aired
BW001 Never aired
XY001 Never aired
SM001 Never aired
JN001 July 1, 2021

The Pokémon franchise widely reached the Arab world in late 2000, with the first broadcast of بوكيمون، لقد اخترتك انت! in Arabic language on MBC Channel. However, Pokémon video games were initially distributed in various places, particularly within the GCC countries, since 1998.

The word Pokémon is written as بوكيمون and pluralised as بوكيمونات. Pokémon are always referred to as either male or female, since Arabic has no neutral grammatical gender.

While almost all characters, Pokémon, and most of the locations have kept their English names in the Arabic version, some objects in the franchise received Arabic names. The Poké Ball, for example, has been dubbed as كرة البوكي (Kurt Al-Poké), the Poké Flute received the name مزمار البوكي (Mizmar Al-Poké) and so on. One of the Arabic names that is different from the English dub is Team Rocket, which has been translated as: عصابة الرداء الأبيض 'isabat Ar-Redda Al-Abiadh. Additionally, the name of Pallet Town got translated as قرية شورباك Qaryat Shoreback.


Claims of Zionist Jewish plot

Some outspoken, fundamentalist Muslims claimed that Pokémon is a Jewish conspiracy intended to get Muslim children to renounce their faith.[1][2][3][4] These same groups claimed that the word "Pokémon" means "I am Jewish", with the claimers and their followers generally unaware of the franchise's Japanese origin. The "Evolution vs. Creationism" conflict was also commonly brought up.[5][6][7]

In 2001, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, who is the highest religious authority in the kingdom, issued a fatwā banning the Pokémon franchise. It claimed that the franchise promoted Zionism by displaying a six-pointed star that resembles the Star of David as well as other religious symbols such as crosses they associated with Christianity and triangles they associated with Freemasonry in the TCG and encouraged gambling in the games due to the inclusion of gambling elements, which is in violation of Muslim doctrine.[8][9]

High Muslim authorities in Qatar and Egypt then joined the ban. As this happened during the second Intifada, a Jordanian newspaper printed a caricature of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sitting in a tank and laughing at an Arab man chasing a Pokémon. This is meant to convey that Arabs are distracted from their conflict with the Israelis by popular franchises, with Pokémon as an example of such "distractions."[10][11]

Despite the initial banning, which quickly wiped away Pokémon merchandise, especially the card game, from markets in Saudi Arabia, Pokémon video games quickly returned to be sold normally, but under much less demand from local consumers. Some Pokémon merchandise, such as the Expedition Base Set, reappeared in certain stores a few years later, but newer sets were never brought. Games from Generation III on seem completely unaffected by the ban.

A fatwā was also issued in the U.A.E. emirate of Dubai, however no bans officially occurred.[12] Although the U.A.E. takes its Islamic identity seriously like most Arab states, actions based solely on fatwā would however violate its federal constitution. Regardless of this, the licensed local distributor ceased importing Pokémon cards into the U.A.E. until the early 2010s, when the TCG experienced a resurgence among local players. In 2016, the U.A.E. became the first Arab country to be officially sanctioned by The Pokémon Company International to hold official Play! Pokémon events.

Pokémon video games

Before the earliest Pokémon games, Nintendo's products did not have much presence in any Arab country, as most countries faced various political and economical challenges that made them unattractive markets at the time. Throughout the 1980s, most demographics considered 8-bit home computer products a preferable choice for gaming before their gradual decline. However, by the early 1990s, as particular economies in the GCC countries thrived, various independent distributors based in those countries pushed to introduce gaming consoles after becoming hot and competitive commodities in Western markets, including Nintendo's products. Albeit the video game market grew in the GCC countries, for many years there was little effort for standardization among distributors and retailers, causing a discrepancy as both PAL and NTSC hardware and software were sold off the same shelves. Consequently, by the time Pokémon Red and Blue launched the first time in 1998, units available were imported from both Europe and North America. To this day, Nintendo-published products, including Pokémon video games, remain the only gaming products to be imported from both regions into the GCC, despite other publishers focused on importing units solely from Europe.

Nintendo have long considered the GCC markets as part of the greater Asia, thus officially opting to localise NTSC-U North American (NA) products for these markets de jure by the late 1990s, albeit both PAL and NTSC[13] Nintendo products de facto continued to co-exist. Itochu Corporation's Dubai branch was originally assigned to officially distribute Nintendo's NA products within the GCC markets,[14] before ending its collaboration in 2000. By the early 2000s, Active Boeki, distributor for Southeast Asian countries, gradually took over NA distribution duties, albeit it took a while to release Pokémon games due to the controversy against the franchise after the 2001 fatwā was issued against it. No official bans against the games were made however in any country. Working alongside the local resellers, in 2010 Active Boeki founded Dubai-based affiliate Active Gulf to represent them alongside Nintendo and The Pokémon Company within the GCC markets. Albeit the NA Wii and Nintendo DS hardware did have localized packaging made for the U.A.E., the NA Nintendo 3DS became the first Nintendo console officially released under Active Gulf, and it launched in all GCC countries on the same day as the United States in March 2011. However, it was not until the NA launch of Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire became the first Pokémon games authorized by The Pokémon Company to be distributed specifically by Active Boeki for the GCC and Southeast Asian markets.

In August 2016, the GCAM introduced the official video game age rating system for Saudi Arabia; Pokémon Sun and Moon were the first Pokémon games released under Saudi Arabia's official age rating, although Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon were the first to feature the age rating hard-printed on the case cover. In January 2018, the NMC introduced the official video game age rating system for the United Arab Emirates; Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! were the first Pokémon games released under the U.A.E.'s official age rating.

In the 1990s, Nintendo Co., Ltd. were involved with distribution in Africa,[15] although did not particularly focus on the Arab countries. In 2002, Nintendo of Europe took on executive control to supply Nintendo's PAL products for various low-key distributors within the GCC and other Arab countries in the Levant region and Egypt. In the case of the latter two, the markets remain mixed for gaming in general, let alone Nintendo and Pokémon, due to on-going political and economical challenges. Regardless, NOE continues to import its products into all these countries to this day.

Pokémon anime


Venus Center logo.

The Arabic dub of Pokémon is based on 4Kids Entertainment's English dub, the anime was initially dubbed to Arabic in 2000 by Syria-based Venus Center (مركز الزهرة), and licensed in the region by Km Productions. But due to the controversy in 2001, Venus Center (which is known for being a very conservative company) no longer wanted to be associated with the Pokémon franchise, and ceased production after Season 02. Km Productions then moved the dubbing to Lebanon.

After that Lebanon-based Super M Productions took over dubbing the anime starting with EP106, and dubbed Season 03 and Season 04 between 2001 and 2002. Production on the dub then went on hiatus for nearly 3 years and was resumed in 2005 when they dubbed Season 06 starting with EP263, Season 05 (Master Quest) (EP210 to EP262) was skipped for unknown reasons.

Production on the dub was eventually cancelled around 2006 due to various reasons, mostly due to 4Kids Entertainment losing the dubbing rights, and the Lebanese company not coming to an agreement with the new rights holders.[16]

Sometime later the four Pokémon movies that were distributed by Miramax (Celebi: The Voice of the Forest, Heroes: Latios & Latias, Jirachi: Wish Maker and Destiny Deoxys) were also dubbed into Arabic, but featured an entirely different cast of voice actors from the series and were released straight-to-DVD.[17]

In 2020 after acquiring the distribution rights of the anime in the region, Netflix revived the Arabic dub of Pokémon, and released Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back—Evolution, the first Pokémon-related media dubbed into Arabic in over a decade. Netflix later released Season 23, Pokémon the Movie: Secrets of the Jungle, Season 24 and The Arceus Chronicles.

The new dub was produced in Lebanon by Image Production House Studios,[18][19] and featured some old voice actors from the Super M production reprising their roles such as Joumana Zonji as Misty, Abdo Hakim as James, Hassan Hamdan as Meowth, Jihan Malla as Nurse Joy and Iman Bitar as Officer Jenny.

Cast and crew

Venus Center

Buthaina Shaya, the original voice actress for Ash in S01 and S02.

Ash Ketchum was voiced by Buthaina Shaya (بثينة شيا), Misty was voiced by Majd Zhazha (مجد ظاظا), and Rafat Bazoo (رأفت بازو) provided the voice of Brock. For Team Rocket, James was voiced by Zeyad Errafae'ie (زياد الرفاعي), Jessie was voiced by Fatima Saad (فاطمة سعد), and Meowth was voiced by Adel Abo Hassoon (عادل أبو حسون). Professor Oak was voiced by Marwan Farhat (مروان فرحات). Other notable voice actors include Amal Saad Alden (امال سعد الدين) as Nurse Joy and Fadwa Souleimane (فدوى سليمان) as Officer Jenny.

Super M Productions

Abdo Hakim, voice actor for James in the Lebanese dub, he also voiced Max and other minor characters.

Ash Ketchum was voiced by Mona Majzoub (منى مجذوب), Misty was voiced by Joumana Zonji (جمانة الزنجي), and Nabil Assaf (نبيل عساف) provided the voice of Brock. For Team Rocket, James was voiced by Abdo Hakim (عبدو حكيم), and Jessie was voiced by Iman Bitar (إيمان بيطار). Computer: Jalal Masoud, Montage and mixing: Jamal Mokalled, Executive: Mohsen Awada, Technical supervision: Walid Merie, General supervision: Mufid Merie.[20]


Rana Al Rifai, current voice actress for Ash.
Fadi Rifai, voiced multiple Characters of the day in the Original series before taking over the role of the Narrator in the Advanced Generation series, he currently voices Professor Cerise in Pokémon Journeys.

Ash Ketchum is voiced by Rana Al Rifai (رنا رفاعي), Misty is again voiced by Joumana Zonji, and Brock is voiced by Hisham Abu Suleiman (هشام أبو سليمان). For Team Rocket, James is again voiced by Abdo Hakim, Jessie is voiced by Asmahan Bitar (أسمهان بيطار), and Meowth is voiced by Hasan Hamdan (حسن حمدان). In addition to Jihan Malla (جيهان ملا) as Nurse Joy, Iman Bitar (إيمان بيطار) as Officer Jenny, Sam Ghusen (سام غصن) as Mewtwo, Ibrahim Madi (إبراهيم ماضي) as Giovanni, and Osama Oley (أسامة العلي) as Dr. Fuji.

Cast members

Joumana Zonji, voice actress for Misty in the Lebanese dub.
Characters Venus Center(EP001-EP105) Super M Productions(EP106-EP209, EP263-AG092) Miramax(M04-M07) Netflix(EP020;EP022 redub
M22-M23, JN001-JN090 and The Arceus Chronicles)
The Narrator Marwan Farhat (مروان فرحات) Jihad Al Attrash (جهاد الأطرش)(EP106-EP209)
Fadi Rifai (فادي الرفاعي)(EP263-AG040)
Pierre Dagher (بيير داغر) Raymond Francis (ريمون فرنسيس)
Ash Ketchum Buthaina Shaya (بثينة شيا) Mona Majzoub (منى مجذوب)(EP106-EP209)
Unknown voice actress(EP263-AG040)
Rana Al Rifai (رنا الرفاعي)
Misty Majd Zhazha (مجد ظاظا) Joumana Zonji (جمانة الزنجي)(EP106-EP209) Joumana Zonji (جمانة الزنجي)
Brock Rafat Bazoo (رأفت بازو) Nabil Assaf (نبيل عساف) Hicham Abou Sleiman (هشام أبو سليمان)(M22)
Gilles Youssef (جيل يوسف)(The Arceus Chronicles)
Tracey Sketchit Ayman Al-Salek (أيمن السالك) Tariq Kaakati (طارق كعكاتي)
May Iman Bitar (إيمان بيطار)
Max Abdo Hakim (عبدو حكيم)
Dawn Iman Bitar (إيمان بيطار)
Goh Lama Maraachli (لمى مرعشلي)
Chloe Ghadir Bazzi (غدير بزي)
Jessie Fatima Saad (فاطمة سعد) Claudia Marchalian (كلوديا مرشليان) Asmahan Bitar (أسمهان بيطار)
James Zeyad Errafae'ie (زياد الرفاعي) Abdo Hakim (عبدو حكيم) Abdo Hakim (عبدو حكيم)
Meowth Adel Abo Hassoon (عادل أبو حسون) Hasan Hamdan (حسن حمدان) Hasan Hamdan (حسن حمدان)
Nurse Joy Amal Saad Alden (امال سعد الدين) Jihan Malla (جيهان ملا) Jihan Malla (جيهان ملا)
Officer Jenny Fadwa Souleimane (فدوى سليمان) Iman Bitar (إيمان بيطار) Iman Bitar (إيمان بيطار)
Professor Oak (known as Professor Akai in S01 and S02) Marwan Farhat (مروان فرحات) Ismail Nanoua (إسماعيل نعنوع)
Gary Oak Amal Saad Alden (امال سعد الدين) Imad Feghaly (عماد فغالي)
Delia Ketchum Anjy Al-Yousif (أنجي اليوسف) Iman Bitar (إيمان بيطار) Souhair Naser El Deen (سهير ناصر الدين)
Giovanni Rafat Bazoo (رأفت بازو) Ismail Nanoua (إسماعيل نعنوع) Ibrahim Madi (إبراهيم ماضي)
Mewtwo Sam Ghusen (سام غصن)
Professor Cerise Fadi Rifai (فادي الرفاعي)
Chrysa Leila Shammas (ليلى شماس)
Ren Ghassan Haddad (غسان حداد)
Leon Imad Feghaly (عماد فغالي)
Cynthia Asmahan Bitar (أسمهان بيطار)


EP001 premiered on MBC around the end of the summer of 2000.
Seasons 01 and 02 aired between 2000 and 2001.
Season 03 premiered sometime later around late 2001 or early 2002.
Season 04 premiered on ART Teenz a year later on January 2nd, 2003.
Season 06 premiered on New TV on December 10, 2005,[21][22] and on ART Teenz on September 24, 2006 which aired it daily all throughout Ramadan.

The anime initially aired exclusively on MBC (Middle East Broadcasting Center), an independent free-to-air pan-Arab channel broadcasting via satellite.[23] But due to its immense popularity it spread rapidly to other channels, mainly local government-owned stations in different countries such as Egypt, Syria, Qatar, Algeria, Morocco among others. Then in 2001 due to the controversy and the boycott many TV stations dropped it from air to avoid backlash.

ART Teenz aired reruns of S03 to S06 daily from 2002 until 2008 when it was closed.

Starting with Season 03 the anime now aired mainly on ART Teenz, a children's channel and part of the Arab Radio and Television Network, and on New TV, an independent Lebanese TV channel that targets mostly a Christian Arab audience. With syndicated reruns being aired occasionally on few other channels such as the government-owned channels in Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, meaning no official ban was issued in those countries.

Moroccan channel 2M is notable for being the most recent TV channel to have aired the Arabic dub of the Pokémon anime when it aired S06 in 2010. This channel also aired the Pokémon anime in French.

Since the late 2000s, none of the Arabic-language TV stations in any country is airing or rerunning the Arabic dub of the Pokémon anime, most likely due to broadcasting rights expiring and complicated copyrights issues between ShoPro and KM Productions. Although the English version of the anime did air on a few premium channels such as Disney XD and most recently the UAE based channel e-Junior, this broadcast of the anime series is not well-known though, most likely due to, if not for the language barrier, then to the relatively low participation of the expensive subscription TV model in the region overall. Regardless, Disney XD's airing of the anime is not officially recognized for the MENA region specifically.

Opening themes

The Season 01 opening was written and recorded by Rasha Rizk (رشا رزق), with additional vocal support of Tarek Alarabi Tourgane (طارق العربي طرقان) and Bassam Al-Hassouni (بسام الحسوني). The first version of the theme song which uses the lyric (على خير الصنيع) was used for the first 12 episodes (Pokémon - I Choose You! to Here Comes the Squirtle Squad), and then replaced by a "more grammatically correct" second version with the lyric (سلاحي المنيع) for the remaining episodes (Mystery at the Lighthouse to Charizard Chills). Both versions of the song were performed by Rasha Rizk which she confirmed herself in a Q&A.[24]

Pikachu's Jukebox songs were also written and recorded by Rasha Rizk.

When the dub was moved to Lebanon, new versions of Pikachu's Jukebox were recorded for the remaining episodes of the Orange Islands arc by the new cast of voice actors, except for the song 2.B.A. Master which was replaced by Pokémon Karaokémon in the episodes The Stun Spore Detour and The Rivalry Revival for unknown reasons, Pokémon Karaokémon songs were also recorded.

An Arabic version of Pokémon Johto was also recorded and used for the initial broadcast of Season 03, but then it was replaced by the Season 01 theme during reruns and on the DVD release, probably due to the original theme song being more popular. This combination of the Pokémon Theme and the footage of Pokémon Johto was reused for all the subsequent seasons dubbed by Super M Productions.

The opening themes for seasons 04 to 07 were never dubbed, instead they used the Season 01 theme song along with the footage of Pokémon Johto. The opening footage for those seasons was replaced due to their opening themes being 45 seconds instead of 01 min, making them incompatible with the season 01 theme song.

Home media and digital release

Misty holding a cross in EP020, one of the many scenes that were removed in the original broadcast of the episode.

Seasons 01 and 02 were released on VHS in different countries in the region by various local home media distributors such as the KSA-based MEGASTAR,[25] the Egypt-based Flash Video Film,[26] and the Kuwait-based IVC: International Video Co. (شركة الفديو الدولي).[27] M01 to M03 were also released on VHS by these companies but containing only the English audio and Arabic subtitles.

Season 03 was later released on DVD by the UAE-based distributor Al Wadi.

M04 to M07 were also released on DVD by Miramax International featuring an Arabic and an English audio, although the exact release dates are currently unknown.

Seasons 04 to 07 didn't receive any form of home media release, and they are currently completely unobtainable. With no recordings of the episodes to be found on the internet since they haven't been re-aired in over a decade, the Arabic dub of these seasons is now considered by many fans to be a Lost media, and only a couple of short videos have made their way to the internet.[28]

In 2019 Netflix acquired the distribution rights for the franchise in the region and released:

The first season titled دوري إنديغو (Indigo League) is also currently available on Netflix retaining the original Arabic dubbing done by Venus Center, except for the episodes "The Ghost of Maiden's Peak" and "Abra and the Psychic Showdown" which were re-dubbed since they were heavily censored in the original Syrian dub.

Pokémon movies

Pokémon movies were released in some capacity in Arab countries throughout the years. All of the movies that were distributed in American theaters by Warner Bros. were also released in theaters in certain Arab countries by Warner Bros.' Middle East agent Shooting Stars LLC (also known as Joseph Chacra & Sons in Lebanon).

Pokémon merchandise

After the Pokémon anime started airing in the Arabic language, it became one of the most popular anime series in the Arab world. Therefore, the demand for Pokémon-related merchandise among Arab children was high. Thus, several video game retailers began to sell a wide variety of Pokémon merchandise as they were best sold. Additionally, many restaurants offered promotional toys with their meals, such as Burger King in 2000. Due to the controversy in 2001, however, a lot of the merchandise was withdrawn from the main retail shops. After the controversy subsided, many game stores started selling Pokémon goods again without incident.

As of the 2010s, various distributors imported certain official Pokémon merchandise from either Europe or North America, such as Toys "R" Us outlets selling Poké Dolls and other kinds of toys. Many high-end bookstore chains, especially those that rely heavily on imported materials, may sell an assorted variety of books and magazines. For example, a Kinokuniya outlet situated in The Dubai Mall (the sole Kinokuniya outlet in the entire region), which is known to sell large volumes of varied stock, has been retailing children's magazines, video game guides, game books, film novelizations, as well as most of the Pokémon manga series, available in both English and Japanese, with the latter being distributed exclusively via this store.

In early 2013, Active Gulf, Nintendo's officially licensed distributor in the Middle East, have collaborated with their retail partners to locally sell authentic packs for the Pokémon Battle Disc Game.[29]

Many smaller toy and variety stores found in the grey market may often sell unlicensed and counterfeit products, with many of them imported from China. It is also possible to find pirated trading card packs, but in much smaller volumes than when initially released, as in prior to the 2001 controversies. Overall, the current legal status of the official trading card game itself remains vague in any case.


Pokémon Live!

Despite ending its run in January 2001 in the United States, Pokémon Live! was invited to perform on an open stage in Al Mamzar Park, Dubai, U.A.E. in the duration of the whole month of March that same year, coinciding with the annual Dubai Shopping Festival.[30] Whilst the musical was mostly identical to its performance elsewhere, the female actors had a slight change to their wardrobe which covered their exposed abdomens and thighs, likely to abide with Dubai's public dress code. Since the musical featured the same cast from its American run, it was performed solely in English. The musical, albeit received very positively by its audience, ended its run just days before the 2001 controversies began in the region overall.

Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions

On March 31, 2017, Pokémon: Symphonic Evolutions was performed at the Corniche in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates as part of the Mother of the Nation Festival. It is the first Symphonic Evolutions concert to be performed in the Arab world.

Related articles


  1. 10 Egyptian Conspiracy Theories
  2. Arabs See Jewish Conspiracy in Pokemon - latimes
  3. ADL denounces claim by Muslim leaders that Pokemon game is “Jewish Conspiracy" - Press Release (archived copy)
  4. Saddam Hussein tried to ban POKEMON in Iraq for an utterly bizarre reason - Mirror Online
  5. Saudi Arabia issues fatwa against POKÉMON for being ‘un-Islamic’ and ‘blasphemous' | World | News | Express.co.uk
  6. Dubai Family Consultant Dr. Khalifa Al-Makhrazi: Pokemon Go Is Prohibited, Spreads Darwinism | MEMRI
  7. Fatwas of the Permanent Committee
  8. The Escapist - Archive - Saudi Bans Pokemon (archived copy)
  9. BBC News | MIDDLE EAST | Saudi Arabia bans Pokemon (archived copy)
  10. BBC News | Middle East | Qatari religious leader bans Pokemon
  11. Peterson, Mark Allen. 'Anthropology & Mass Communication: Media and Myth in the New Millennium'. 2003. Print.
  12. Dubai scholars declare Pokemon unislamic - Gulfnews
  13. Technically, today both PAL and NTSC signals are no longer used in most countries after being effectively superseded by newer DVB-T and ATSC signals respectively. However, the terms "PAL" and "NTSC" continues to be used for legacy reasons in reference to regional origins of specific game units since various older platforms are region-locked, and despite Nintendo eventually opting for fully region-free hardware starting in 2017.
  14. International Distributors: Middle East - NOA official website (1998 archive); Wayback Machine
  15. https://web.archive.org/web/19980205070953/http://www.nintendo.com/corp/companies/japan.html
  16. confirmed by Jihan Mulla, one of the voice actors.
  17. https://store.yahoo.com/yhst-55466754130796/pokeman.html
  18. https://www.tiktok.com/@abdohakimofficiall/video/6921632625392209154?is_from_webapp=v1&item_id=6921632625392209154
  19. https://www.tiktok.com/@ranaalrifai/video/7114369026536606977?lang=en
  20. https://lebanesedubbing.fandom.com/wiki/Pok%C3%A9mon
  21. http://www.mexat.com/vb/showthread.php?t=27436&page=63
  22. http://www.mexat.com/vb/showthread.php?t=27436&page=66
  23. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n8UqKhkm_pc
  24. https://www.instagram.com/p/B2bucEEgWbN, there were rumors that the 2nd version of the song was performed by Sonia Bitar.
  25. https://www.instagram.com/p/B5A4M6egBLS
  26. https://www.instagram.com/p/CrXkerOMeBI
  27. https://www.instagram.com/reel/CgmIyQqOewr
  28. https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1bujg
  29. Active Gulf announcing on their official Facebook page about the availability of the Pokémon Battle Disc Game
  30. Young and old enjoy Pokemon - Gulfnews
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