In “One Thousand and One Nights,” Cairo is said to be “the mother of the world,” the phrase Egyptians today tend to turn into “the mother of the Arab world.” Although this is no longer true in politics and economics, however, Egypt can claim to be at the forefront as long as popular culture is a concern: from Damascus and Casablanca the songs of local performers are broadcast and (although to a lesser extent are respected ) the theater.
The word spoken
“One Thousand and One Nights” was not broadcast in Egypt, but it certainly helped Egypt maintain the oral narrative habit it developed from. Egyptologists claim that the Egyptians liked the success stories and one of the main activities of community maintenance was listening to the passing story.
So it was fifty years ago. In the Egyptian cities, the storytellers were sitting in cafes and entertaining their guests one evening or more. The same thing happened at weddings. The stories were episodic and were usually recited in lyrics. Some required a few nights to say, others like “Hilaliya” written in a million lines, took months. This was the culture at the highest level, but lately the storytellers have become a rarity giving way to television.
The written word
For Egyptian writers, 1988 was either holiday or sadness, because then it happened that Naguib Mahfouz would win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Even the writer was amazed by the award. Not because Mahfouz was not a world-class writer, but because he was regarded as a traditionalist – he cites Dickens as the major influence – the papers cited by the Nobel Committee were written a quarter of a century earlier.
Cairo, cinematic city
In 1927, when Americans listened to Al Jonson in “Jazz Singer” the first sound film in the world, Aziza Amir released the first Egyptian film “Laila”. One of the most popular forms of film was the musical, whose action was often copied after Hollywood. Renowned Egyptian singer, Umm Kalthoum has held a dominant position both here and in the concert halls in Cairo.movie
His best partnership was with actor Farid al-Atrash, an elegant, handsome man who, like them, combines acting talent with an exceptional voice. In the development of Egyptian cinematography, the musical film, it was so important that the critic Samir Farid noted: “It could be said that the Egyptian film became sound only for the song – without which it could still be silent today.” Abo Seif’s films very much reflected the state of the times – the labile, the strongly pro-Arab and the antiregalist politics.
The most famous Egyptian actor is Omar Sharif, born with the name of Michael Demitri Shalhoub (April 10, 1932, Alexandria, Egypt). Sharif debuted in the Egyptian film Heaven of Hell (1953), signed by director Joseph Shain; the film was noticed in May 1964, at the Cannes Film Festival. Sharif’s first English role was in the television production of Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Later, the actor settled in Hollywood, where he played in Doctor Jivago (1965), Funny Girl (1968), and for the role of Monsieur Ibrahim in the film Monsieur Ibrahimet les fleurs du Coran (2003) he received the award for best actor. He has participated as an actor in over one hundred productions.
Other world-famous actors with roots in Egypt: Julian Fellowes, born in Cairo (August 17, 1949), won 1 Oscar, nominated 13 times and won 15 other awards. Amr Waked born in Cairo (April 12, 1973), played the role of Mohammed Sheik Agiza in the film Syriana, Ahmed Ahmed born in Cairo (June 1970) played in the film Iron Man, Gillian Hills born in Cairo (June 05, 1944), played the role of Glenna Kelly in Dallas.