February 24, 2010

Amr Khaled: Islam's Billy Graham

Writing about web page http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/amr-khaled-islams-billy-graham-521561.html

Amr Khaled: Islam's Billy Graham

More popular than Oprah Winfrey, the world's first Islamic television evangelist commands an army of millions of followers

David Hardaker reports from Cairo

Wednesday, 4 January 2006

In a tiny house on the West Bank a young Palestinian woman is jogging the length of her hallway and back. Again and again. The pain becomes unbearable. But she keeps going. Eventually she completes two thousand laps. Why? Because Amr said so. He called on young Muslims to get fit, and the woman could find no other safe place to run.

In the choking grime of Cairo, another young woman is tending to a small tomato vine, struggling into life atop a 10-storey city block. Why? Because Amr wants his young followers to see something grow. It will provide hope - and maybe a small income - in a part of the world where both are in short supply. The greening of rooftops in the filth and decay of this Arab mega city is a story being repeated again and again throughout the Arab world.

It is a powerful metaphor for the work of a religious and marketing phenomenon called Amr Khaled, who is trying to pump oxygen into the arid lives of Muslim youth. Amr (rhymes with "charmer") Khaled is the Arab world's first Islamic tele-evangelist, a digital age Billy Graham who has fashioned himself into the anti-Bin Laden, using the barrier-breaking power of satellite TV and the internet to turn around a generation of lost Muslim youth.

"When you look at the reach of what he is doing and when you look at the millions he is touching, I don't know another single individual in the region who is having the impact that Amr Khaled is having," says the American Rick Little, an adviser on youth issues to the UN who has worked with Khaled on job creation schemes in the Middle East.

Khaled, 38, defies the stereotype of the Islamic preacher. In his Cairo office it would be easy to mistake him for a City banker. No flowing robes for him. He wears a hand-tailored cream suit, an open-necked sky-blue shirt,brown loafers and a Bulgari watch. The accountant-turned-preacher shifts easily between the worlds of religion and business.

To demonstrate the success of Khaled Inc, the CEO has at the ready a series of graphs and pie-charts in a tastefully designed Annual Report. Inside he points to the proof of his proudest boast: that Amr Khaled is more popular than the US talk show juggernaut Oprah Winfrey.

Certainly, it seems to be the case. A corporate graph shows the number of hits on the Amrkhaled.net website soaring far and beyond the Winfrey line. It is a strange point of reference for an Islamic preacher. He explains, though, that he is neither a preacher nor an Oprah. "I am in my own box," he laughs. And perhaps he is.

Unlike other Middle Eastern preachers, Khaled has had a taste of life on the other side of the religious and cultural divide. Three years ago he was banned from speaking in Egypt because of his popularity. In self-imposed exile, he set up shop in London, where he says he lived "a wonderful life, in freedom".

Khaled has returned to his home country in the past few weeks, but his experience of the West sharpened his perspective on the problems facing young Muslims, in England and in the Arab world. He has come back with a dream: "I am going now to build a bridge between the East and the West," he declares.

There is more than a touch of the thespian in Khaled, and he is well aware of the power of his words to motivate. His prime target is the youth of the Arab world, who feel that they are second-class citizens in a world dominated by the United States and its values. To these young people he has a tough message about the destructive force of self-pity. "We Muslims are living as parasites on the world. Our problem is that we have got used to taking without ever giving," he says. "Don't tell us it is a Western conspiracy against us, it is not."

Khaled's words capture what official reports into the Middle East have been pointing to with increasing alarm: that rising poverty, unemployment and illiteracy have made a toxic cocktail. Combined with authoritarian governments and hostility to the United States, the cocktail has turned deadly and made its young people easy prey for the likes of Osama bin Laden.

Khaled's remedy is a tough personal regime of self-renewal, based on what he says are real Islamic values. His messages are drawn from the Koran, but they are shaped to the 21st century. Muslims are told why it is contrary to Islam to smoke, to litter the streets or to be lazy, and why it is good to collect clothes for the poor or to vote in elections.

One devotee is the Egyptian business graduate Iman Salama, 24. She listens to Khaled through a Walkman tucked under her veil while she does the housework. "I am a big fan," she says. "I like that he wants to make the beliefs of Islam more something that you can do in your day-to-day life." Like thousands of others, Iman Salama has grown impatient with the establishment preachers, who are determined not to move with the times. "They are not really up to the standards that are needed to make the Muslim people relate to Islam in a changing world," she says.

In the eyes of Arab elders, though, the TV preacher is little more than a showman, a judgement which is reinforced every time another high-profile celebrity signs up to the Khaled cause. Around Cairo's establishment dinner tables there is much tut-tutting about the lay preacher's lack of formal religious training. Muslim scholars scorn his "air-conditioned" brand of Islam.

However, in the best traditions of United States tele-evangelists, the Khaled style on stage is a big seller. With eyes shut tight the preacher will summon a message as though from the depths of his soul. His face contorts. There's a rush of emotion. His voice rises to an excited squeal. In a trice he brings his audience back down again, his voice dropping to a near whisper.

Khaled's connections range far and wide across the spectrum of politics and business. Little, who is also CEO of an international philanthropic organisation, ImagineNations, first heard of the preacher's influence when he was interviewing young Muslims for a book he is writing with Queen Rania of Jordan.

"I was shocked by the number of young people from a diverse number of countries and backgrounds and socio-economic levels who kept on talking about Amr and the influence he was having in their lives," he said from his Maryland office in the US. "I thought whoever this guy is, he is someone I would like to get to know and learn more about."

Khaled is a favourite of Queen Rania. His brochures are littered with happy snaps of him with the influential: with the President of Yemen, being presented with a UN award, signing a deal with the chief of Dubai police.

It makes the preacher a powerful political lever for the West in its quest to neutralise the anger of young Muslims. The British Government has already seen the potential. In mid-2004, leaked Cabinet papers named Khaled as a figure worth promoting as a counterweight to the imams preaching jihad in England.

In the face of evidence of hostile intent from within England's own Muslim communities, Tony Blair asked the Cabinet Secretary, Sir Andrew Turnbull, to come up with strategies. Sir Andrew reported: "We need to find ways of strengthening the hand of moderate Muslim leaders, including the young Muslims with future leadership potential, through the status which contact with the Government can confer, and through practical capacity building measures."

The British Government has been happy to back Khaled's efforts. Last August, the Foreign Office minister Kim Howells sent a message of support for a conference organised by the preacher, praising him for his "courage and strength" in attempting to bring cultures together.

A month before, Khaled was in London when the terror attacks killed 52 people. "This," he hisses, "is nowhere in Islam. If anyone kills children or women, this is not acceptable not only in Islam, in the Jewish faith, in Christianity, in all the religions."

Khaled's words are music to the ears of Western interests. But while the preacher might be hip, he is deeply conservative.

The Khaled phenomenon is being fed by a range of forces, not only companies such as the Nike Corporation, but by billionaire Saudi businessmen as well. Of the latter, Khaled says: "I chose the moderate people, not just anyone from Saudi Arabia."

It certainly makes the man with the simple message a more complex proposition. One of Khaled's toughest hometown critics believes the West has been tricked by Khaled. "His appearance is calculated to deceive," says Hala Mustafa, who is one of Cairo's prominent liberals and the editor of a government-funded academic journal, Democracy. "He is just like the other Islamic theocrats, but he says it with a smiling face."

Mustafa has written widely on the growth of Islamic fundamentalist groups, and exhibit No 1 in her prosecution of Khaled is the headscarf, the emblem of conservative Islam. He is commonly held to be the single major force behind young women taking the veil. Removing it, he has told his followers, is "the biggest sin, the biggest sin, the biggest sin".

In one of his lectures he directed a tirade towards any Muslim girl who wished to mimic the West and not wear the veil: "Who respects the woman more? Islam or the ones who cannot even sell a box of matches without painting a half-naked woman on it? Are they the ones who have respected women or ill-treated them? Has not Islam respected women, covered them and liberated them from such exploitation?"

Khaled has saved some of his fiercest rhetoric for the ethics of the West. In his addresses to his Arabic-speaking audience he has alleged that Western people are "fatigued by depression, suicide, addiction, broken families. We pray they will go back to the right path, Allah's system. We don't want to lead lives like the West."

He claims that Muslims are being "oppressed and tortured all over the world". So how does this square with his vow to build a bridge between the East and the West?

"To say we are building a bridge does not mean we are making a copy of life in the West," he says. "There are some things we don't accept in your vision of life. We have many things in our culture [where there is a] big difference between you and us, and if we say we need to take the West and to make a copy of the [West's] civilisation then no one will listen to me, because no one thinks like that."


A confession is on the way: "Yes, I did say these points but I will be very honest to tell you Amr Khaled's vision after he went to stay in the UK is not like Amr Khaled's vision before he went to the UK."

The concession only adds to the riddle of what Khaled really stands for. Mustafa says it all adds up to one conclusion: "He is very close in style to the Muslim Brotherhood," she says, invoking the name of the Middle East's original political Islamic organisation, which is pursuing Islamic government through the ballot box and which recently made massive gains in Egypt's elections.

"Whether they use extreme language or moderate language, they all have the same aim."

It remains to be seen where Khaled is leading his army of young believers and whether or not the plants springing into life on Arab rooftops might ultimately be a bitter harvest for the West.

The Khaled phenomenon is a work in progress, one which might yet see the accountant-turned-preacher take another turn, perhaps into politics.

"Anything at the right time," he says. "Now I have good dialogue with the West and I give them my ideas. I have millions of people who are listening to me. So what is the next step? Let's wait and see."

February 19, 2010

On Faten Hamama – Lead Actress of Next Film Screening "The Empire of M

Writing about web page http://www.abridgetoegypt.com/entertainment/egyptian_artists/Faten_Hamama

Faten Hamama (Arabic: فاتن حمامة‎) (born 27 May 1931) is an Egyptian producer and an acclaimed actress of film, television, and theatre. She was regarded for her performances in a range of film genres, from melodramas to historical films and occasional comedies, though her chief successes were romantic dramas. Noted for her willingness to play serious characters, she has also acted in some controversial films in the history of Egyptian cinema.

Hamama made her screen debut in 1939, when she was only nine years old. Her earliest roles were minor, but her activity and gradual success helped to establish her as a distinguished Egyptian actress. Eventually, and after many successful performances, she was able to achieve stardom. Revered as an icon in Egyptian and Middle Eastern cinema, Hamama has substantially helped in improving the cinema industry in Egypt and emphasizing the importance of women in cinema and Egyptian society.

After a seven-year hiatus from acting, Hamama returned in 2000 in what was a much anticipated television miniseries, Wajh al-Qamar (وجه القمر, Face of the Moon). She has not acted since then. In 2000, Hamama was chosen as Star of the Century by the Egyptian Writers and Critics organization. In 2007, eight of the films she starred in were included in the top 100 films in the history of Egyptian cinema by the cinema committee of the Supreme Council of Culture in Cairo.

Early life and career

Faten Hamama was born to a Muslim lower middle class family in Mansoura, Egypt (according to her birth certificate), but she claims she was born in Cairo, in the Abdeen quarter. Her father, Ahmed Hamama, worked as a clerk in the Egyptian Ministry of Education and her mother was a housewife. She has an older brother, Muneer, a younger sister, Layla, and a younger brother, Mazhar. Her aspiration for acting arose at an early age. Hamama says she was influenced by Assia Dagher as a child. When she was six years old, her father took her to the theater to see an Assia Dagher film; when the audience clapped for Assia, she told her father she felt they were clapping for her.
When she won a children's beauty pageant in Egypt, her father sent her picture to the director Mohammed Karim who was looking for a young female child to play the role of a small girl with the famous actor and musician Mohamed Abdel Wahab in the film Yawm Said (يوم سعيد, Happy Day, 1939). After an audition, Abdel Wahab decided she was the one he was looking for. After her role in the film, people called her "Egypt's own Shirley Temple". The director liked her acting and was impressed with her so much that he signed a contract with her father. Four years later, she was chosen by Kareem for another role with Abdel Wahab in the film Rossassa Fel Qalb (رصاصة في القلب, Bullet in the Heart, 1944) and in another film two years later, Dunya (دنيا, Universe, 1946). After her success, Hamama moved with her parents to Cairo and started her study in the High Institute of Acting in 1946.


Youssef Wahbi, a famous Egyptian director and actor, realized the young actress's talent so he offered her a lead role in the 1946 film Malak al-Rahma (ملاك الرحمة, Angel of Mercy). The film attracted widespread media attention, and Hamama, who was only 15 at the time, became famous for her melodramatic role. In 1949, Hamama had roles in 3 films with Wahbi. Kursi Al-I'etraf (كرسي الاعتراف, Chair of Confession), Al-Yateematain (اليتيمتين, The Two Orphans), and Sït Al-Bayt (ست البيت, Lady of the House) were all successful films.

The 1950s were the beginning of the golden age of the Egyptian cinema industry and Hamama was a big part of it. In 1952 she starred in the film Lak Yawm Ya Zalem (لك يوم يا ظالم, Your Day will Come) which was nominated in the Cannes Film Festival for the Prix International award. She also played lead roles in Yousef Shaheen's Baba Ameen (بابا أمين, Ameen, my Father, 1950) and Sira' Fi Al-Wadi (صراع في الوادي, Struggle in the Valley, 1954) which was a strong nominee in the 1954 Cannes Film Festival for the Prix International award. Hamama is also known for playing the lead role in the first Egyptian mystery film Manzel Raqam 13 (منزل رقم 13, House Number 13). In 1963, she received an award for her role in the political film La Waqt Lel Hob (لا وقت للحب, No Time for Love). Hamama was also able to make it to Hollywood; in 1963 she had a role in the crime film, Cairo.

In 1947, Hamama married the actor and director Ezzel Dine Zulficar while filming the Abu Zayd al-Hilali (أبو زيد الهلالي) film. They started a production company which produced the film Maw'ed Ma' Al-Hayat (موعد مع الحياة, Date with Life) in which she starred. This particular film earned her the title of the "lady of the Arabic screen". She divorced al-Faqqar in 1954 and a year later, she married the famous actor Omar Sharif. In spite of that, Hamama still acted in films of his direction.

In a Youssef Chahine film, Struggle in the Valley, Hamama refused to have the Egyptian actor Shukry Sarhan as a co-star, and Chahine offered Omar Sharif the role. Omar had just graduated from college then and was working with his father; Hamama accepted him as her co-star. Hamama had never accepted to act any scene involving a kiss in her career, but she shockingly accepted to do so in this film. The two fell in love and Omar Sharif converted to Islam and married her. This marriage started a new era of Hamama's career as the couple did many of their films together. Sharif and Hamama were the romantic leads of Ayyamna Al-Holwa (أيامنا الحلوة, Our Sweet Days), Ardh Al-Salam (أرض السلام, Land of Peace), La Anam (لا أنام, Sleepless), and Sayyidat Al-Qasr (سيدة القصر, The Lady of the Palace). Their last film together, before their divorce, was Nahr Al-Hob (نهر الحب, The River of Love) in 1960.

Controversy in the late 1960s

Hamama left Egypt from 1966 to 1971 because she was being continuously disturbed by Egyptian Intelligence. Initially, Hamama had been a supporter of the 1952 Revolution, but later became an opponent of the Free Officers and their oppressive regime. She said they were "asking her to cooperate" but she apologized and refused. As a consequence, she was forbidden to travel or participate in festivals. She was only able to leave Egypt after many controversial disputes. She lived in Beirut and London during this period.

While she was away, then President Gamal Abdel Nasser asked famous writers, journalists and friends to try to convince her to return to Egypt. He called her a "national treasure" and had even awarded her an honorary decoration in 1965. However, Hamama didn't return until 1971 after Abdel Nasser had passed away. Thereafter, she played critical roles conveying messages of democracy. She often criticized the laws in Egypt in her films. In the 1972 film Imbarotiriyat Meem (إمبراطورية ميم, The Empire of M), Hamama presented a prodemocratic point of view and received an award from the Soviet Union of Women in the Moscow International Festival. Her most significant film was Oridu Hallan (أريد حلاً, I Need a Solution). In this film, she criticized the laws governing marriage and divorce in Egypt. After the film, the Egyptian government abrogated a law that forbid wives from divorcing their husbands, therefore allowing khul'.

Late career

As Hamama became older, her acting roles declined and she made fewer films compared to earlier in her career, but nevertheless her films were successful. She also made her first TV appearances in her late career. She starred in the TV mini-series Dameer Ablah Hikmat (ضمير أبلة حكمت, Mrs. Hikmat's Conscience) and was quite successful in her first TV performance.

After 1993, Hamama's career suddenly came to a halt. It was not until 2000 that she returned in the successful TV mini-series Wajh ِِal-Qamar which was broadcast on 23 TV channels in the Middle East. In this mini-series, Hamama portrayed and criticized many problems in Egyptian and Middle Eastern society. Despite some criticisms, the mini-series received much praise and acclaim. Hamama was awarded the Egyptian Best TV Actor of the Year and the mini-series won the Best TV Series Award in the Egyptian Radio and Television Festival. Hamama entered history as the highest paid actress in an Egyptian TV mini-series until 2006. Rumors have been circulating that Hamama will return in a new TV mini-series called Wazeera 'ala al-Ma'ash (وزيرة على المعاش, A Retired Minister) in 2007, probably in Ramadan.

Accomplishments in Egyptian cinema

When Hamama started her acting career women were commonly displayed in Egyptian films as unrealistic and bourgeois, spending most of their time chasing (or being chased by) men. It was also customary for an actress to be shown as a sex object. In the beginnings of Egyptian cinema, the casting of female characters was limited to famous singers, dancers or stage actresses. But Faten Hamama was neither a singer nor a dancer, and she had little experience on stage. In spite of that, she was able to magnetize film directors and producers as well as her audiences, which is why she was successful in many of her films.

Before the 1950s, Hamama had leading roles in 30 films, in which she often played the role of a weak, empathetic, poor girl. After the 1950s, Hamama was in search of her real identity and was trying to establish herself as a distinct figure. During this period, her choice of material and roles was somewhat limited. However, film producers soon capitalised on her popularity with audiences in local and Middle Eastern markets and she began to play realistic, strong women, such as in Sira' Fi Al-Wadi (صراع في الوادي , Struggle in the Valley, 1954) where she portrayed a rich man's daughter who, contrary to stereotype, was a realistic woman who helped and supported the poor. In the 1952 film Miss Fatmah (الأستاذة فاطمة), Hamama starred as a law student who believed women were as important as men in society.

In Imbratoriyat Meem (امبراطورية ميم , The Empire of M), she played the role of a widow who takes care of her large family and suffers hardship. These films helped in the portrayal of Egyptian women's problems in a society resistant to modernity. Her most influential film was Oridu Hallan (أريد حلا , I Need a Solution) which criticized the laws of marriage and divorce in Egypt. A law in Egypt that forbade Khul' ( خلع ) — a divorce initiated by the wife — was annulled immediately afterwards.

Most critics agree that Hamama's most challenging role was in the 1959 film Dua'e Al-Karawan (دعاء الكروان , The Nightingale's Prayer), which was chosen as one of the best Egyptian film productions. It is based on the novel by the same name by the prominent Egyptian writer Taha Hussein. In this film, Hamama played the role of Amnah, a young woman who seeks revenge from her uncle for the honour killing of her sister. After this film, Hamama carefully picked her roles. In 1960, she starred in the film Nahr Hob (نهر حب, Love River) which was based on Leo Tolstoy's well known novel Anna Karenina and in 1961, she played the lead role in the film La Tutf'e Al-Shams (لا تطفئ الشمس, Don't Turn Off the Sun) based on the novel by Ihsan Abdel Quddous.

Personal life

Though Hamama has lived most of her life in Egypt, she was forced to live in London and Lebanon for several years due to problems in the late 1960s in Egypt.

She admired the director Ezzel Dine Zulficar, and while filming Abu Zayd al-Hilali (أبو زيد الهلالى) in 1947, which he directed, the two fell in love and got married. Their marriage lasted for seven years: they divorced in 1954. Hamama has said that her love for Zulficar was little more than a student's admiration and love for a teacher. The two remained friends, and Hamama even starred in his films after the divorce. They have one daughter, Nadia Zulficar.
In 1954, Hamama chose Omar Sharif to co-star with her in a film. In this film, she uncharacteristically agreed to a romantic scene involving a kiss. During the filming, they fell in love. Sharif converted to Islam and married her. The couple co-starred in many films, their romantic relationship clearly evident on screen. However, after almost 20 years, they divorced in 1974. They have one son, Tarek Sharif.

Hamama later married Dr. Mohamed Abdel Wahab Mahmoud, a successful doctor in Egypt. Having learned from experience, this time Hamama decided to keep her personal life private. She rarely appears with him publicly or mentions him in interviews. They currently reside in Cairo.

Awards won

Throughout Hamama's career, she has won many awards for her acting roles


  • First prize of acting for the movie Ana al-Madi (I'm the Past) (1951)
  • First prize of acting and best Egyptian movie presented in Beirout for Irham Dmoo'i (Have Mercy) (1954)
  • Maw'ed Maa al-Sa'ada (Appointment with Happiness) receives Prize of acting from the Egyptian Catholic Center for Cinema (1954)
  • Irham Dmoo'i receives first Prize of acting from Ministry of Guidance for movies that covered season 1954-1955 (1955)
  • Al-Tareeq al-Masdood (Dead end) & Hatta Naltaqi(Until we meet) receive prizes of acting from the Egyptian Catholic Center for Cinema (1958)
  • Prize of acting on her role in the movie Bain al-Atlal (Among the Ruins) (1959)


  • Doaa al-Karawan (The Nightgale's Prayer) receives the Prize of Acting from Ministry of Guidance (1961)
  • Doaa al-Karawan received First Pize of acting from the National State award that covered movies from seasons 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962 (1963)
  • Best actress award from the Jakarta Film Festival on her role in Albab aL-Maftouh (The Open Door) (1963)
  • First Prize of acting from the National State award for the movie Al Leila Al Akhira (The Last Night) (1965)


  • Al-Kheit al-Rafee (The Thin Thread) received the Special Award in the first Tehran International Film Festival (1972)
  • Special award from the Moscow International Film Festival(1973)
  • A Diploma of honor and the Diploma of recognition for her role and the idea for Oreedo Hallan (I Need a Solution) in the third Tehran International Film Festival (1974)
  • The Organization of Film Critics and Writers' Prize of Recognition for her role in Oreedo Hallan (1975)
  • The Prize of Excellence in the Festival of Egyptian Films for her role in Oreedo Hallan (1976)
  • Best Actress award from the Tehran International Film festival on her role for Afwah Wa Araneb (Mouths and Rabbits) (1977)
  • Best actress award from the Second Cairo International Film Festival, (Golden Nefertiti Award) for her role in Afwah Wa Araneb (1977)
  • Special Recognition award from President Anwar Al Sadat for her role inAfwah Wa Araneb (1977)


  • USSR Cinema Prize in Moscow (1983)
  • Lebanese Golden Order of Merit Prize for her role in the movie Leilet Al Qabd Ala Fatma (The Night of Fatma's Arrest) (1984)
  • Prize of Recognition and Life Achievement Award from the Organization of Cinematic Art for her role in the movie Leilet Al Qabd Ala Fatma (1984)
  • Best Actress award from Carthage International Film Festival, Tunisia for her role inYawm Mor.. Yawm Helo (Bitter Days.. Nice Days) (1988)
  • Best actress award from the Organization of Film for her role inYawm Mor.. Yawm Helo (1989)


  • Best Artistic Achievement award from the Cairo International Festival (1991)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award from the Montpelier Mediterranean Film Festival (1993)
  • Best actress award from the Egyptian Catholic Center during its celebration for her role in Ard al-Ahlam (Land of Dreams) (1994)
  • Best Actress award from Cairo International Festival for her contribution to the Egyptian Cinema where 18 of her films were selected amongst the best 150 movies ever made until 1996 during the celebration of a 100 years of cinema (1996)

2000 and later

  • The Honorary Award from The Radio and Television Festival for her role in Wajh al-Kamar (2001)
  • The Prize and award of the First Arabic Women presented by Nazik Hariri and Bahia Hariri (2001)
  • Prize of recognition from first Sala international film festival, Morocco, for her contribution to women's issues through her artistic career (2004)


Hamama receives a PhD from the AUC (1999)
Hamama receives a PhD from the AUC (1999)



  • Ebn Elnile (Son of the Nile) presented in Venice International Film Festival (1951)
  • Ebn Elnile nominated in Cannes International Film Festival for the Prix International award (1952)
  • Lak youm Ya Zalem (Your Day will Come) selected in Berlin International Film Festival to be part of main competition (1953)
  • Cannes International Film Festival selects the movie Serai Fil Wadi (Struggle in the Valley), to be part of main competition for the Prix International award (1954)


  • Berlin International Film Festival selects the movie Doaa al-Karawan (The Nightgale's Prayer), to be part of main competition (1960)
  • Karlovy Vary International Film Festival selects the movie La Totf'e al-Shams (Don't Turn the Sun Off), to be part of main competition (1962)
  • Cannes International Film Festival selects the movie Al Leila Al Akhira (The Last Night), to be part of main competition for the Prix International award (1964)
  • Cannes International Film Festival selects the movie Al Haram (The Sin) to be part of main competition for the Prix International award (1965)


Hamama was also honored on several occasions:


  • Honored by the Decoration of Creativity of first degree from prime minister, Prince Khaled Shehab, Lebanon (1953)


  • A Guest of Honor in Moscow International Film Festival. In that event she also had an interview with Yuri Gagarin (first human in space) for the Egyptian Radio (1961)
  • Selected as Jury Member for the Berlin International Film Festival (1964)
  • Honored by the Decoration of Republic of first degree for Art from president Gamal Abdel Nasser (1965)


  • Honored by the Decoration of State of the first order from President Mohamed Anwar Sadat during first Art festival (1976)
  • Jury Member for Carthage International Film Festival (1978)


  • Jury Member for Cairo International Film Festival (1991)
  • Selected as the President of Juries for the first Paris Biennale of Arab Cinema (1992)
  • Honorary award from the Egyptian National Festival for Cinema for her long distinguished cinematic career (1995)
  • Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz selects Faten Hamama as an Honorary advisory member in the organization of Children development (1999)
  • PhD from the American University in Cairo (1999)

2000 and later

  • Lifetime achievement award as the Star of the Century in Egyptian cinema at the Alexandria International Film Festival (2001)
  • Honored by the Decoration of "Al-Arz" (Lebanese Cedar) from Lebanese President Émile Lahoud (2001)
  • Honored by the Decoration of Competence and Creation from King Mohamed El Hassan the Sixth of Morocco (2001)

Selected filmography>

Year International Title Arabic Title Role
1939 Happy Day Yawm Said, يوم سعيد Aneesa
1944 Bullet in the Heart Rossassa Fel Qalb, رصاصة في القلب Najwah
1946 Angel of Mercy Malak al-Rahma, ملاك الرحمة Thoraya
1947 Abu Zayd al-Hilali Abu Zayd al-Hilali, أبو زيد الهلالي Caliph's daughter
1948 The Small Millionaire Al-Millionairah al-Saghirah, المليونيرة الصغيرة Pilot's girlfriend
Immortality Khulood, خلود Laila / Amal
The Two Orphans Al-Yateematain, اليتيمتين Ne`mat
Towards Glory Nahwa al-Majd, نحو المجد Suhair
1949 Chair of Confession Kursi al-I`tiraf, كرسي الاعتراف Phileberta
Lady of the House Sitt al-Bayt, ست البيت Elham
Every House Has a Man Kul Bayt Lahu Rajel, كلّ بيت له راجل Faten
1951 Son of the Nile Ibn al-Nile, ابن النيل Zebaida
Your Day Will Come Lak Yawm Ya Zalem, لك يوم يا ظالم Ne`mat
I'm The Past Ana al-Madi, أنا الماضي Elham's daughter
1952 House Number 13 Al-Manzel Raqam 13, المنزل رقم 13 Nadia
Immortal Song Lahn al-Kholood, لحن الخلود Wafa'
Miss Fatimah Al-Ustazah Fatimah, الأستاذة فاطمة Fatimah
1953 A`isha A`isha, عائشة A'isha
Date with Life Maw`ed Ma` al-Hayat, موعد مع الحياة Amal
1954 Pity My Tears Irham Dmoo`i, ارحم دموعي Amal
Traces in the Sand Athar Fi al-Rimal, أثار في الرمال Ragia
The Unjust Angel Al-Malak al-Zalem, الملاك الظالم Nadia
Always with You Dayman Ma`ak, دائما معاك Tefeeda
Date with Happiness Maw`ed Ma` al-Sa`adah, موعد مع السعادة Ehsan / Amal
Struggle in the Valley Sira` Fi al-Wadi, صراع في الوادي Amal
1955 Our Beautiful Days Ayyamna al-Holwa, أيامنا الحلوة Hoda
Love and Tears Hob Wa Dumoo`', حب و دموع Fatimah
1956 Love Date Maw`ed Gharam, موعد غرام Nawal
Struggle in the Pier Sira` Fi al-Mina, صراع في الميناء Hameedah
1957 Road of Hope Tareeq al-Amal, طريق الأمل Faten
Land of Peace Ard al-Salam, أرض السلام Salma
Sleepless La Anam, لا أنام Nadia Lotfy
1958 The Barred Road Al-Tareeq al-Masdood, الطريق المسدود Fayza
The Virgin Wife Al-Zawjah al-Azra', الزوجة العذراء Mona
Lady of the Castle Sayyidat al-Qasr, سيدة القصر Sawsan
1959 Among the Ruins Bayn al-Atlal, بين الأطلال Mona
The Nightingale's Prayer Doaa al-Karawan, دعاء الكروان Amnah
1960 River of Love Nahr al-Hob, نهر الحب Nawal
1961 I Will Not Confess Lan A`tref, لن أعترف Amal
Don't Set the Sun Off La Tutf'e al-Shams, لا تطفئ الشمس Layla
1962 The Miracle Al-Mu`jiza, المعجزة Layla
1963 Cairo (USA)[29] Cairo Amina
No Time For Love La Waqt Lil Hob, لا وقت للحُب Fawziyah
The Open Door Al-Bab al-Maftooh, الباب المفتوح Laila
The Last Night Al-Laylah al-Akheera, الليلة الأخيرة Nadia / Fawziyah
1965 The Sin Al-Haram, الحرام Azizah
Story of a Lifetime Hikayet al-`Omr Kolloh, حكاية العمر كلّه Nadia
The Confession Al-`Itriaf, الاعتراف Nawal
1966 Something in My Life Shai' Fi Hayati, شيء في حياتي A'ida
1970 The Great Love Al-Hob al-Kabeer, الحب الكبير Hanan
1971 Thin Thread Al-Khayt al-Rfee, الخيط الرفيع Mona
1972 M Empire Imbratoriyat Meem, امبراطورية ميم Mona
1974 My Love Habibati, حبيبتي Samia
I Need a Solution Oridu Hallan, أريدُ حلاً Fawziyah
1977 Mouths and Rabbits Afwah wa Araneb, أفواه و أرانب Ne'mat
1979 Ladies Should Not Offer Condolences Wa La `Aza'a Lil Sayyidat, ولا عزاء للسيدات Rawya
1985 The Night of Fatima's Arrest Laylat al-Qabd `Ala Fatimah, ليلة القبض على فاطمة Fatimah
1988 Sweet Days.. Bitter Days Yawm Mur Yawm Hilw, يوم مر.. يوم حلو Aisha
1993 Land of Dreams Ard al-Ahlam, أرض الأحلام Nargis


Year Title Arabic Role
1991 Miss Hikmat's Conscience (mini-series) Dameer Ablah Hikmat, ضمير أبلة حكمت Hikmat
2000 Face of the Moon (mini-series) Wajh al-Qamar, وجه القمر Ibtisam al-Bostany
2007 A Retired Minister (TBA) Wazeerah 'ala al-Ma'ash, وزيرة على المعاش
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Faten Hamama"

February 06, 2010

Joel Gordon's Article on Nasser 56 and its Cairo 96 context

Writing about web page http://www.escholarship.org/editions/view?docId=ft8k4008kx&chunk.id=ch7&toc.depth=1&toc.id=ch7&brand=ucpress

Preferred Citation: Armbrust, Walter, editor. Mass Mediations: New Approaches to Popular Culture in the Middle East and Beyond. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c2000 2000. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft8k4008kx/

Nasser 56/Cairo 96

7. Nasser 56/Cairo 96

Reimaging Egypt’s Lost Community

Joel Gordon

In fall 1996 Egyptians lined up in record numbers—at seventeen theaters in Cairo alone—to see not the latest ‘Adil Imam comedy, Nadia al-Guindi potboiler, or foreign thriller but a meticulously researched and restaged treatment of the 1956 Suez crisis, the nationalization of the Suez Canal Company by the relatively young Nasser regime and the subsequent Tripartite Aggression that did so much to put Gamal Abdel Nasser and his comrades on the world map. Nasser 56 has already earned a place in Egyptian cinema history; it has also rallied, unnerved, and astonished people on all sides of an ongoing debate over the legacy of Nasser’s eighteen-year rule. Ultimately, it will play a major role in the shaping of public memory of the man who dominates contemporary Egyptian history, of a social revolution that is recalled with increasing fondness, and of an era of cultural production that even cynics concede was golden.

Public memory, as the American historian John Bodnar suggests, “is a body of beliefs and ideas about the past that help a public or society understand both its past and present, and by implication its future.” “The major focus of this communicative and cognitive process,” he continues, “is not the past, however, but serious matters in the present such as the nature of power and the question of loyalty to both official and vernacular cultures” (1992, 15). Memory, the oral historian Alessandro Portelli reminds us, “is not a passive depository of facts, but an active process of creation of meanings” (1991, 52). Similarly, Robert McGlone, writing about memories of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry, describes the process of recall as “rescripting…not a deliberate rewriting of the past, but a transformation in the controlling expectations and logic of life situations [that] refocuses an individual’s self-schema.…Rescripting adds or takes away information to make a life story coherent and believable at a particular time” (1989, 1182–83). How might this apply to the scripting of a new text about Nasser and its imaging on celluloid? Historical films raise questions about “history as a mode of knowledge, of historical accuracy, of memory and desire.…More than other genres, the historical film evokes a sense of the ‘grand,’ the visually enthralling, the huge canvass to portray the sweep of events that the past as completed action allows” (Chakravarty 1993, 183). No less for the viewers than for the filmmakers, we might add. So why Nasser? Why this particular story? How have the filmmakers, in this case scenarist, star, and director, chosen to bring the script to life? And why has the enthusiastic popular response both pleased and caused disquiet in official circles, including those that backed and promoted the project?

“One Hundred Days That Changed the World”

Nasser 56 is the brainchild of the veteran scenarist Mahfuz ‘Abd al-Rahman in collaboration with Egypt’s leading dramatic film star, Ahmad Zaki, who plays Nasser, and the veteran television director Muhammad Fadil. Originally intended as one of a series of hour-long dramatic biographies of Egyptian luminaries for television, each figure to be played by Zaki, the project blossomed into a full-length feature film on a grand scale.[1] Produced by the state-owned Egyptian Radio and Television Union (ERTU), the film was three years in the making, from initial conception to preview release in July 1995. Key portions were shot on brand-new outdoor sets at the 6 October Media Production City, the $300 million project designed to reinvigorate the flagging Egyptian film industry and maintain Cairo’s virtual monopoly on Arab television production (Khalil 1996a; Saad 1996). The film then sat another full year, “frozen” is the word used by its creators, before its release in early August 1996.

Fig. 1. Ahmad Zaki as Gamal Abdel Nasser; announcement for the official preview of Nassar 56 at the opening of the 1995 Television Festival. Courtesy of Mahfuz ‘Abd al-Rahman.

Nasser 56, trumpets its ad, covers “one hundred days that changed the world.” The actual span is 106 days, from June 18, 1956, Evacuation Day, until November 2, several days after the outbreak of war. The film opens with Nasser taking down the Union Jack; it closes with a famous speech from the minbar of al-Azhar Mosque. As bombs fall around Cairo, Nasser proclaims that Egypt will fight on and never surrender. Much of the action focuses on political deliberation among Egypt’s leadership, formulation and implementation of the secret plan to secure the canal as Nasser addressed the nation from Alexandria on the night of July 26, and the subsequent political maneuvering of Nasser and his colleagues to defuse a crisis they cannot believe is escalating. Other well-known historical faces appear in subsidiary roles, among them military comrades Anwar Sadat, ‘Abd al-Hakim ‘Amr, Salah Salim, Zakariya Muhyi al-Din, ‘Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi, and Sami Sharaf and civilian associates Fathi Radwan and Mahmud Fawzi. More prominent supporting figures, such as the chief canal engineer, Mahmud Yunis, and his colleagues, are less familiar to many Egyptian viewers. There are no Egyptian villains in the piece, save for a small, rather pathetic group of old-regimistes who petition Nasser to resign in the wake of the tripartite attack.

The film was shot in black and white to effect a newsreel feel. In the opening scene the camera shoots Ahmad Zaki from a distance, a deliberate strategy to draw the audience, especially elders, into accepting an actor—and such a well-known face—as Nasser. Other characters are played by less familiar, younger actors, closer in age to their characters, also a deliberate move to keep the film from becoming a parade of stars.[2] Documentary footage of world leaders and combat punctuate this and provide broader context for the story line. The only world leaders to appear in the scenario are Nehru and Australian Prime Minister Menzies, played by opera star and character actor Hassan Kami, Egypt’s master of foreign accents.[3] The black-and-white film also touches directly on a national bias for the classics, a nostalgia for black and white, from the era before color became the norm in the early seventies.[4]

Historical accuracy aside—and the debate was quickly engaged on levels great and small—the film’s success rests ultimately on popular reaction to the characterization of Nasser. Ahmad Zaki has by all accounts, and with only a minimum of makeup to fill out his jaws and recede his hairline, turned in a bravura performance that captures Nasser’s personality, demeanor, speech patterns, and, ultimately, charisma. This is important, because for the generations born after Nasser’s death in September 1970, Zaki will, for better or worse, come to personify his subject. The filmmakers, well aware of the burden on their shoulders, paid meticulous attention to detail, shooting on location whenever possible, attempting to re-create sets based on photographic evidence, and endeavoring to balance conflicting memories about the most prosaic specifics: the physical layout of the Nasser household or the brand of cigarettes Nasser chain-smoked.

The casting of Ahmad Zaki was both a foregone conclusion, because of his personal role in promoting the project, and a natural selection. Zaki has been Egypt’s premier dramatic actor since the late 1980s. Perhaps too often typecast in recent years as the poor boy trying to infiltrate the upper strata or as the social rebel, and recently reduced to plot-weak action films, he remains a powerful screen presence, a major box office draw, and occasionally a trendsetter.[5] He is also dark, rare for an Egyptian leading man (or woman), probably the darkest ever. He can, and easily does, approximate Nasser’s sa‘idi (Upper Egyptian) features. The rest is pure acting, and Zaki reportedly threw himself into the project and character, taking on Nasser’s persona on and off camera.

Fig. 2. A familiar guise: Ahmad Zaki as social rebel in ‘Atif al-Tayyib’s Didd al-hukuma (Against the Government, 1992). Photograph by Joel Gordon.

Regardless of critical or popular reaction, the film will remain a milestone in Egyptian and Arab cinema history. It is the first film to dramatize the role of any contemporary Arab leader—with apologies to Youssef Chahine’s 1963 rewriting of the Crusades, al-Nasir Salah al-Din (Saladin the Victorious), which portrayed the Kurdish Saladin as a pan-Arab champion, clearly alluding to Nasser—and the first Egyptian film to treat such a significant historical period in anything but caricature. A handful of Egyptian feature films in the mid- to late 1950s dramatized the Suez conflict, some as backdrop, several directly. War stories, focused on steadfast soldiers and civilians, they depicted the struggle against traitors at home—a frequent invective in early Nasserist rhetoric—as well as imperialism (Ramzi 1984).[6]Nasser 56 decidedly has a point of view. It is a nationalist film—one Egyptian writer has called it a “quiet nationalism” (Ken Cuno, pers. com. April 1997)—but not a propaganda film in the classic sense. The target is no longer imperialism and Egyptian traitors but rather a present that has become detached from the moving spirit of a bygone era. If not a clarion call to restore that spirit, Nasser 56 is certainly a lens through which to reimage and reassess that which has been lost.

“A Man of Simple Dreams”

The most critically acclaimed scenes are those that depict Nasser interacting with common Egyptians, praying in public, or at home with his family, an overworked father trying to balance politics with his children’s desire for a beach vacation. In an early scene Nasser converses with a canal worker who has been sacked by European overseers, and is moved by the injustice of his plight. Up late in his study, he answers the telephone three times after midnight, only to find on the other end a peasant woman newly arrived from the village, looking for her son. The third time, flustered by her unwillingness to accept that she has not reached Hagg Madbuli, Nasser identifies himself: “I am Gamal Abdel Nasser.”[7] Silence, then: “God save you, my son [Rabbina yansarak, ya ibni]” (‘Abd al-Rahman 1996, 32). Almost everyone’s favorite scene is stolen by the veteran actress Amina Rizq, who has been playing tradition-bound matriarchs for the past forty years.[8] Here she plays a persistent peasant woman who demands and is allowed to meet the president. Once inside she relates the story of her grandfather, a peasant killed digging the canal, and presents Nasser with the man’s robe, a family heirloom. “When I heard you on the radio,” she asserts, “I said, by God, Umm Mustafa, this Gamal has avenged you and eased our hearts; so I am giving you this robe because you are most deserving of it” (1996, 119–20).

Fig. 3. Nasser (Ahmad Zaki) praying for the nation in Nasser 56. Courtesy of Arab Film Distributors.

These scenes, products of the screenwriter’s creative imagination, encapsulate persistent popular memories of Nasser as populist hero, the man of the people. Allen Douglas and Fadwa Malti-Douglas, analyzing a comic-strip biography of Nasser that appeared several years after his death, note:

Nasser’s communion with his people is so close that he shares their tragedies as well as their triumphs. He does not stand above them as all-knowing or all-wise. The Egyptian leader’s closeness to the people is further reflected in the frequent use of his first name without titles or appellatives, both by the narrator and by the people. (1994, 41)

They could easily be writing a contemporary script for formal and informal discussions of Nasser’s personality and legacy with Egyptians from all walks of life.

Egyptians who lived the Nasser years, including many who spent time out of favor and in prison (although less so those who suffered economic dislocation), still speak with exceptional warmth about Nasser. Grand politics, successes and terrible failures aside, they recount seeing him walking the streets or driving unguarded in his car. They rarely, if ever, stopped to greet him, but, more important to their personal rescripting, feel they could have. In much the same fashion, Mahfuz ‘Abd al-Rahman has described Nasser as “a man of the utmost simplicity and modesty,…a man of simple dreams,” for whom “the pleasures of life consisted of olives and cheese, going to the cinema, listening to Umm Kulthum” (1996, 6–7), a man who “could not comprehend a home with two bathrooms,” let alone a private pool (pers. com.). In interviews Ahmad Zaki, whose career blossomed at the tail end of the 1960s, has spoken of Nasser as a father figure (Ramadan 1995).

The very depiction of Nasser, albeit imaged as Ahmad Zaki, startles. For nearly two decades his likeness was everywhere, and he remains the symbol of the iconized Arab ruler (Ossman 1994, 3). But those images came down in rapid succession following Sadat’s ascension to power. Where they could not come down, as at the rarely visited monument to Soviet-Egyptian friendship at the Aswan High Dam, Nasser’s profile was all but hidden by a superimposed image of the inheritor. Private establishments still display personal icons, and one bust remains in an arcade in downtown Cairo. Once the heart of the cosmopolitan city, the area is now primarily shopping turf for the lower middle class, and the arcade is particularly rich in its selection of conservative headwear for women. There is no designated monument to Egypt’s most significant ruler of this century, no stadium, airport, public building, or major thoroughfare that bears his name (a Nile-side boulevard running through Imbaba officially does, but it is universally referred to as Nile Street). Nasser’s tomb, unlike Sadat’s, is not visited in any official commemorative capacity. There is a Nasser subway stop, but it is adjacent to a fading city center, one that is not heavily used.[9]

Fig. 4. The iconic Nasser outside a corner shop in a popular district of Cairo. Photograph by Joel Gordon.

Nasser’s name still evokes great passion, and approbation is by no means universal or unequivocal. Like any regime seeking to foment and sustain a revolution, the Nasserist state razed before building, disrupted lives and careers of opponents, and devoured some of its own. The legacies of Nasserism remain multiple and will be weighed differently by different generations, proponents of different political and social trends, sons and daughters of different social classes. Nasserism is held accountable by some for virtually every social ill facing the nation, from traffic snarls and pedestrian anarchy to the fall of social graces. Nasser has been accounted a traitor by Islamists, a prisoner of his class by leftists, a tinhorn tyrant by scions of the old parties and aristocracy. The Nasserist political experiment is widely accepted to have failed in its stated goal of restoring a “sound” democracy. Arab Socialism, the economic strategy that produced nationalization and the creation of a vast public sector, will continue to polarize Egyptians, although the debate may increasingly turn on intentions versus consequences.[10] Nasserist foreign policy, Arabism and nonalignment, the conflict with royalist neighbors and Israel, also polarizes, and the generation that lived the period will always live in the shadows of Yemen and June 1967.

As the era grows more distant, historical perspective may help to contextualize the logic of certain directions and policies. Greater historical focus has already produced notable changes in the ways in which Nasserism has been envisioned—and debated—in the quarter century since Nasser’s death. Yet, contrary to Bodnar’s (1992, 13–19) thesis—which may well hold for his American context—in which vernacular traditions gradually become subsumed into an official text, in Egypt, and presumably in other countries where an official discourse quickly and effectively silenced all others, the process seems to be going in the opposite direction. Vernacular discourses, allowed a voice after two decades, quickly drowned out the official text, leaving public memory of Nasserism very much up for grabs.

Nostalgia in Egypt today is a complex phenomenon. The majority of the population was born after 1967, and many after Sadat’s assassination in 1981. Less than Nasser’s shadow, they have grown up in a society in which popular memory is dizzyingly multivocal. In the past two decades, during which Egyptians have been free to openly debate their history, vernacular antihistories related by representatives (some self-styled) of old-regime parties, royalists, leftist movements, and the Muslim Brothers have emerged from the underground to become standard counterorthodoxies to the official Nasserist account of the revolution. Those affiliated with the Sadat regime comprise another orthodoxy caught between competing prior legacies. The Nasserist response, official and not, has become just another vernacular tradition competing for public memory.

Ten-year anniversaries, by their very nature as discrete constructs to mark and evaluate the passage of time, provide a convenient referent. In July 1972 the country still grieved Nasser’s passing yet applauded Sadat’s dismantling of the state security apparatus, the release and welcome home of political prisoners and exiles, and the purging and incarceration of those who had dominated the “centers of power” (marakiz al-quwwa). Ten years later, when the revolution turned thirty, Egypt again faced a change in leadership, power having been transferred suddenly in a moment of national crisis. A new regime now curried favor by opening political prison doors, by prosecuting a new cohort of power abusers, and by lending freer rein to opposition voices to speak, write, and ultimately participate in government. One consequence was a frank and multivoiced discussion of the political origins of the Nasser revolution, before and particularly after the July coup. The focus remained political, the general assessment of Nasserism critical, intensified by recollections of a period, 1952–55, when the officers squandered much of the goodwill that greeted their takeover and imposed their revolution by coercion more than charisma (Gordon 1992).

As the revolution turned forty, a pronounced shift in emphasis was under way. The exploration ten years earlier into political failure had been fueled by hopes of a truly broadened liberalism. By the early 1990s much of that hope had turned cynical. To a society riven by malaise, and at times and in certain places by interconfessional strife, Nasserism has increasingly come to represent an era of hope, unity, national purpose, social stability, and achievement. This was reflected in sentiments voiced on the street as well as in the press, official and opposition, where a growing number of Egyptians recalled a society in which there was a shared sense of community in which common, enlightened aims predominated and in which religion did not create barriers (Gordon 1997b).

Underscoring this nostalgia, and recalled increasingly by Egyptians, are recollections of a golden age of popular culture. The Nasserist state promoted and subsidized cultural production on many levels: classical Western dance and music, folklore, history, cinema, theater, radio and television drama, fiction, poetry, comedy, the fine arts. In retrospect much of it may have been hackneyed, too ideologically grounded, too often in the hands of bureaucrats rather than creative artists, some of whom left the country. Yet such assessments beg the issue of nostalgia. The faces and voices of popular movie stars and singers from the 1950s and 1960s—Fatin Hamama, ‘Abd al-Halim Hafiz, Rushdi Abaza, Shadiya—have become deified. Film classics by Salah Abu Sayf, Kamal al-Shaykh, or Barakat—before and after nationalization—and even the B-films of Niyazi Mustafa and Hilmi Rafla will never be equaled.[11] Nor will the lyrics of Salah Jahin, Ahmad Shafiq Kamil, and ‘Abd al-Rahman al-‘Abnudi, paired with tunes by Kamal al-Tawil, Muhammad al-Muji, and Baligh Hamdi. These sentiments are echoed even by many who are otherwise highly critical of Nasserism and work to undo its economic and political legacies.[12]

The author of Nasser 56 is quick to assert that he never has been a Nasserist. A secondary-school student with leftist links in 1952, he mistrusted the officers’ motives and demonstrated against the regime. He never joined the party in any of its guises, even though he worked for the state media, and remains critical of the political order Nasserism fostered. Yet, like most of his generation, ‘Abd al-Rahman was consumed with a desire for social justice and a dream of Arab unity—and was captivated by Nasser’s charisma. He admits to being dazzled by his subject in ways unfamiliar to him:

I have written about dozens of historical figures from ‘Amru al-Qays to Baybars, from Qutuz to al-Mutanabbi and Sulayman al-Halabi. In drawing close to each of these characters I have always entered into a dispute with them, primarily because we are bound by our own era and circumstances.…What is strange is that when I wrote about Gamal Abdel Nasser the opposite occurred.…[I]t was when I tried to come to know Gamal Abdel Nasser as a person that I became so moved. It was not the oft-told stories that affected me so much as the little tangibles. (1996, 6–7)

Implicit in the family scenes, the images of simplicity, Nasser’s meals of cheese and olives or Mahmud Yunis sleeping on his office floor, the scenarist seeks to recapture and reimpart a sense of what Egypt was and has lost.

Mahfuz ‘Abd al-Rahman, like others of his generation, those who came of age under Nasserism, is rescripting the period with a focus on an enlightened community rooted in twin notions of progress and independence. His other great project in recent years has been a major revision of Khedive Ismail (1865–79), through the vehicle of a television serial that has aired over three Ramadan seasons, the prime month of television viewing (Abu-Lughod 1993b; Gordon 1997a). Bawwabat al-Halawani (Halawani’s Gate) spins a tale of court intrigue that revolves around the romance between the musician ‘Abduh al-Hamuli and his protégée Almaz, a poor girl taken from her parents and brought up in royal circles. But the backdrop is Ismail’s desire to modernize his country, the financial and political costs incurred, and, ultimately, the Suez Canal. Dismissed by much of Western scholarship and Nasser-era history as a foolish spendthrift who, entranced by Westernization, broke the state, Ismail emerges under ‘Abd al-Rahman’s pen as a Renaissance man, a prisoner not of false illusions but of an international power structure that will ultimately not permit an independent Egypt.[13] In many ways the two projects, Nasser and Ismail, go hand in hand. Whatever their failings and failures, both leaders promoted cultural enrichment as a means toward liberation, and both ultimately confronted forces larger than they or Egypt.

Both projects also promote a paradigm that the state, for slightly different reasons—and obviously with less comfort in the case of Nasser—finds acceptable and beneficial in its confrontation with its most powerful vernacular challenge, Islamism. Egyptian television has always served to “produce a national community” (Abu-Lughod 1993b, 494). Yet, as Lila Abu-Lughod and others have noted, in recent years television serials (and the cinema) have become rostrums in “the most pressing political contest in Egypt…the contest over the place of Islam in social and political life” (1993b, 494). Long ignored, strikingly absent from drama that purportedly depicted contemporary society, Islamist characters have become almost stock figures in television serials and the subject of one major motion picture, Al-Irhabi (The Terrorist; Jalal 1994; see Armbrust 1995). Always militant—and misguided—they generally meet unhappy ends at the hands of their “brothers” after recognizing the error of their ways.[14]

‘Abd al-Rahman’s reexamination of the past has always been a personal search for the drama inherent in the historical moment (‘Abd al-Rahman 1991). His work has spanned time and place, from early Islamic Iraq to modern Egypt. For him the dramatist has freedom to explore questions the historian cannot, but the dramatist must be bound by the historian’s reliance on evidence. He is an indefatigable researcher who has battled both stolid academics, wary of the writer’s craft, and, at times, popular historical and literary wisdom, against which his scripts have rubbed. ‘Abd al-Rahman’s favorite anecdote involves a particularly obdurate actor who, protective of his good-guy popular image, refused to play a brother of the legendary Arab hero ‘Antar ibn Shadad, even though the script, which he had not read, revised the role, portraying the brother in a much more sympathetic light.

At the same time, like others who maintain intellectual independence yet work in or for the state-run media, ‘Abd al-Rahman participates in “a shared discourse about nationhood and citizenship” (Abu-Lughod 1993b, 494) and thus represents at once a personal and quasi-official voice. To champion Ismail is, in today’s discourse, to counter the Islamist claim to authenticity, one that would view Ismail’s Westernization as anathema. Likewise, to script Nasser at Suez, to depict such a powerful moment of national unity, serves, among other things, to counter social trends that are nationally divisive, even “un-Egyptian.” It is notable that the original cast of characters out of which the Nasser film emerged included products and leading champions of Westernization: Rifa‘ al-Tahtawi, ‘Ali Mubarak, and Taha Husayn.

This is not to suggest that state production officials who backed the project, or the creators, envisioned it consciously as a weapon in the battle against Islamism. At the same time, the green light to make a film about Nasser, and one of such scale, could not have been given without serious consideration. Support for the film clearly represented a gamble—that viewers would rally around the moment, rather than the figure, and that the moment, one of national unity in the face of specific historical foreign aggression, would not transcend historical time/place to mirror more recent national struggles with foreign creditors (World Bank, International Monetary Fund), struggles in which the government in its drive to privatize the economy is often portrayed as serving personal and foreign interests. What government officials obviously did not bank on was the degree to which the film, by so powerfully imaging the crisis, the personalities, the national moment, would underscore present-day malaise and popular perceptions of their own inadequacies—and, ultimately, the degree to which the film would resurrect the image of its hero.

“Nasser! Nasser!”

The spirit of the film, a labor of love for its creators, proved infectious to those who encountered its images, even in production. The author has recounted with impish delight how a staged workers’ rally on a studio set turned real. A crowd of extras, all workers hired for the occasion—cynics will note the irony—caught sight of Ahmad Zaki and, unrehearsed, began chanting “Nasser! Nasser!” Zaki, who immersed himself in Nasser’s character while on the set, spontaneously began orating in character, and the workers responded with greater vigor. Their ardor fueled Zaki’s performance, and performance quickly melded into reality. The assistant director, unprepared for a sound take, shouted for a cut, but the director, Muhammad Fadil, intervened and ordered the cameras to keep rolling.

The response to the film’s preview, before an invitation-only audience at the opening of the Cairo Television Festival in July 1995, provided another occasion for a spontaneous rally.[15] According to observers, people in the audience applauded, shouted encouragement, and wept openly. The inclusion of several anthems from the Suez crisis, some not heard in nearly a quarter century, punctuated the response. “The day before yesterday I saw Nasser 56, and my eyes filled with tears to see Ahmad Zaki embody the character of the late leader who made such great sacrifices for the sake of our national honor,” wrote one attendee (Mustafa Bakri 1995).[16] Mahfuz ‘Abd al-Rahman recalls how a young man embraced him and Zaki a day after the preview and announced that he had now fulfilled his dream of meeting Nasser.

Such demonstrations before and after the preview may have given the government cause to rethink its promotion of the film. Critics lavished praise on Information Minister Safwat al-Sharif and ERTU Production Sector chief Mamduh al-Laythi and encouraged them “to undertake similar nationalist projects that reflect shining moments in Egypt’s history” (Mahmud Bakri 1995). Then, suddenly, the film was put on ice, its scheduled theater release delayed indefinitely. No one offered a definitive reason. Official circles noted that final sound and print work was under way abroad. Skeptics suggested the film had been received too well, that the outpouring of emotion was not appreciated in the state’s upper echelons, especially with parliamentary elections upcoming. Questions of video recording (and pirating), foreign rights, and television and satellite access complicated the matter. The Arab world was abuzz with anticipation. Syria and Libya supposedly offered to buy rights to air the film; so, according to the rumor mill, had the Saudis, but with ulterior motives.

A stalling game ensued that effectively delayed release for a full year. Cynics offered the following scenario: the fall 1995 election season was deemed inappropriate, then came Ramadan, when theaters traditionally do poorest, then the postholiday season of popular comedy-adventure blockbusters. The film did not seem to fit the calendar. In seeming incongruity with official desires to deflate, if not suppress, the film, teasers remained. A marquee arch on Gezira Island constructed before the 1995 Television Festival and left in place until the following summer featured a prominent photograph of Zaki/Nasser among other favorite productions. So did a display outside the Radio and Television Building. If those displays reached a limited audience, discerning eyes could not help but notice a final dramatic image of Zaki/Nasser on the promotional leader that identified 1995 ERTU television productions.

Ironically, the film’s opening, days after the fortieth anniversary of the Suez Canal nationalization, proved far more potent than an earlier release might have been. For the great majority of adult Egyptians who lived it or were raised in its wake, the Suez crisis represents the ultimate moment of national pride, purpose, and unity. Two other historical moments in this century, pinnacles of contested political legacies, rank closely: the 1919 Revolution and the 1973 October War. Neither is as central to the historical experience or is embedded in the consciousness of Egyptians in quite the same way, in large part because the canal had been for nearly a century the key symbol of national humiliation at foreign hands. “To my generation the Suez Canal was the core of Egyptian politics,” explains Mahfuz ‘Abd al-Rahman.[17] When he set out to dramatize the Nasser years, ‘Abd al-Rahman deliberately chose the Suez crisis because it was the one period about which there is little, if any, dispute and because it was with Suez that Nasser’s star rose. Suez occurred after the disappointments of the liberal era, amid the confused early years of military rule. Nationalization and the subsequent Tripartite Aggression lodged Nasser in people’s hearts and ushered in an era of regional dominance that, however flawed in retrospect, has never been recaptured. In unguarded moments even the sons and daughters of discarded pashas—no doubt Muslim Brothers as well—will admit that they stood in the streets weeping, cheering, and shouting acclaim for nationalization.

The Suez anniversary prompted a far broader retrospective for Nasser and Nasserism than any other anniversary in recent years, and certainly more than the fortieth anniversary of the revolution in 1992. Revolution Day has lost most of its meaning to the average Egyptian. It is a day off for government workers. The president addresses the nation with a text that changes little from year to year. One of the national television channels traditionally airs an afternoon matinee, one of several classic stories of evil pashas produced in the years after the revolution (Rudd qalbi [Return My Heart], Dhulfiqar 1957b, based on Yusuf al-Siba‘i’s epic novel, has been the favorite). Sadat, once he felt secure in power, attempted to camouflage the revolution’s anniversary behind that of Egyptian television, aired first on Revolution Day in 1960. Under Hosni Mubarak the state still acknowledges its kinship to the broad goals of the July revolution (even as it continues to dismantle fundamental pillars of its social-reform legacy in a drive to privatize the economy). But forty years later the progenitor remained largely ignored.

In 1996, however, the combined July anniversaries of revolution and nationalization inspired far greater coverage. Opposition papers sympathetic to Nasser’s memory, even the Liberal party’s al-Ahrar (July 22), published larger-than-usual special editions. The July 22 issue of al-Hilal, the venerable journal of popular literature and philosophy, posed the question, “What has happened to Egyptians, 1956–1996?” Ruz al-Yusuf, the widely read weekly of politics and the arts, abandoned its traditional “Where Are They Now?” July 23 format and asked three leading scenarists, including ‘Abd al-Rahman, to script “What If [the Free Officers coup had failed]?” Reflecting Egypt’s current passion for historicals, the editors noted wryly that “writers’ imaginings are worth far more than historians’ truths.”[18] Sawt al-‘Arab (Voice of the Arabs), the radio station most associated with Nasserism, broadcast a two-hour special on the Suez Canal, “Hadduta Misriyya” (An Egyptian Tale), that included interviews and nationalist songs. Television aired old documentary footage with nationalist songs in the background.

In addition to the celebratory atmosphere surrounding the Suez anniversary, the state has also recently decided that the time has come to participate in the shaping of public memory of Nasserism. In 1992 the government sanctioned formation of the Nasserist Arab Democratic party. By its very presence, the party has restored quasi-official legitimacy to the use of Nasser’s image as political icon.[19] But the state no longer seems to be willing to consign Nasser to the Nasserists. Long-range plans are under way for a museum to be housed in the offices of the Revolutionary Command Council, a former royal rest house on the southern tip of Gezira Island (Khalil 1996b; Abu al-Fath 1996). Music, too, has been appropriated: when Arab leaders gathered in Cairo in June 1996 to consider implications of a newly elected Israeli government, the theme song chosen by state-run media was “al-Watan al-Akbar” (The Greater Nation), a stirring anthem to Egyptian-Syrian unity composed by Muhammad ‘Abd al-Wahhab and Ahmad Shafiq Kamil in 1958. For Revolution Day 1996, television stations aired five movies over two days, four during prime time. The proliferation of regional broadcast in recent years—households with a reasonably good antenna now receive nine terrestrially beamed channels—added to the scope of what was unprecedented coverage of this holiday.[20] The change of heart is rather sudden and seems to be prompted both by a desire to keep in step with and to play a hand in shaping the wave of resurgent nostalgia for the Nasser era (Sipress 1995).

Conclusion: “What Happened Next?”

Modern history has been in vogue in Egypt for the past few years, fueled in large part by Mahfuz ‘Abd al-Rahman, Usama Anwar ‘Ukasha, and other prominent scriptwriters who have penned historical dramas for television that attract wide audiences and have been extended over several seasons. The nineteenth century and prerevolutionary era of pashas and nationalist struggle are particular favorites.[21] Their influence has recently rolled over from the little to the big screen, although with much less panache or success.[22] Consequently, the tarboosh, Farouk and Queen Farida, and Ismail, have become popular images on T-shirts, in window displays of upscale shops, in television commercials geared toward young professionals, even in traditional “fast-food” eateries. The popularity of such items and images reinforces notions of creative rather than passive consumption, and should give those of us who read these melodramas as text cause to reconsider how their audiences in fact imagine them (Ang 1985; Armbrust 1996). Still, Nasser 56, because its subject is so recent, in the living or at least public memory of so many Egyptians, and because of its immediate political subject, is more serious business.

Demographics, the passing of the old-regime generation, the rise to prominence of the generations that lived and were shaped by Nasserism, and “serious matters in the present” point Egyptians ever more in the direction of Nasser and his era. The foundations of a resurgent nostalgia are a complex construct of political cynicism, uneven development, glaring social inequities, unfulfilled material expectations, and the vise of radical Islamist and state violence. Amid all this Egyptians are confronted daily with an alternative vision. Radio and television remain dominated by the cultural production of what was by all accounts a golden age of artistry. The songs, concert and comedy stage clips, and movies that captivated a generation still work their charms amid all that is new. Young boys in the street still croon ‘Abd al-Halim Hafiz songs (Gordon 1997a), and teenage girls still fall for Rushdi Abaza’s Egyptian-Italian eyes. If their loyalties are divided and distracted by younger—and foreign—stars, they still recognize the genuine national-cultural articles for what they are.

Historical memory among Egyptian youths is short. When Port Said (Dhulfiqar 1957a), a propaganda film about the Suez War, aired in June 1996—on the anniversary of Evacuation Day—the newspaper movie listing explained the historical context as if describing an event much longer past. That was several months before Nasser 56 hit the theaters. Now the Nasser generation is reliving the period, rediscovering nationalist anthems that stirred their youth. “We have waited forty years for this film,” wrote one reviewer. “And because we waited so long, I found myself sitting in anticipation, my eyes, ears, and heart tuned in anticipation” (al-Ghayti 1995a). And a younger generation is asking their parents about the period. The filmmaker Yusuf Francis (who has recently directed a historical film about Howard Carter) sat near an eight-year-old boy at an evening screening who pressed his father for details, then turned to him after the film ended to ask, “What happened next?”[23] Egyptians in their twenties and early thirties are no less curious.[24]

The popular response to Nasser 56 has taken all involved by surprise. State officials have been quick to reassert their positive role in its production, notwithstanding the obvious irony of a state-funded film glorifying nationalization in the age of privatization and championing a charismatic, idolized ruler in an era of political malaise.[25] The most cynical observers still fear the film may never make it to television, that “like many political films that the film industry has produced, it will be locked away in a can after ending its run in Egyptian theaters” (Khalil 1996). For the true believers, the Nasserist faithful, Ahmad Zaki has thrown a little water on the fire, reasserting his desire to now play his other hero, Anwar Sadat.[26] And Mahfuz ‘Abd al-Rahman has provoked unease in various circles by evincing a willingness to accept the challenge, put forth by critics who accuse him of taking the easy road via Suez, to pen Nasser 67 as a sequel (al-Hakim 1995).[27]

Other contemporary history projects are in the works. ‘Abd al-Rahman has been scripting a serial about Umm Kulthum, and Zaki says he intends to film the life of ‘Abd al-Halim Hafiz. With the silver anniversary of the October 1973 war approaching, the Egyptian defense ministry announced its willingness to support—with guns, manpower, technical expertise, and financial aid—a silver screening of “the crossing” (al-‘ubur). However, a controversy over who should script the film has held up preproduction. In the Manichaean intellectual world of Nasserists and Sadatists, the leading candidate, Usama Anwar ‘Ukasha, is considered to be the former, and this is deemed unacceptable by the latter. ‘Ukasha retorts that his script will feature not the commander but the common soldier. This fails to appease his critics, who well sense the implicit barb. The Defense Ministry has announced its unhappiness with several draft scripts, implying a threat to withdraw support.[28]

For the time being Nasser and Suez serve as springboards for the rediscovery and rescripting of an era that so far defies official ossification. On the heels of its Egyptian success Nasser 56 has played to audiences outside Egypt. The first screening scheduled was a single screening in Paris in June 1996 before the Egyptian opening. Shortly after its Egyptian premiere the film played to great acclaim in Gaza and the West Bank.[29] The film has since shown in several cities in the United States—“The Arab film event of the year”—and is currently available on video with English subtitles.[30] To non-Egyptian Arabs and to Arab diaspora communities the film undoubtedly conveys other particular meanings, addressing Nasser’s legacy in a broader Arab context.[31]Nasser 56 may be a flash in the pan; some certainly hope this will be the case. Conversely, it may become the Revolution Day television matinee, which, if it displaced the classics, would be a shame. Within Egypt the film clearly does speak to “serious matters of the present,” and it may well inspire, or perhaps become—if it is allowed to be—the monument to Nasser that never was.


Earlier drafts of this chapter were presented to the Colloquium on the Politics of Culture in Arab Societies in an Era of Globalization, held at Princeton University in May 1997, and to the culture studies group at the University of Illinois–Urbana. Participants’ feedback was greatly appreciated. Special thanks to Walter Armbrust, Marilyn Booth, Ken Cuno, JoAnn D’Alisera, Sonallah Ibrahim, and Robert Vitalis. Funding for a broader project on Nasserist civic culture was provided by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, the Joint Committee on the Near and Middle East of the Social Science Research Council, and the American Council of Learned Societies. I am, above all, deeply indebted to Mahfuz ‘Abd al-Rahman and Samira ‘Abd al-‘Aziz for their hospitality, insight, and candor.

1. Mahfuz ‘Abd al-Rahman pers. com.; all other references to ‘Abd al-Rahman or Nasser 56, unless otherwise indicated, are from personal conversations that took place in Cairo between November 1995 and August 1996.

2. The filmmakers reportedly approached Su‘ad Husni to play Nasser’s wife, Tahiya, but she was unable to take part. Ahmad Zaki then suggested Firdaws ‘Abd al-Hamid (al-Ghayti 1995a).

3. Kami has also played Suez Canal builder Ferdinand de Lesseps in ‘Abd al-Rahman’s other mammoth hit, the television series Bawwabat al-Halawani (Halawani’s Gate), which ran three successive Ramadan seasons through 1996.

4. In a variant of this common wisdom, Mahfuz ‘Abd al-Rahman told me that Egyptians will always favor an Egyptian over a foreign black-and-white film and a foreign over an Egyptian color film.

5. Zaki’s filmography is long and distinguished. The great exception to the poor-boy roles is Zawjat rajul muhimm (Wife of an Important Man; Khan 1988), in which he plays an officer in the security police. A classic example of the poor-boy role, and a film that established a hairstyle fad for young men, is Kaburya (Crabs; Bishara 1990; see Armbrust 1996, 138–46). For a critique of recent disappointments, see el-Assiouty 1996.

6. Ramzi (1984) counts eight films made since that deal with the Tripartite Aggression in any way. Of these, he states, only three treated the war directly. The most noteworthy are Bur Sa‘id (Port Said; Dhulfiqar 1957a), noted below, and Sijin Abu Za‘bal (The Prisoner of Abu Za‘bal; Mustafa 1957).

7. The simple statement may recall for some Egyptians Nasser’s impromptu oration on October 26, 1954, when an assailant shot at him. Nasser repeated the phrase “I am Gamal Abdel Nasser” numerous times, invoking a willingness to die for Egypt. It was his first great public oration.

8. These characterizations have not always been positive. However, she has most often portrayed pious, doting mothers, and she is much loved. Her casting here is a master stroke, although a few people I have spoken to find the scene somewhat contrived.

9. It sits between the two main termini, at Tahrir (Liberation) and Ramsis squares, both major works projects undertaken by the Nasser regime. These subway stops are named for Presidents Sadat and Mubarak respectively.

10. The Nasserist project is increasingly recalled as noble, despite its obvious failings; see, for example, Sid-Ahmed 1995. Alan Sipress (1995) quotes Sid-Ahmed urging Egyptians to keep Nasser’s “most important legacy alive; namely his indomitable will to overcome any challenge,” and notes, “Ironically, it was Nasser’s will that sent Sid-Ahmed to jail for more than five years as a political prisoner.”

11. As Armbrust notes in this volume, when film students and critics refer to “serious” cinema they often restrict their gaze to the 1960s when the state, through partial nationalization of the industry, sought to promote a national cinema guided by artistic rather than commercial concerns. Armbrust (and I agree) does not dispute claims that under the lead of influential public-sector artists Egyptian cinema embarked in new directions that persisted well into the 1970s. Yet he challenges the elevation of public-sector cinema by positing a “golden age before the golden age,” which encompasses all commercial films made before the 1960s. My own research into Nasser-era nostalgia leads me to conclude that when people who lived the era think in terms of cinema, they recognize, consciously or intuitively, that a new generation of directors and film stars came into their own and put a distinctive stamp on Egyptian cinema in the 1950s that carried over into the following decade. Their work undoubtedly was shaped by the onset and course of the Nasser revolution and constitutes, I would argue, a new, revolutionary cinema well before the “serious” cinema of the 1960s.

12. Key pillars of the Nasserist state—agrarian reform, subsidization, and the public sector—have undergone sustained attack in the past decade. See Hinnebusch 1993; Abdel-Moteleb 1993.

13. Prior to the serial the most common popular image of Ismail would have been in the film Almaz wa-‘Abduh al-Hamuli (Almaz and ‘Abduh al-Hamuli; Rafla 1962), in which the Khedive is a surrogate for Farouk, with all the familiar imagery of the debauched and deposed king.

14. The caricatures have become even bolder in the past few years. Two recent examples are al-‘A’ila (The Family), written by Wahid Hamid, and Lan a‘ish fi galabib abi (I Won’t Live My Father’s Way), based on a story by Ihsan ‘Abd al-Quddus. In the former the mistrusted Islamist is gunned down; in the latter Islamists try to run down a failed recruit. In al-Irhabi the title character is also killed after rejecting his calling. The film has become an official text and was shown on the primary television channel on the last night of Ramadan in 1997.

15. The following year the festival was expanded to become the Radio and Television Festival.

16. Also see Salih 1995.

17. Comments made on Sawt al-‘Arab, July 26, 1996.

18. The other two scriptwriters were Usama Anwar ‘Ukasha, who is discussed below, and Sa‘d al-Din Wahba, late president of the Cairo International Film Festival, who scripted a series of important—and popular—films in the 1960s.

19. For the past four years the Nasserist weekly, al-‘Arabi, has featured Nasser on its masthead. During the fall 1995 election campaign, Nasser’s image appeared on banners and posters, trumpeting the party—and the memories—more than the slated candidates.

20. The films were Rudd qalbi, Allah ma‘na (God Is with Us; Badr Khan 1955), Fi baytina rajul (There Is a Man in Our House; Barakat 1961), Ghurub wa-shuruq (Sunset, Sunrise; al-Shaykh 1970), and Shay’ min al-khawf (A Bit of Fear; Kamal 1969).

21. The most successful, in addition to Halwani’s Gate has undoubtedly been Layali al-Hilmiyya (Hilmiyya Nights), written by ‘Ukasha (for more on ‘Ukasha, see Armbrust 1996, 16–17). But there are now scores, many rerun on regional stations.

22. The undisputed queen of historical kitsch is Nadia al-Guindi. See Hani 1995.

23. Francis was quoted in al-Ahram, August 12, 1996; a cartoon in this issue shows a man watching a television commercial for seventeen consecutive showings and wondering how he can divide himself to attend them all.

24. Salah Muntasir (1996) tried to play down the significance of audience turnout as curiosity. More telling, I think, is the reaction of a friend: “I was born after 1967 so I do not have any memories of the period. I was really impressed by what he did. They made him look like a savior; I do not know if that was true or not. Because my parents and husband are totally against him.…My mother told me that they had so much confidence in him and he was so impulsive and disappointed them.…I encouraged my parents to go.…I think it is more impressive to the younger generations.”

25. See comments by Mamduh al-Laythi, chief of the ERTU production sector, in al-Ahram, August 10, 1996.

26. See al-Ahram, August 3, 1996; Ruz al-Yusuf, May 15, 1995; Adwy 1999. ‘Ala’ al-Sa‘dani (1996) urged Zaki to reconsider, arguing that one actor should not play two such leaders.

27. Relatives of ‘Abd al-Hakim ‘Amr, Egypt’s chief of staff, who engaged in a power struggle with Nasser in the aftermath of the defeat, was placed under house arrest, and, depending on one’s take, was murdered or committed suicide, contacted ‘Abd al-Rahman to express their concern over how the relationship would be treated (‘Abd al-Rahman, pers. com.).

28. The war over scripting this war may well prove to be far more interesting than the final product. See Essam El-Din 1997.

29. The Gaza opening was reportedly held up when local promoters could not find proper 35mm screening equipment. A projector had to be brought in from Egypt.

30. In the United States the film and video are available from Arab Film Distributors, based in Seattle. In addition to Seattle, the film has shown commercially in Portland, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Boston, New York, and Washington, D.C., and was screened at the 1997 annual meeting of the Middle East Studies Association in San Francisco. For advertisements heralding the film’s importance, see Anba’ al-‘Arab (Glendale, Calif.), May 1, 1997, and Arab Panorama (La Verne, Calif.), May 10, 1997. I would like to thank Yasin al-Khalesi for these ads.

31. An Arab-American community weekly published in southern California, Beirut Times, May 8–15, 1997, headlined “a film all Arab-American youth should see.” Thanks to Yasin al-Khalesi for this information.

Nasser 56/Cairo 96

Preferred Citation: Armbrust, Walter, editor. Mass Mediations: New Approaches to Popular Culture in the Middle East and Beyond. Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c2000 2000. http://ark.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/ft8k4008kx/

January 28, 2010

Ana Hurra Film Screening (Wed. 27 Jan. 2010)

School of Theatre, Performance and Cultural Policy Studies

Staging Arab Realities

Second-Year Module

Invites all the university community to the first module-related film screening

Ana Hurra (I am Free!)

Based on the novel with the same title by Ihsan Abdel Quddous (1954)

Directed by Salah Abu-Seif

B&W - Egypt 1959 (with English subtitles)

I am Free Poster

I am Free Jacket Blurb

1:45-3:45 p.m.                 Wednesday 27 Jan. 2010

Room G52, Millburn House

Related Links

Obituary: Salah Abu-Seif (The Independent 27 June 1996)

Ihsan Abdel Quddous (Wikipedia entry) - Use at your own peril

A Century After Qasim Amin (male author of The Liberation of Women) - Al Jadid, Vol. 6, no. 32 (Summer 2000)

(Egyptian) Feminism in a Nationalist Century - Margot Badran (Al-Ahram Weekly 30 Dec. 1999)

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