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5 Must-See Classic Egyptian Films

1) El Kit Kat “الكيت الكات” – Filmed in 1991 by director Daoud Abdel Sayed, and starring Mahmoud Abd El-Aziz, who plays the blind man, El Kit Kat tells a story woven with drama, misery and love affairs. Named after a neighborhood in Giza, not the chocolate bar, the film chronicles the life of Sheikh Hosny, who after the death of his wife, lives with his elderly mother and son Youssef. His aggravated son hopes to leave Egypt for Europe to find work. Refusing to admit his blindness is a handicap, Hosny still dreams of riding a motorcycle and continuing his life like a sighted person. Spending most of his time smoking with the Kit Kat locals, Hosny knows all the gossip of the neighborhood. 

2) Adrift on the Nile (Thartharah Fawq al-Nil) “ثرثرة فوق النيل” – Made in 1971 by Hussein Kamal, this film is based on a novel by Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz. The films’ primary theme being political corruption and decadence, it is set on a Nile canal, where government employees habitually meet to smoke hashish, drink and gossip. Quite disparaging of Egypt’s socialist bureaucracy during the reign of President Gamal Abdul Nasser, it opened conversation among Egypt’s masses and brought political exploitations to the forefront. The general motif being rather political, this film is still banned in many Arab countries.  

3) The Mummy (Al-Mummia) “المومياء” or The Night of Counting the Years – Made by Shadi Abdel Salam in 1969, this film narrates the story of an underprivileged family whose livelihood is the prohibited trade of pharaonic treasures. Abdel Salam paid particular attention to costumes and sets, doing scrupulous research to assure accuracy, lending the films’ aesthetics a stunningly authentic tone.         

4) Cairo Station (Bab El-Hadid) “باب الحديد” – Director Youssef Chahine both made and acted in this 1958 classic, starring also Hend Rostom and Farid Shawqi. Telling the story of a disabled young man, Qinawi, who sells newspapers in the crowded Cairo train station. Qinawi becomes enchanted to the point of obsession with Hannuma, who also works at the station as a cold drinks vendor, and is engaged to another man. The film watches as Qinawi becomes severely infatuated with Hannuma and loses his sanity after she rejects his offer of marriage. 

5) The Nightingale Prayer (Doa’a El Karawan) “دعاء الكروان” Made by one of Egypt’s most prominent directors, Henry Barakat, in 1959, this film was based on the novel by well-known writer Taha Hussein. Starring Fatan Hamma as Amna, a young woman who witnesses the honor killing of her sister by her uncle, and Ahmed Mazhar as the young engineer who first swayed her dead sister. Amna plans on killing the engineer, so she develops a plot where she moves into his home to work as a maid. Though her plans remain, she discovers the engineer is not easily hurt and through time the two develop feelings for each other. In the end, the uncle discovers her misdeeds and plans on killing her as well, but I won’t ruin the rest of the story!


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