Culture is often best understood through its music, cinema, and food. In many ways cinema has enabled us to experience cultures in ways that paintings and sculptures have not. In the same way, music can convey a sentiment that cannot be translated in words, but rather in notes. And finally what better way to understand a culture than to taste the product of its land and kitchens. Below, enjoy my muses.
Egyptians’ love affair with music has its roots in ancient Egyptian life. The first attempts to create and recreate songs can be found in the art our ancestors have left behind. If you think about it, almost all of us can probably be traced back to ancient Egypt.
Egypt’s Greatest Musicians
One of the legendary divas of Egyptian music is Om Kalsoum. Her voice and music both symbolize the Egypt and in many way the entire middle east. Her songs are personal to me because my father used to play her records every Saturday as I was growing up. If I close my eyes I can still conjure up her voice in my mind. She is also special because the lyrics from one of her songs (originally a poem), Inta Omry, was read at my wedding in Cairo.
Abdel Halim, who came after Om Kalsoum is one of the original heart throbs of Egyptian cinema. His movies were always about the young underdog who have to prove himself to the one he loves and ultimately wins her over. His songs are always featured in his movies. He lives eternally in the psyche of every Egyptian.
Ragga Abdou came onto the scene of Egyptian cinema during its belle époque. She starred in many films and set the stage for future actors and actresses. Gifted with an extraordinarily powerful voice, her songs are featured in almost all her films. Ragaa Abdou is especially important to me because she happens to be my grandmother and I have used my memories of her to create my fictional character, Laila, who is also gifted with a angelic voice. RIP Teta.
Amr El Diab emerged onto the scene of Egyptian music in the late 80s and has been making waves ever since. In a sense he is the father of Egyptian pop music and ushered in an era of belly dancing music. He is also attributed with started one of the first MTV-like music channels in Egypt.
Hind- Rostum is the Marilyn Monroe of Egypt. She is soft spoken and yet possessed an unbridled sexuality that still captivates the viewer.
Omar El Sherif and Fatan Hamama, both great actors in their own right, share one of the greatest love stories of Egyptian cinema on and off camera. Their films together and separately have become pillars of Egyptian film and of exemplary acting. While their love affair ended in divorce, they must have been tethered in life and in death as Faten died months after Omar. I like to imagine that they are dancing together in the hereafter.
Belly dancing as an art form is inextricable from Egyptian music, cinema, and daily life. Whether attending a wedding, at a party or just observing a festival, belly dancing is guaranteed. All generations of Egyptian woman will get up and dance should the right song inspire them. Belly dancing is marked by a maqsoum, a slow him movement and a specific drumbeat that requires a shimmy. Above is a photo of one of the many belly-dancing greats that have graced the Egyptian cinematic stage, Samia Gamal. Learn more about belly dancing
Souad Hosney is one of the most beautiful and sexy women to appear on the scene on of Egyptian cinema. He combination of innocence and sex appeal made her one of the biggest sex symbols in the middle east. One cannot speak of Egypt in the 1960s and 70s without mentioning Souad Hosney.
While the above are they muses there are so many more greats of Egyptian cinema.
Egyptian cuisine is sacred in the Egyptian household. The dishes below were a big part of my life and are all featured in my novel. I can still remember the scent of sizzling garlic wafting in the air when my mother made Molokheya soup.