The red sea, pyramids and pharaohs will inevitably come to mind when the name Egypt is mentioned and this North African country, once ruled with an iron fist, has an incredibly rich cultural heritage which stretches back millennia. The monuments of Egyptian history which still exist throughout the Nile delta region continue to define the landscape, the culture and the tourism industry. In recent years however Egypt has dominated the news because of the political upheaval of the Arab Spring, which in Egypt was centred around the Tahrir Square protests. These protests saw millions of ordinary Egyptians unite and force out the Mubarek regime, despite this apparent victory the situation remains unstable and the post-Mubarek political situation is still not clear.
Egyptian literature comes hand in hand with Naguib Mahfouz, the first Middle Eastern writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Scenes in Cairo come to life with his Cairo Trilogy, which depict a literary view of modern Egyptian history. Recently writers such as Bahaa Taher, Nawal el-Saadawi, and Khaled Alkhamissi have also come to represent Egyptian literature.
Umm Kulthoum is a star not only in Egypt, but all over the Arab world. Born at the end of the 19th century, Umm Kulthoum’s rise to fame came about at the same time as increased radio ownership. People would put down their work and gather round the radio to listen to her weekly performances. Even today she still holds the same powerful attraction and coffee shops often have her music playing on the television in the background. Besides Umm Kulthoum, the others in the Great Four of Egyptian music are Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Farid Al Attrach and Abdel Halim Hafez, who also used traditional instruments, such as the Oud and the flute.
The late Omar Sharif, who appeared in several Egyptian films before featuring in Lawrence of Arabia,the father of Pan Mediterranean music Amr Diab and playwright Alfred Faragare just a few of the successful exports originating from Egypt. Youssef Chahine’s cinema has yet to be made widely available outside the Arab speaking world, but the film 11’09’01 – September 11 has a segment directed by him.