Film: 3955

Places + Locations | 1930 | Sound | B/W

Synopsis:

Presumably a tourist film for western audiences which has been dubbed into Arabic. The intended narrative or message is hard to determine owing to the foreign language narration, but nonetheless it has hundreds of wonderful views of Cairo, taken before the revolution and the coming of Nasser in the 1950s (and therefore presumably during the reign of Farouk).

Shot of a statue, presumably of a pharaoh, wearing a Tutankhamun style head-dress. This is carved out of stone and is alongside, and apparently attached to, a temple.
Two men in Arabic clothing stand in the foreground, against a background of the sphinx (this is in the days before sound-and-light shows and terrorism, so the monument isn't cluttered with spotlights and fences). One of the men is kneeling and gesturing (perhaps praying), the other stands (among some rough stone ruins).
There is a close-up on the face of the sphinx, with one of the pyramids of Giza (or Gizeh) behind it.
Now we see a shot of one of the huge pyramids, with a smaller pyramid beside it. The camera pans across to show a second large pyramid with some simple housing beside it. A close up on one of the pyramids (the second pyramid, of Chephren) as the shadows of clouds pass across it. There is then a shot of the three larger pyramids in a row, with two smaller ones in the foreground.
We now see a larger shot of the whole area of Giza. In the foreground, the shot is framed by stones, either from a mountainside or from some ruins. There is then a strip of desert before one comes to the lush and verdant cultivated Nile valley. Beyond that is the Nile itself, dotted with boats (whether they are feluccas or dhows is unclear). Finally, the pyramids can be seen in the distance.
A close up of the boats, probably feluccas, on the Nile.

A sequence showing some traditional docks. Egyptians carry heavy sacks on their shoulders up a stone flight of stairs leading away from the dock, which is heaving with boats. Huge sacks of hay are carried from a large pile of this hay, or straw, on the backs of Egyptian men. They carry them down to the feluccas; the camera pans across the masts and rigging of these boats. More sacks are unloaded from the feluccas. A number of camels are standing, laden with bundles of long sticks; there is a close-up on one of the camels' faces as it chews, and a smiling child can be seen in the background. The hustle and bustle of Cairo, and the docks in particular, is demonstrated by a shot of a group of Egyptians standing on the edge of the harbour as people hurry past them, leading carts laden with sacks. The sheer number of boats is also emphasised by a shot of the masts and sails.
A felucca sails up alongside another which is stationary; next we see a single boat on the Nile at night, illuminated by moonlight. In the foreground, reeds or rushes on he bank waft in the breeze.

We now move to the city of Cairo proper, with a view of two ornate minarets at night with a crescent moon between them (as an image, a potent symbol of Islam). The camera now pans down two different minarets, in the daytime; this is in the Islamic quarter of Cairo. Egyptian Arabs (no westerners) walk through a street in the Islamic quarter, near the Khan al-Khalil (Khan al-Khalili) which is the largest of Cairo's 'souks' (markets or bazaars). The camera pans up to show minarets in the background. There is a close-up view of a particularly ornately carved minaret.
We now see a view of the large mosque and mausoleum of Sultan Hassan (very near the Khan al-Khalili). The camera pans across to show minarets and domes; a view of the two-colour brickwork.

A view of an tremendously intricately carved dome.
A view of a military parade ( of male soldiers, each wearing a fez) ride on horses, carrying poles topped with flags, in the square in front of the 20th century mosque of Ar-Rifa'l, the royal mausoleum. There is a close-up on some of the soldiers sitting to attention on their horses. The horsemen are shown arranged in ranks. One of the rows is inspected by two men (Generals? Politicians? Members of the Royal
Family?) each wearing a fez and a white army suit. One of them carries a riding crop and rubs the nose of one of the horses. The horsemen ride along a Cairo street; a mosque on the Citadel can be seen behind them.
This same mosque is now seen through a wide metal grid.

From the citadel, two men look out across Cairo. We see the settlements and the minarets all clustered and muddled together. The camera focuses on the mosque of Ibn Tulun; it is seen from a distance, then there is a view along one of its colonnades. An Egyptian fades into view walking along one of the colonnades, then fades out again. We see the mosque, and particularly its famous and spectacular minaret with the external spiral staircase, from a number of different perspectives.
There is a view down one of the busy, bustling streets in a souk, probably the Khan al-Khalili again.

A group of western women walk through the market in white uniform dresses (with a belt at the waist - they are possibly nurses) and hats. Underneath the stone arches and along the alleyways, they look at various stalls. A craftsman beats a design out of a wire with a small hanger. Another is attending to the design in an ornamental dish (again using a hammer and a small chisel). One of the women buys an oil lamp (with a certain amount of haggling) from a fawning salesman. The women also walk past a man weaving a rug on a frame in the street. They point at the intricate design as they examine a completed rug. Now they walk along another crowded street, beneath the many awnings. Some of them examine a vase, and haggle with the salesman over it (the women seem very prim and perhaps unsurprisingly do not appear to put up much of a fight). The women examine ornamental plates in a coffee house; one of these plates is engraved with Arabic writing. The women walk into a glass-fronted shop; sitting at a table, they talk and try on jewellery (ornate rings, necklaces and earrings). The jewels are then replaced in their small cardboard boxes with tissue-paper.

A single-decker bus drives past a mosque with a geometric design. A man in a fez is talking to another man in the foreground. The man in the hat examines a line of men, this time on the backs of camels (but in other respects similar to the horsemen seen earlier). The dome of a mosque can be seen in the background. Camels parade around a square with domes and minarets behind them, riding two-abreast.
The camera now pans down a large, pillar-like minaret, which is placed in the centre of street in which people bustle below.
A view of another mosque. This one has a three-layered minaret, with a balcony at each level, and a dome with a geometric shape.

A view over the rooftops of Cairo; the buildings seem quite ramshackle from this perspective. Many minarets pierce the skyline, pointing their spires to heaven.
Now, however, we see a more modern building; it seems to have an art-deco feel to it, so is presumably from the 1920s or 1930s. The building has evenly spaced, fairly minimalist rounded balconies. As a contrast, we now see another view of a much older mosque, which has three minarets in close proximity.
Cut to a view of the ministry of justice (?) which is very imposing, and has a façade incorporating more European pillars. A statue of a man in a fez - King Farouk? Or more likely, his father, Fuad?) stands in the centre of a street, with a modern building behind him. The statue is dressed in modern dress, and has his hand on a more 'Ancient Egyptian' figure. Another statue, of someone wearing robes, is also seen.
Men and women walk in the street, in a more cosmopolitan view of the city. Men stand under awnings, talking. Men and women both wear western dress - only a few men in robes, and women in burkhas, are shown. Cars, buses and trams - the trams loaded with people, many if whom seem to be hanging on to the edges of the vehicle) are shown.

Policemen (or soldiers) stand, relaxed, in the street reading (a very different picture to the AK-47 toting cops in Cairo today). A smartly dressed traffic policeman holds up his hand to stop the traffic (a grinning, slightly imbecilic man looks at the camera in the background). The traffic policeman steps out of the way, and cars and taxis drive past. Horse-drawn carts and trucks are also seen.
People walk down the pavement past others drinking in pavement cafes; this is followed by further views of the city's shops and traffic.
Two trams pass one another on an apparently out of town set of tracks. The driver is seen in silhouette (wearing a fez) as he drives along past a fence made of wooden posts and wire. A train, belching smoke, goes past on the left hand side. The tram now rides past an ornate building which has a long covered balcony with may arches, a minaret, and a colonnade (including some shop-fronts) along the bottom. This is perhaps a mosque or university, and is seen from various perspectives. People pile onto already heavily-laden trams, under a sign for 'Societe Egyptienne des Petroles'.
Another shot of the modern building seen earlier.
Traffic drives around a planted roundabout; the camera pans up to show a square; we then see a view down a long street.
Shot of a traffic policeman.
People with carts and donkeys in the street.
A man carries a suitcase.
In a train station, people wave off a train , holding hands with the people inside through the windows until it chugs away. A great crowd of people, having got off the train, walk along the platform.
Boats on the Nile.
Camels.
Men walk past boats tied to the dockside.
Boats on the river.
A view of ornate gardens, containing fountains. Western children paddle their hands and feet in a fountain. Lions spit water. Adults and children dance around a large fountain with these lions, in a large ring.
A swing bridge over a river. Boats are in the river; they sail through the gas made in this bridge after it has swung around. Other ships are shown in the moonlight.
Finally, the film comes full circle; a view of the pyramids at Giza as before, seen in silhouette against the sunset.


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