The Culture of Egypt has five thousand years of recorded history. Ancient Egypt was among the earliest civilizations. For millennia, Egypt maintained a strikingly complex and stable culture that had a profound influence on later cultures of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. After the Pharonic era, Egypt itself came under the influence of Hellenism, for a time Christianity, and later, Arab and Islamic culture. Today, many aspects of Egypt's ancient culture exist in interaction with newer elements, including the influence of modern Western culture, itself with roots in Ancient Egypt.
With its ancient history, cosmopolitanism, strong Islamic traditions, modern pan-Arab political and intellectual history and relative freedom, Egypt is the cultural capital of Arab world. The Arab television and cinema is dominated by the Egyptian television and film industry, as is popular Arabic music.
The Egyptian Ministry of Culture presides over a variety of western-style cultural institutions such as the Cairo Opera House, the National Puppet Theater, the Pocket Theater and the National Symphony, as well as the country's many museums.
Egypt has also been a fount of Arabic literature having produced some of the greatest 20th century Arab writers from Taha Hussein and Tawfiq Al Hakim to Nobel prize-winner novelist Naguib Mahfouz. Egypt has also produced some of the greatest modern artisans, including the brilliant jewelry designer Azza Fahmy and her equally gifted sister Randa Fahmy, who single-handedly revived the art of Mamluki metalwork.
One of Egypt's prominent authors, Tewfik Al-Hakim wrote in his famous novel "The Return of the Soul":
‘The Great Wisdom flows in Egyptians’ blood, but it flows without their knowledge. Can you really believe that the thousands of years which make up Egypt's past have vanished like a dream without a trace?".
The key words here are 'without their knowledge’, for the present bears no resemblance of the past. Yet, it is true the Egyptian mind make-up is a product of thousands of years of accumulated history. Successive invaders left their mark, but were eventually assimilated into Egypt which the Egyptians call the Mother of the World, Om Eddunia.
Egyptians are friendly, hospitable and modest. They also have a sense of balance and moderation. Problems in Egypt, however, have a tendency to resist solutions. Everybody seems to accept that trouble will somehow work itself out. Insha’Allah and Ma'lesh are essential vocabulary for the visitor. A key to enjoying any visit to Egypt is infinite patience.
Egypt has its fair share of problems. More than 40% of its men are illiterate (more for women); it is over populated and poor. There is a large degree of mal-distribution of wealth. With no class system in Egypt, and no titles, the only way to climb up the social ladder is by acquiring more wealth.
Egyptians are proud and sensitive. Proud of their history but sensitive of their present. This paradox explains why people do not like foreign photographers poking their cameras into their everyday life. Unless photographed at their best or in situations they are proud of, Egyptians are more comfortable away from the cameras.
Egyptians are, generally speaking, color blind. Other races are regarded as equal and given the same consideration. Foreigners who live in Egypt are treated with respect and tolerance. Egyptians abroad are sometimes shocked and surprised by race hate problems in other countries.
The Arabic language has its mark on the Egyptian mind. Classical Arabic is used by the media and in formal writing, but the spoken Arabic is colloquial and varies from one region to the next. The colloquial Arabic of Cairo is widely understood throughout the Arab world, because of the cultural influence of films, songs and TV programs.
Classical Arabic, the language of the Qur’an, is the living proof of past glory. It can be acquired only by formal education, and represents the ideal or the ‘higher self’ for all Arab speakers. When used to its best effect, the classical form of Arabic is full of metaphors and elaborate rhyme and exaggeration. For the average Egyptian over-emphasis and exaggeration in speech is normal and common. This is reflected also in the colloquial form of the language, used in everyday conversation. People aspire to the classical form of speech but can only use and feel comfortable with the colloquial.
This exaggeration can sometimes lead to conflicts in communications. A psychologist (Egyptian) once told of a story of two friends: an English girl and an Egyptian youth. The girl complained that her friend was pestering her with his declarations of love, and refused to take no for an answer when she made it clear she was not interested in him. On the other hand, the Egyptian boy, confided that the English girl was encouraging him, but he had shown only little interest in her. The psychologist said that both were telling the truth, but the difference was that between Egyptian exaggeration and over-assertion and English tact and understatement.
Egyptian males tend to be chauvinistic in a society which acknowledges and rewards male domination. That patriarchal system requires the support and loyalty of all members of the family in return for security and protection. In the absence of a credible social welfare system, supporting the family always comes first in Egypt. Adults are expected to respect and care for their elderly parents. In rural areas, care and loyalty also extends to the clan.
Egyptians are very conservative. Their mind is ruled by the notion of honor, especially when it comes to the issue of women, their protection and what is expected of them to make the job of their protection easy on the man. Women are expected to dress and behave modestly. Women who make a show of themselves either by revealing attire, loud voice or sensual behavior in public places, bring dishonor to their kin and hosts. Such behavior is therefore considered an insult to the family and an abuse of hospitality.
Egyptians, however, can cope with discourteous visitors (they have been receiving some for the past few thousand years). While such behavior is usually tolerated, it creates a stereotype of the westerner as fancy-free and easy. In a cultural context, this fits perfectly with the love-hate relationship Egyptians have with the West. To the Egyptian mind, the West is materially rich and technologically advanced. But it is also decadent and prejudiced. The Egyptians do not understand the lack of support of the West for their national causes. They sincerely welcome their tourist visitors from all parts of the world, but feel betrayed when they hear about raids on Lebanon and Iraq or embargo on Libya. To some, this equates to ‘Our guests take our hospitality, and then go back and bomb our brothers..’.
In Egypt, the prominent culture is that of Islam. There is a tangible Coptic Christian part of Egypt. But Copts are not a minority, in the since that they are of the same race and culture as their Moslem countrymen. An observer once said that all Egyptians are Moslems, whether they are Christians or Marxists. The resulting culture is moderate and inclusive, even of those who are non-Egyptian. The recent trouble with fanaticism is regarded by most Egyptians as an ‘imported’ and alien phenomenon. Egyptians love peace and hate violence. Even the most recent revolution in 1952 had a casualty of one soldier, and he was killed by accident!.
Egypt remains one of the more secure and friendly countries in the world for tourists. Egyptians are easy to get on with and will go out of their way to help foreign visitors find their way, or invite them for a meal or a tea. Their offers are usually authentic and not for expected reward. This generosity is part of the culture and a product of the harsh living conditions which value sharing and giving. The hustle of the market place for selling local ware to tourists has nothing to do with the national character and more to do with free market competition for more income.
These factors also give rise to other traits of the Egyptian character such as a sarcastic sense of humor. Egyptians laugh at their way of life, and everything else under the sun. Even political leaders take it as a compliment to be subject to popular jokes. The lack of jokes is usually a sign that something is wrong.
One such joke was favorite in the early days of former president, Sadat, who came to power after the popular president Nasser. He literally dismantled everything Nasser did, but in his public addresses he used to say that he followed Nasser’s way.
It was said that Sadat had an outing in the presidential limousine, and when the car arrived at the crossroads, the chauffeur asked the new president which way he should turn. Sadat asks, 'which way did president Nasser go?' 'left, your excellency. ‘Well, signal left and turn right!
The Upper Egyptian, the Saeidi, is usually the butt of Egyptian jokes. He is given the same treatment as the man from Alabama or the Irish in the UK. In Cairo, the Saeidi is known to have bought the tramway from a crook. He got on the tramway on his first day in Cairo and was impressed by the ticket revenue, so he bought the carriage and paid his life savings to the crook next to him who offered to sell it to him.
Other examples of Egyptian jokes include the street wise kids and the miserable living conditions. One such kid applied for a job in a hotel that requires English as a second language. He was asked by the manager (in Arabic) to say in English "come here" to which he replied correctly. He was then asked again to say in English "Go there" to which he had no answer. He thought for a while and then said (in Arabic):" I will run there and then say ‘come here’!
Egyptians are very religious. They ask for God’s mercy when they get desperate, using the expression Rahmetak Ya Rabb (Your Mercy, O’ Lord). A cartoon published recently shows a poor family next to a very expensive butcher’s shop. While their eyes are fixed on the meat they all say Lahmetak Ya Rabb (Your meat, O' Lord!). This kind of joke plays on the linguistic form and is seldom translated. Superstition is part of the Egyptian way of life. Owls and black cats are bad omens and so are bearers of bad news. Bad dreams can be grossly misinterpreted. Ghosts and spirits are also bad news.
Egyptians will never leave a slipper or a shoe turned upside down, or a pair of scissors open; these are signs of bad luck. They never throw bread on the floor, and if found will be picked up and put aside in a corner so that it is not trodden on. Superstition is contained by faith in Allah.
Customs relevant to the visitors include the social obligation to be generous to the guests of the house. Eating together creates a bond of friendship (Proverb: The bond of eating bread and salt together). There is also the sanctity of homes; never enter a home uninvited. The respect of parents is part of a strong family bond, which obliges members to solidarity at all times. This social bond leads to the custom of vendetta in Upper Egypt.
In all social aspects there is no great distinction between Moslems and Copts. Except for religious occasions, the social code is for all Egyptians. Fortunately, foreigners are not expected to know or follow that code, but are so much appreciated if they show awareness of local customs and the language, however rudimentary. It is prudent to avoid arguments about politics, religion or status of women in Egypt. These are the topics which are likely to create misunderstanding and frustration. But a chat in simple Arabic and English, a joke about the crowds and the traffic, a comment about the positive aspects of life in Egypt, will be so much appreciated. For the tourist, a little effort will go a long way to make his stay welcome and enjoyable..
Egyptian populous divided into four cultural groups consisting of Copts, Bedouins, Nubians and Egyptian peasants, or fallahin. Upon closer examination, fallahins are presented basically as farmers living in villages. Perhaps this is a correct and traditional definition of the word fallahin, but it was immediately apparent that this division of cultural groups was out of touch with reality, and showed no feeling for Egypt's true flavor. Egypt is actually a wonderful and delightful mixture of traditions, with a socioeconomic structure which allows, more and more, a gradient of classes. But one must look, and feel with the heart in order to touch this essence of Egypt.
A considerable amount, if not majority, of Egypt's population now live in larger cities, mostly Cairo and Alexandria. In fact, these two cities dominate the vision of most foreigners. They are vitally important to Egypt's culture, but one should not neglect the many other moderately sized cities. And within these cities there is a virtual kaleidoscope of social stratas. There are doubtless the poor, the recent fallahins come to the city, and the lower echelons of what we will call the commercial or merchant class. They are evident, and plentiful. But these businessmen merge into the middle class, and then upper middle class. More than a few become wealthy.
The travel books seem to neglect this broad range of Egyptian business men. Some come from families who probably have ancient ties with trading, but others are those fallahins who have found what they came looking for in the city. Perhaps the poorest of these merchants, those who sell produce or bean meals in the streets might answer to the term fallahin, but I doubt that most would fall within any of the traditional cultural groups. They have a million faces, and also as many professions and trades. They make gold jewelry and copper pots, rugs, they paint, build buildings and fine pottery. They sell groceries at the corner market. They trade in tractors and water pumps, they are butchers and bakers, taxi drivers, and secretaries. And these days many of these people are simply Egyptian, not Coptic, not Nubian, not Bedouin and certainly not the traditional Fallahin.
But what is equally missing from most travel guide descriptions of the Egyptian culture is a real feeling for the beauty of these marvelous cities. Here, one will find teenagers at McDonalds or Pizza Inn and making the local drag in their small Fiats. There, one will see brightly lit streets with multicolored lights strung from the buildings so as to celebrate a birthday or a wedding. One will find a continuous stream of blaring horns, as a population perpetually late for some meeting scrambles about the city. But one may admire this madness from an armchair next to his favorite coffee shop, where he may be overcome by a feeling of tranquillity. It is often a culture of the back streets of small neighborhoods, particularly at night, where the television has not dispatched social accord. The residents of these small neighborhoods within these monstrous cities know each other well, and look out for one another.
It is also a moral culture, which these authors admire whole heartedly. In a city the size of Cairo, there is virtually no crime rate. Many westerners believe that this is due to stiff punishment, but the real reason is the population's loyalty to their religious faith. The virtual absence of drinking and drugs among the local population, prohibited by their Islamic law and enforced by their own piety, surely has much to do with this. When one ceases judging cultures purely from the standpoint of material wealth, and begins to see the humanistic success of the Egyptian culture, it is difficult for a person of any religious persuasion not to develop a deep respect for Islam.
The rural peasants provided the pharaohs with both the manpower to build their majestic monuments and the food to support the workers. Even today, the fallahin wrest two or three crops from their tiny fields in a futile attempt to feed Egypt's ever-expanding population. These farmers live in small villages, often settled by their Pharaonic ancestors, scattered along the Nile.
Most of the inhabitants live in mud-brick homes, their thick walls insulating against the afternoon heat. Flat roofs, exposed to the northern evening breezes, serve as cool sleeping quarters as well as storage areas. Villagers plaster the outer walls and often trim them in blue, a color they believe wards off the evil eye. As a man becomes richer, he can add a second story to his house perhaps for his married son. Those villagers who have made the journey to Mecca paint the legend of their trip on the outer walls of their homes. Such hajj houses, along with the mosques, are the most distinguished buildings in a village.
Some villagers build ornate pigeon coops close to their homes, using the birds as food and their droppings to fertilize crops. Many houses still have dirt floors and lack electricity or running water; women with jars balanced on their heads make the trek to the community well, and children with donkeys haul the precious liquid in jerry cans.
All this said, government sponsored building programs have also brought newer style residences and utilities to some villages, particularly those outside the Nile Valley in the Oases and the Red Sea coastal areas.
Egyptians dote on their children, who as they grow up quickly, take on adult duties. The younger ones start by herding sheep and goats. When the boys reach nine or 10, they begin learning how to farm the land that will eventually be theirs. Young girls feed chickens, milk goats and water buffalo (gamoosa), make the dung patties used for fuel, and fetch water. At an early age, they learn to carry loads on their heads; starting with lightweight items such as bread loaves, they graduate to laundry, and then to large clay water jars. Their work gives them a grace of carriage that remains with them throughout their lives.
In Egyptian extended families, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins all feel clan obligations, and these ties unite them in good times and bad. If an individual's crops fail, all relatives contribute from their own supplies. If an animal is fatally injured, the fallahin will slaughter it and each family within the clan will buy a portion, thus sharing the meat and contributing to the cost of replacing the animal. The clan elders arbitrate disagreements, even those between husbands and wives, and give opinions that range from farming techniques to religious obligations.
Outside her home, a married woman traditionally wears a black outer dress over her brightly colored housedress and covers her hair with a long veil, which often sweeps the ground behind her. She wears her dowry of gold necklaces and silver bracelets and anklets, insurance against poverty if her husband divorces her or she becomes widowed. Her husband dresses in a long robe (galabayya), cotton in summer and wool in winter. He often covers his head with a scarf wound like a turban and in the winter adds a wool jacket. The robes of both sexes cover the entire body, but their looseness allows a cooling circulation of air and serves as insulation. Although the black garments of the women heat up slightly quicker than the paler galabayyas, both, contrary to popular belief, maintain about the same temperature.
At the end of the working day, rural Egyptians return to their villages, the fallahin leading his water buffalo or riding his donkey. A peaceful quiet settles over the mud-brick houses as families gather for their evening meal. Village women once spent much of their lives cooking, but today, they are equal partners in relationships and take a growing and active role in society. They bake their aysh (bread) in clay ovens of ancient pattern, making both an unleavened type and aysh shams (sun bread), which they set in the sun to rise. The main meal consist of rice, ful beans, and vegetables. For special occasions (if meat is available), they will fix fattah, a dish with layers of bread, rice, and meat seasoned with vinegar and garlic and garnished with yogurt and nuts. The fallahin eat with bread rather than knives and forks, tearing the round loaf into finger-sized portions and dipping them into the serving dishes.
On festival days, a village is anything but quiet. To celebrate the mulid (saint's day) of the village, the entire population turns out; the children sample the carnival rides and the adults visit, watch horse races, and take part in the rituals. During weddings, the village women decorate the bride with designs of henna, and after the wedding, whole villages accompany the bride and groom to their new home. The village women work together to prepare the ornate meals that accompany these celebrations. Isolation is inconceivable in an Egyptian village.
Wandering throughout Egypt's deserts, Bedouin nomads continually search for fresh grazing for their camels and goats and water for their families. They don't wander aimlessly, but return annually to various locations in their territory where the land and water can sustain them for the season. Little in the desert escapes the Bedouin's eye. He knows where and when he can find water and whether it's just brackish or toxic; shrubs tell him when it last rained and how much. Signs left in the sand proclaim who has been there before him, when, the directions from which they came and departed, the size of their flocks, and perhaps even the ages of their camels. Bedouins navigate by the stars, familiar landmarks, and stone markers left on a previous trek. They travel light, leaving caches hanging in trees. Other travelers, if in need, are welcome to the food and water but are bound not to touch the remaining articles.
The Bedouin dresses for the desert, his layered and flowing robes absorbing the sun's hot rays while allowing cooling breezes to circulate. He winds a cloth around his head and neck to retard moisture loss that can lead to heat stroke and to shield his face against the harsh, dry sand. Women wear black dresses and head covers embroidered in tiny cross-stitch designs: blue for unmarried women, red for married. They cover their faces with a veil highlighted in the same stitches and often decorated with shells and coins.
Bedouin live in tents of goat and camel hair panels that the women have woven on their narrow ground looms and stitched together. When the tribe moves, the Bedouin wife is in charge of dismantling the tent, packing it on the camels, and reassembling it a the new site. She can roll up the sides so that the cool breeze enters, or stake them down, making it secure in a sand storm. In case of divorce, the tent belongs to the woman, while the man takes his domestic animals and leaves.
The Bedouin band into small, tightly knit tribes, and their leaders, picked for their wisdom and judgment, retain their positions by finesse and largesse, for their proud Bedouin brethren would find direct commands insulting. To the Bedouin, hospitality is mandatory, and guests are welcomed to a tent for three days and three nights. The teapot or coffee pot is always on for either kinsman or stranger. In exchange, the host expects conversation, for the Bedouin thus keeps abreast of the news.
If water is far away, the men and boys make the trip with camels, bringing it back in goatskins. They also go into the nearest town to exchange news and barter, trading rugs, cheese, milk, goats, and camels for cloth, jewelry, rifles, flour, rice, tea, sugar, and coffee.
Modern inroads into the desert are changing the Bedouin's life. Over the past, some rulers of Egypt have provided farm land to the Bedouin, and encouraged their settlement. Many families have settled, building houses, and the handmade tents are disappearing. Trucks bring water in 100-gallon barrels and move goats to pasture. The Bedouin is investing in land and businesses, and sending his sons to school in Cairo and Alexandria and the nearby governorates, where more higher institutes and universities were set up recently. Although he still keeps himself apart from the sedentary Egyptian, his ancient desert lifestyle is vanishing; the Toyota pickup is steadily replacing the camel.
Dark-skinned Nubians inhabit the narrow valley south of Aswan. Although modern studies have been unable to establish the ancestry of the Nubian people or trace changes in the race through history, they carry predominantly Caucasian genes and appear unrelated to other Africans. These people once farmed the narrow margins of the river, planting palm groves along its edge. Hoisting triangular lateen sails above their boats, they hauled rock, transported villagers, and fished the clear, cold Nile.
A distinct group for centuries, the Nubians (called Medjy) served the pharaohs as traders and elite military forces. (Middle Kingdom models show them marching in precise rows bearing shields and bows or spears.) During the Late Period, Nubians traveled north, invading Luxor to reestablish classical Pharaonic culture.
For centuries, the Nubians have taken great pride in their unique culture, refusing to intermarry, and in spite of centuries of inbreeding, the population shows little ill effect--weak traits must have been eliminated generations ago. In modern times, their pride has led to valiant attempts to maintain their village life even when nearly all of the men worked and lived hundreds of kilometers to the north. Today, transplanted from the lands inundated by the waters of Lake Nasser, these hard-working people are attempting to revive their culture in the face of economic and social pressures.
Originally Nubian villages were closely knit, celebrating births and marriages with village-wide festivals, rituals that always included the river. The newborn child was washed in its life-giving flow, and at circumcision his foreskin was tossed as offering into the river. A bride and groom bathed separately in the fertile waters on the eve of their marriage, then again at dawn, together. After a death, at the end of mourning, the women came to the waters to wash from their faces the mud and blue dye that had been their badge of sorrow, and offer henna and perfume to the spirits of the river. Although the Nubians converted first to Christianity and then to Islam, beliefs in the water angels persist, and the people continue to petition these spirits for favors and blessings.
The Nubian lifestyle suddenly changed when the British built the first Aswan dam in 1902. Its rising forebay drowned their durra plants, choked their date palms, and swallowed their mosques and homes, forcing the people to rebuild their villages higher up the barren slopes. They attempted to cultivate the new banks of the river, but the sandy soil lacked fertile silt and production levels fell. Many of the men left their families to seek work in the towns, traveling as far as Cairo.
The dam was raised three times within 75 years, ultimately sending over 85% of the Nubian men north to find work. The women and children left behind attempted to maintain the village customs, but with husbands and fathers returning only a couple of times a year, traditional rites and festivals were often abandoned. In smaller ways, too, their lifestyle continued to change: tin pots, aluminum pans, and plastic plates replaced woven baskets, for the date palms that had supplied the fronds were now under the lake. The flat roofs, once supported by palm trunks, gave way to vaulted domes, and even dates themselves, a staple of the Nubian diet, had to be imported.
Although some villagers had earlier moved to Aswan, the High Dam forced a final exodus of the Nubians. When 50,000 trekked north, they could at last claim fertile land. Although living in an alien culture, they were no longer solely dependent on wages sent from the cities; families could bring their men home again. Thanks to government programs, the Nubians who have now settled around Aswan and Kom Ombo face a more promising future. Although many Nubian men still work in the cities, the demand for domestic help (jobs Nubians frequently filled) has nearly vanished, and they now can be found running some of the small shops ubiquitous in Egypt, driving cabs, or sailing faluccas. Others have opted for an education, and Nubians with college degrees make up part of Egypt's educated elite.
Literature in Egypt
Ancient Egyptian literature dates back to the Old Kingdom, in the third millennium BC. Religious literature is best known for its hymns to various gods and its mortuary texts. The oldest extant Egyptian literature are the Pyramid Texts: the mythology and rituals carved around the tombs of rulers. The later, secular literature of ancient Egypt includes the 'wisdom texts', forms of philosophical instruction. The Instruction of Ptahhotep, for example, is a collation of moral proverbs by an Egyptian administrator. The authors of the literature of the Old and Middle Kingdoms (through to the middle of the second millennium BC) seem to have been drawn from an elite administrative class, and were celebrated and revered into the New Kingdom (to the end of the second millennium). In time the Pyramid Texts became Coffin Texts (perhaps after the end of the Old Kingdom), and finally the mortuary literature produced its masterpiece, the Book of the Dead, during the New Kingdom.
During the Greco-Roman period (332 BC–AD 639), Egyptian literature was translated into other languages, and Greco-Roman literature fused with native art into a new style of writing. From this period comes the Rosetta Stone, which became the key to unlocking the mysteries of Egyptian writing to modern scholarship. The great city of Alexandria boasted its famous Library of almost half a million handwritten books during the third century BC. Alexandria's centre of learning also produced the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint.
During the first few centuries of the Christian era, Egypt was the ultimate source of a great deal of ascetic literature in the Coptic language. Egyptian monasteries translated many Greek and Syriac works, which are now only extant in Coptic.
Under Islam, Egypt continued to be a great source of literary endeavour, now in the Arabic language. In 970, al-Azhar University was founded in Cairo, which to this day remains the most important centre of Sunni Islamic learning. In the 12th century Egypt, the Jewish talmudic scholar Maimonides produced his most important work.
Among the modern talents of Egyptian literature, Naguib Mahfouz is foremost. In 1988, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. Other well-known Egyptian writers include Nawal El Saadawi, who is well known for her feminist works and activism, and Alifa Rifaat who is conservative and writes about women and tradition.
Fine Arts in Egypt
The Egyptians knew the plastic art of all its kinds since the remote ages of ancient times. The statues of kings and the elites as well as the illustrated and engraved paintings reflected artistic concepts in the services of rituals of gods, kings and the dead.
The ancient Egyptian arts, such as sculpture, drawing and inscriptions were closely associated with the architectural engineering. None of them was an independent art, but they were used for ornamenting temples and tombs. This, in turn, had impact on the features of these arts.
This ancient Egyptian civilization provided the world with varied and unique architectural forms of royal tombs, temples, dams and others. The multi-purpose civil architecture also flourished in the Greek era, most outstanding of its products is Alexandria lighthouse, the third of the Seven Wonders of the world. The Coptic civilization also focused only on two definite kinds of sculpture. The first is the tomb witness, which is a limestone board where its top part is often of a triangle form containing drawings. The second kind is sculpture decoration at the top or below walls. When we come to the Islamic era, we find the artist focuses on plant, animal and engineering forms. The creation of the plastic art in the Islamic era is characterized by attraction that surpasses limits of time, space, language, culture and belief. Glass crafts and Arabesque became common and flourished during this era.
During the Tolonic epoch in Egypt, porcelain arts spread; pots of porcelain of metal shine were used by rich people instead of gold or silver pots. The Fatimide artists were masters of accuracy in their paintings, not known in Egypt before. During the Memelukes period, the text-hand transcription ranked high in the decoration elements on masterpieces of work of art.
As for the modern art renaissance in Egypt, it was associated with a series of factors and considerations that formulated thinking and ethos of the artists. It was parallel to the increasing national sensations, modernization process and enlightenment campaigns seeking identity of the Egyptian civilization.
Therefore, some of the Plastic art pioneers in Egypt had similar roles of that of enlightenment thinkers. Their role in their art domains remarkably contributed to the national struggle movement for freedom and independence and reassertion of the national identity. Among these artists were Mahmoud Said, Mahmoud Mokhtar, Yousif Kamel, Ragheb Ayyad, Mohammed Nagi and others.
Several groups of plastic art successively appeared. In 1928, “The Imagination Group” headed by the sculptor Mahmoud Mokhtar was established. It was followed by “Fine Arts Amateurs Group” which came to the scene in Alexandria in 1929. In 1932, the “Egyptian Complex of Fine Arts” was founded by Mohammed Sedqi Al-Gabadangi. Then the “Egyptian United Artists” came to the surface in 1936.
From the 1930s to the 1980s, movements and groups of plastic artists in the Egyptian society came to life. Many new artists came to the limelights. Among them were Fouad Kamel, Ramses Younan, George Henin, Gamal el-Segeni, Saleh Yousri and Mohamed Oweis. In 1981, the “Axis Group” was formed by four artists: Ahmed Nawar, Abdul Rahman al-Nashar, Abdul Hafeez and Al-Razaz; they were all landmarks of the plastic movement of our modern time.
These groups of artists remarkably contributed in displaying and propagating the plastic art to a large scale, and they shaped evident features of the contemporary plastic art movement.
Music & Singing in Egypt
The region around the Nile is one of the oldest continually-inhabited areas in the world. Ancient Egyptian musicians are known to have played harps and flutes circa 4000 BC, and double clarinets and lyres from around 3500 BC. Percussion instruments were added to orchestras by 2000 BC. It is probable that no system of musical notation existed at the time, as none have survived. The music of ancient Egypt has not been documented, but some musicologists believe that the liturgical music of the Coptic Church is directly descended from ancient Egyptian music.
Arab musical tradition is usually said to have begun in the 7th century in Syria during the Umayyad dynasty. Early Arab music was derived from Byzantine, Indian and Persian forms, which were themselves very influenced by earlier Greek and Semitic music. In the 10th century, Al-Farabi translated Aristotle's Problems (and Themistius' commentary on them), Euclid's Elements of Music and Ptolemy's Harmonics into Arabic. These works, foundations of Western music, became the basis for Arabic musical theory.
Like African music, Arabic and Egyptian music has strong improvisatory and rhythmic components. The base rhythm of Arabic music is the maqamat, which is formed by dum (downbeats), tak (upbeats) and rests. Arabic music uses microtones, or notes not present in the formal musical scale (half-flats and half-sharps). Arabic tones are divided into thirds, which makes their sound inherently different from most other musical traditions.
In Egypt, religious music is frowned upon, but still common in Muslim celebrations called mulids. Mulids are held to celebrate the saint of a particular mosque, and is related to the Sufi zikr (ritual). A type of flute called the Nay is commonly played at mulids. Egyptian music is a rich mixture of indigenous, Arabic, African and Western influences. As early as 4000 BC, ancient Egyptians were playing harps and flutes, as well as two indigenous instruments: the Nay and the Oud. However, there is no notation of Egyptian music before the 7th century AD, when Egypt became part of the Arab world. Percussion and vocal music became important at this time, which has remained an important part of Egyptian music today.From the 1910s, Egyptian pop music has become increasingly listened to, as has folk music from Egypt's many cultures. This enhances the sense of place which is part of the Arab influence in Egyptian music.
In the last quarter of the 20th century, Egyptian music was a way to communicate social and class issues. Singing is the most integral part of the Egyptian Music. This may have to do with the impact of both the Ancient Egyptian culture and Islam culture on Arabic Music. In European and American countries, singing is taught using musical instruments like a piano, on the other hand, in the Arabic Countries, playing instruments starts with the learning of maqams through singing.
Folklore in Egypt
It is likely that the term "folklore was foreign to the legacy of civilization in Ancient Egypt, because we are used to relating the mythologies which resulted from the deeply-rooted belief of Ancient Egyptians. This belief is reflected in the extended inevitable relationship between their worldly and heavenly lives. However, if mythologies constitute the formal religious substance, as they are closely associated with belief, on the one hand, and with the Pharonic government system, on the other, it is this folkloric substance that still lives with people.
It expresses people's values and culture as much as it expresses their hopes and aspirations. In other words, the folkloric substance of a certain people determines their identity and personality as much as it determines the degree of their culture.
Folklore usually arises from a belief in the power of the word, and from the ability to move it along various levels: symbolic, connotative, and social. Ancient Egyptians used to believe in the power, magic and ability to move the minds. This can be illustrated by the following extract: "Man dies and becomes a rotten corpse, and so does his offspring, but his books commemorate him. Thus, one book is more useful than a furnished home or an exquisite palace or even a memorial in a temple."
Cinema in Egypt
Egypt has had a strong cinematic tradition since the 1930s having the only major motion picture industry in the Arab world, with Cairo its capital. The Egyptian cinema has a profound influence on the Arabs. The golden age of Egyptian cinema was in the 1940s and 1950s. During that period Omar Sherif emerged as a major international star and his former wife, Fatin Hamama, reigned as the queen of Arab cinema. Directors such as Youssef Chahine have gained wide international respect and many of Egypt's leading literary lights, including Tawfiq Al Hakim and Naguib Mahfouz, have written for the cinema.
Today, the reigning superstar of the Egyptian cinema is the comedian Adel Imam, whose political satire has earned him the respect of serious filmgoers and occasionally the resentment of the government. Other film stars include Ahmad Zaki, Mahmoud Abdul Aziz and Yusra. The modern atmosphere of profiteering and heavy entertainment taxes have resulted in drastically lowering the standards of modern Egyptian cinema.
Theatre in Egypt
There are two categories of theatre arts in Egypt:
This category is based on the written oral text recited by professional actors on either fixed or movable stages. This type of theatre was known in Egypt during the eighteenth century.
Second: Shadow Theatre
This type has affected the modern Arab theatre. Shadow theatre appeared in Egypt during the Fatimid era in the religious and social occasions. Theatre appeared in Egypt during the French campaign in 1789. In 1869 Khedive Ismail established the French Comedy Theatre and the Opera House to receive the delegations participating in the celebrations he prepared for his guests in the occasion of opening the Suez Canal. He also established another theatre in Al Azbakia Garden in 1870. The year 1921 witnessed the birth of the first national theatre.
Experimentalism as a trend in theatre and arts generally has emerged at stages of deep cultural transformations, when prevailing, conventional language, forms and techniques are short of assimilating and expressing new systems of awareness and sensitivities of the time.
Experimentalism in the Egyptian Theatre
With the beginning of the dramatic revival in Egypt and the Arab world during the Fifties, Experimentalism imposed itself on the dramatic scene as an artistic need to cope up with the historical transformations that prevailed the Arab countries at that time.
Experimentalism in the Egyptian theatre underwent two distinctly articulate phases:
The first consisted in a rebellious attitude towards the conventional norms. Dramatic artists started experimenting with modern European formulae such as Socialist Realism, Absurd, Documentary and Coffee-shop Theatre.
Rich and serious as they were, these experiments, failed to generate a clear-cut Arab stream of Experimentalism. However, they helped create an awareness of the specificity and multiplicity of theatrical language. They further liberated Arab dramatic practice from the shackles of Conventional Realism, setting the stage for a genuine Arab experimental theatre.
Starting in mid-Sixties, this phase showed an enhanced pursuit for an Arab dramatic formula, combining elements of both modernity and originality. This trend was upheld, by playwrights like Tawfeeq al-Hakeem, Yousef Idrees and Alfred Farag and critics and dramatic writers like Ali ar-Ra'ie, Naguib Sorour, Shawqi abdel- Hakeem among others. This phase was characterized by deeply delving into Arab heritage as well as objectively analyzing and criticizing the Arab personality.
As a result of the endeavors of those pioneers and other Arab dramatists, there emerged a new Arab dramatic formula that was both original and modern at the same time. While taking root in the popular heritage, this trend made use of the then most up-to-date techniques of international experimental theatre. Although this formula varied from one dramatist to another it maintained one common basic structure.
Old Egyptian Theatre
Cairo had thirteen theatres such as Opera, Brintania, Arab Acting House, Casino De Paris, George Abiad Theatre, Piccadilly, Eastern Music Club, Al-Azbakia Garden Theatre, and Casino Helwan. These theatres were crowded with the Egyptian fans Cairo's Nights. The theatres of Humbra, Concordia, Ambir Theatre in Rashid Garden , Risch Café , Opera Theatre enlightened Alexandria. The theatrical activities involved reviving evenings in Al-Mansoura, Tanta, Port Said, Menya, Zaqazeeq, Menouf, Beni Sweif, Kafr Al-Sheikh, and Luxor.
Al-Mansoura had Cinema Eden Theatre, and Municipality Theatre, and Tanta had the Municipality Council Theatre now owned by the governorate.
The existence of such Theatres indicates the vitality of the theatrical artistic activity in the first decades of the 20th century. Another indicator of such an activity is the appearance of the elite writers and men of letters who participated in such a creation either by translation, quotation, or composing. <a href="http://www.venivitravel.com">Turkey tours holidays vacations travel packages</a>