Egypt is one of the Arab world’s literary centres and has produced many of modern Arabic literature’s foremost writers. The impact of the West is one of the recurring themes in the modern Egyptian novel, as in Tawfīq akīm’s Bird of the East (1943) and Yayā aqqī’s novella The Lamp of Umm Hashim (1944). A further theme is that of the Egyptian countryside—depicted romantically at first, as in Muammad usayn Haykal’s Zaynab(1913), and later realistically, as in Abd al-Ramān al-Sharqāwī’s The Land (1954) and The Peasant (1968) and in Yūsuf Idrīs’s Al-arām (1959; “The Forbidden”). A capacity to catch the colour of life among the urban poor is a characteristic quality of the early and middle work of Egypt’s greatest modern novelist, Naguib Mahfouz (Najīb Mafū), notably in Midaq Alley (1947). Mahfouz later won the Nobel Prize for Literature for The Cairo Trilogy (1956-57).
The modern theatre in Egypt is a European importation—the first Arabic-language plays were performed in 1870. Two dramatists, both born at the turn of the 20th century, dominated its development—Mamūd Taymūr and Tawfīq al-akīm. The latter, a versatile and cerebral playwright, has reflected in his themes not only the development of the modern theatre but also, in embryo, the cultural and social history of modern Egypt. The changes in Egyptian society are reflected in the themes adopted by younger dramatists
With the country’s low rates of literacy, electronic media have played an important role in spreading mass popular culture.
Egyptian television has had a powerful influence on regional tastes, and viewers throughout the Arab world tune in to Egyptian programs. The country’s most popular actors enjoy wide recognition abroad.
There is a relatively long tradition of filmmaking in Egypt dating to World War I, but it was the founding of Mir Studios in 1934 that stimulated the growth of the Arabic-language cinema. Modern Egyptian films are shown to audiences throughout the Arab world and are also distributed in Asian and African countries. The industry is owned privately and by the state—there are many private film-production companies, as well as the Ministry of Culture’s Egyptian General Cinema Corporation. Outside Egypt, the best-known Egyptian director is Youssef Chahine, who has directed films since 1950. Others include Salah Abu Sayf and Muhammad Khan. Actor Omar Sharif, who was well known among Western moviegoers of the 1960s and ’70s, first emerged as an Egyptian film celebrity in 1954 and continued to star in Egyptian films into the 21st century. Prominent singers and composers such as Umm Kulthūm, Layla Murad, Farid al-Atrash, and Muhammad Abd al-Wahhab also earned immense sums for their movie acting. Notable films include Flirtation of Girls (1949), Cairo Station (1958), Terrorism and the Kebab (1993), and Nasser 56 (1996).
Music and dance have long played an important part in Egyptian culture. Given the country’s ethnic heterogeneity, traditional Egyptian musical styles are quite diverse. Yet the types of instruments found throughout the country are similar to those used elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa. They include the ūd, qānūn (a type of zither), nāy (flute), riqq (tambourine), and rabāb (type of two-string fiddle). Although much Egyptian music might suggest a minor key to the Western ear, numerous genres and repertoires employing an array of scales (or melodic frameworks) in fact yield great musical variety. Many religious groups technically eschew music, but musical traditions are ubiquitous. Muslims of the Sufi branch, for instance, are noted for their dhikr, communal repetition of the names of God, often with instrumental accompaniment and dancing. Especially in the rural south, the zār is a common purification ceremony involving singing, dancing, and playing of musical instruments. Although the muezzin’s call to prayer and the recitation of the Qurān have obvious melodic qualities, these practices stand in a category separate from, and not to be confused with, that of music. Nevertheless, famous Qurān reciters frequently have mass followings similar to those of pop stars. A variety of martial dances have been practiced by groups throughout the country, particularly among Bedouin tribes, and in earlier generations, a class of female singers known as awālim (singular ālimah, “learned”) thrived in urban areas, performing in private venues and in the salons of the elite. During this same period, bawdy female street dancers known as ghawāzī (singular ghāziyyah) were seen as disreputable, yet that term today is often applied with much less disapprobation to women who practice rural dances. The art of raqs sharqī (“eastern dance”)—or belly dancing, as it is known in the West—thrives among a class of professional dancers who entertain at weddings, birthdays, and other holidays. "Egypt" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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