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Egypt As it Is: Best Egyptian Documentaries to Watch Part 2

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Egypt As it Is: Best Egyptian Documentaries to Watch Part 2
written by
Nada Medhat

A while ago, we published the first part of this article, recommending six Egyptian documentaries that are worth watching. Now, we’re back with part two; another six documentaries, because Egyptian documentaries are incredible, and there are many corners of modern Egyptian life that don’t get as much attention. Many artists are skilled at making documentaries more than just a slice of life too; making them into art pieces that have more to offer than information, just like the ones we’re about to suggest! 

El-Banat Dol by Tahani Rached (2006)

The lives of teenage girls living in Egyptian streets, captured with no judgement or biases, this documentary offers the girls a chance to be more than just a parental warning against ending up like El-Banat dol or “those other girls.” It captures their life as it is, where they are neither mere victims nor villains, they are just children. Between those who become mothers, those who dance and those who sing, this documentary shows the beauty and the ugliness of their lives, their strength and freedom, joy and sadness, reminding us that they lead as complex lives as any of the rest of us.

Dreamaway by Johanna Domke and Marouan Omara (2018)

Dream away, by the Egyptian director Marouan Omara cooperating with the German visual artist Johanna Domke, is the best demonstration on this list that documentaries can have as much artistic and imaginative ground as feature films. Concerned by the state of Sharm El-Sheikh following the January revolution and subsequent turmoil, as it turned from a tourist hub full of westerns to a wasteland populated mostly by the resort employees. The documentary follows those employees, their feverish dreams, their peculiar lives tethered between their Middle Eastern upbringing and dominant westernism of this Red Sea city.

What Comes Around/Al Gami’ya by Reem Saleh (2018)

From a first glance, this film sounds just like the other hundreds of self-righteous studies of miserable little districts. In truth, however, it is much more than that. Focused on a bizarre social practice: Al-Gami’ya, a sort of credit union system among the people, the documentary follows the lives of the people enrolled in such a system. Through it, the director captures the lives of those vivid inhabitants, their comlex thoughts, their self-expressions, their sense of humour, their moments of beauty and joy, and their frustration, but most of all, the strong sense of community that defines their interconnected lives.

Electro Chaabi by Hind Meddeb (2013)

As of 2022, the music scene in Egypt is capturing everyone’s attention, but this dynamic, unique and ripe music scene of today is the culmination of years of development in the streets. In 2013, Maharagant and Egyptian rap, still in its infancy years, captured the attention of Hind Meddeb, who took to documenting the heart and soul of it, the social and political cultures that gave rise to it, and the youths that gave it their voices. The result is a brilliant take at what can only be called a cultural revolution.

Garbage Dreams by Mai Iskander (2019)

Through three teenage boys, the documentary follows the life of Egypt’s largest garbage city; a village-like area in El-Mokattam that houses 60,000 trash collectors. The film not only documents and sheds light on an interesting, crucial part of Egyptian society, but also questions what happens to a self-sustained, efficient system created by the people when it’s invaded by globalisation and “modernity”.