Earlier drafts of this chapter were presented to the Colloquium on the Politics of
Culture in Arab Societies in an Era of Globalization, held at Princeton University in
May 1997, and to the culture studies group at the University of Illinois–Urbana.
Participants' feedback was greatly appreciated. Special thanks to Walter Armbrust,
Marilyn Booth, Ken Cuno, JoAnn D'Alisera, Sonallah Ibrahim, and Robert Vitalis.
Funding for a broader project on Nasserist civic culture was provided by the J.
William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, the Joint Committee on the Near and
Middle East of the Social Science Research Council, and the American Council of
Learned Societies. I am, above all, deeply indebted to Mahfuz 'Abd al-Rahman and
Samira 'Abd al-'Aziz for their hospitality, insight, and candor.
Mahfuz 'Abd al-Rahman pers.com; all other references to 'Abd al-Rahman
or Nasser 56. unless otherwise indicated, are from personal conversations that took
place in Cairo between November 1995 and August 1996.
The filmmakers reportedly approached Su'ad Husni to play Nasser's wife,
Tahiya, but she was unable to take part. Ahmad Zaki then suggested Firdaws 'Abd alHamid (al-Ghayti 1995a).
Kami has also played Suez Canal builder Ferdinand de Lesseps in 'Abd alRahman's other mammoth hit, the television series Bawwabat al-Halawani (Halawani's Gate), which ran three successive Ramadan seasons through 1996.
In a variant of this common wisdom, Mahfuz 'Abd al-Rahman told me that
Egyptians will always favor an Egyptian over a foreign black-and-white film and a
foreign over an Egyptian color film.
Zaki's filmography is long and distinguished. The great exception to the
poor-boy roles is Zawjat rajul muhimm (Wife of an Important Man; Khan 1988), in
which he plays an officer in the security police. A classic example of the poor-boy
role, and a film that established a hairstyle fad for young men, is Kaburya (Crabs;
Bishara 1990; see Armbrust 1996, 138–46). For a critique of recent disappointments, see el-Assiouty 1996.
Ramzi (1984) counts eight films made since that deal with the Tripartite Aggression in any way. Of these, he states, only three treated the war directly. The most
noteworthy are Bur Sa'id (Port Said; Dhulfiqar 1957a), noted below, and Sijin Abu
Za'bal (The Prisoner of Abu Za'bal; Mustafa 1957).
The simple statement may recall for some Egyptians Nasser's impromptu oration on October 26, 1954, when an assailant shot at him. Nasser repeated the
phrase “I am Gamal Abdel Nasser” numerous times, invoking a willingness to die for
Egypt. It was his first great public oration.
These characterizations have not always been positive. However, she has most
often portrayed pious, doting mothers, and she is much loved. Her casting here is a
master stroke, although a few people I have spoken to find the scene somewhat contrived.
It sits between the two main termini, at Tahrir (Liberation) and Ramsis
squares, both major works projects undertaken by the Nasser regime. These subway
stops are named for Presidents Sadat and Mubarak respectively.
The Nasserist project is increasingly recalled as noble, despite its obvious
failings; see, for example, Sid-Ahmed 1995. Alan Sipress (1995) quotes Sid-Ahmed