Some flashes of modern Egyptian history can be found in the film Suez (1938), a highly fictionalized account of the building of the Canal, which opened in 1869. In the romanticized account of the career of Lawrence of Arabia (1962), T.E. Lawrence is headquartered in Cairo (although those scenes were filmed in Spain). See the Lawrence blog in Middle East: Realm of Islam.

 Cairo has been a place of intrigue for the movie industry throughout the 20th century, similar in repute to Casablanca in Morocco. There are two movies with the title Cairo. The one from 1942 is a truly forgettable “musical comedy spy thriller.” The other, from 1958, features George Sanders as a museum thief intent on stealing the treasures of Tutankhamun from the Egyptian Museum. The museum settings are authentic enough to make it difficult to tell if they are real or fabricated. Sanders made a spy movie called Trunk to Cairo in 1966.

 There is a long tradition of films drawn from the curse associated with the discovery and excavation of King Tut’s tomb in 1922-23. The real life reasons for suspicions of a curse on those who dug up the boy King have been embellished many times over in lurid horror films. See for example the two iterations of The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb in 1964 and 2006. Both offer a rough approximation of the dismantling of the tomb, and the latter film is even set in Cairo of 1922. After this nod to history, factuality goes out the window. Often these films feature a bold archaeologist, now a movie archetype thanks to the Indiana Jones franchise.

 I cannot find any movies made in English about Egypt’s monumental struggles to throw off the burden of of foreign domination, which lasted for over 2000 years until the winning of independence in 1957. There is at this writing no movie about the Arab Spring and the taking down of the powerful Hosni Mubarak to clear the field for devastating internal conflicts.  As if to hearken to a more placid time not so long ago, there is a very watchable movie called Cairo Time (2009) about a chaste love affair between an American woman and an Egyptian man in Cairo. It’s a vision of lost east-west harmony.

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