The theater in Egypt

cairo theater

When we think of Egypt our mind is immediately filled with the most typical images of the country, with the imposing silhouette of the pyramids background. However, culture in this ancient and fascinating country has many other expressions. One of them is the theater in egypt.

Classical theater came to Egypt from the Greeks during the hellenistic period (between the XNUMXth and XNUMXst centuries BC). In the country of the Nile this artistic manifestation was linked to certain religious rites and festivals such as the cult of osiris, with performances and shows that lasted for several days.

However, the theatrical tradition in Egyptian lands disappeared during the Middle Ages and was not reborn until the middle of the XNUMXth century. First thanks to the French influence and later to that of the British.

The birth of the modern theater in Egypt

Theatrical performances of European origin influenced the birth and evolution of modern Arab theater which began to develop in Egypt at that time. In those years the first great Egyptian playwrights appeared as Ahmed shawqi, which adapted old popular comedies from the country. These adaptations had no greater pretensions than to entertain the Arab public, without the British colonial authorities paying the slightest attention to them.


Tawfik al-Hakim, the "father" of modern Egyptian theater

However, it is considered to be Tawfiq al-Hakim (1898-1987) really the father of modern Egyptian theater, in the decade of the 20s of the last century. During those years, this author produced about fifty plays of the most varied genres. Today his work is considered to be somewhat outdated, but he is still recognized as a key figure in the theater in Egypt.

The other great figure of the theater in the Nile country is Yusuf idris (1927-1991), writer and playwright with an intense life full of travels and personal conflicts derived from his political activism. He stepped in jail on more than one occasion and some of his works were banned by the dictatorial Nasser regime. He was also forced to leave the country for short periods, fleeing repression.

In the artistic, he managed to modernize the theater in Arabic both in the themes of his works and in the language used in them. His figure is often compared to that of the famous Cairo writer Naghib Mahfuz. Like him, Idris was also nominated for the Nobel Prize, although in his case he did not get such a long-awaited award, staying at the gates.

Among the most modern authors it is necessary to highlight a woman: Safaa fathy, author of the famous work Ordalie / Terreur. In addition to her contributions to the world of theater, Fathy has stood out as a writer and filmmaker, while also publishing several texts of a philosophical nature. Like so many other Egyptian intellectuals, she was forced to leave the country. She currently lives in France from where she has publicly denounced on many occasions the situation of women in the Islamic world.

Main theaters in Egypt

For decades the venue that was the great reference for theater in Egypt was the Khedivial Opera. as El Cairo, the oldest theater in Africa, built in 1869. Years later, in 1921, the no less emblematic theater was built Alexandria Opera House (now called Sayyid Darwish Theater), somewhat more modest in dimensions.

The magnificent Cairo Opera House

Unfortunately, the magnificent Khedivial Opera building was completely destroyed by fire in 1971.

The Egyptian capital did not have a theatrical stage until 1988, when the Cairo Opera. This spectacular building is located on Gezira Island, on the Nile, within the Zamalek neighborhood. It is also part of a larger complex, the National Center of Culture of Cairo and has six theaters, one of them open-air and with a capacity for 1.200 spectators.

Cairo Experimental Theater Festival

The Cairo Opera House hosts every year the Experimental Theater Festival, one of the most important cultural events in the country and in the entire Middle East region.

Poster for the 2018 edition of the Cairo Experimental Theater festival

This festival is celebrated in the month of September and lasts for 10 days. In it, prominent national and foreign playwrights and theater companies are given appointments. All of them make up a varied and colorful poster with several daily performances in the different precincts of the theater.

The actors, make-up artists, musicians, costume managers, directors and playwrights awarded at the Cairo Experimental Theater Festival are awarded a curious statue that reproduces the image of Thot that at the time of Ancient Egypt was considered, among other things, god of the arts. The image that heads the post corresponds to the closing gala of this festival in its 2018 edition.


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  1.   bren said

    Be in Egypt from September 15 to 28 I want to know about upcoming plays, theater companies, artistic workshops, puppets, masks ... thank you