My first memory of the cinema was in cinema Concorde El Salam (the one next to nadi el-shams), it was the premiere of Karim Abdelaziz’s Abo Ali and I was four years old. The following summer, we were vacationing in Hurghada and I watched Yana Ya Khalti at least three times in the cinema because I loved it. El-Nazer came out when I was born and I can’t remember when I first saw it but I remember sitting in my grandma’s living room (at the time of zero talat sab’at khamastalaf), specifically on her lap as she brushed my hair and laughed along. I just laughed along with her. The thing is, Egyptian cinema has had a profound impact on us 2000s kids. Our entire childhood experience is littered with now-iconic films and the ideas they perpetuated, the nokat and effehat of which haven’t gone out of style, yet.
El Nazer (2000)
Eh! Kollo darb darb mafesh shteema! Starring Alaa Waleyy Eldeen, Hassan Hosny and Ahmed Helmi, it tells a story of a boy substituting his father as a school principal. The lack of experience didn’t mix well with this newfound job, resulting in the best laughs in our childhood. The infamous Lemby makes an appearance, creating a ton of effehat in his wake. Atef and Ensherah are our dysfunctional couple goals, seriously, they set the bar high. Not to mention the “Neswan! Hogoom!” line that has become a battle cry for our feminist activists and advocates during the (ongoing) Egyptian feminist revolution.
Short w Fanela w Cap (2000)
Let me just express my awe at the choice of Egyptian movie titles. They’re out of this world. Three friends cook up a disaster together, and that’s an understatement. Khaled (Ahmed El Sakka), helps a minister’s daughter escape his control and wrath. While Khaled is living everything romantic and enjoying life to the fullest, his friends are paying for his chivalry and fun by facing the typical anger of an Arab father. This is a romantic comedy that paints a giddy silly smile on everyone’s faces. For real though, the nostalgia is hitting a tad too strong now. What I wouldn’t give to curl up and watch one of these movies and without the distraction of everything modern.
Sing with me: “habibi ya ashek ya hor zay el ter…”
Didn’t want to sound like a teta, but anyway, let’s carry on.
Ga’ana Al Bayan Al Taly (2001)
Henedy took the Egyptian film industry, yet again, by surprise with his ‘01 masterpiece: Ga’ana Al Bayan Al Taly. Nader, a wanna-be TV presenter, applies for his dream job. There, he meets Effat—Nader and Effat were an iconic, romantic duo…that was the first we saw of “love”. There’s a light political streak in the movie that, in my opinion, makes it stand out. If we grew up watching such a movie, no wonder that many of us write/read for Teenn Times—we were raised fighters. If you haven’t watched it, you need to. If only to see Henedy and Tork each crossdressing in a beit daa’ra.
“Law da hayesbetlek enny……bahebbeeeeeekkkkk“
Honestly, what were they thinking creating an unachievable “manly” icon? Jumping off cliffs and battling lions for your love? Really? We so didn’t need that growing up. However, I can’t deny that I was a huge fan growing up, I know most of the script word for word, I would stand in front of the mirror and imitate Mona Zaki. Ahmed El Sakka plays an ambitious vet who inherits a safari park and has to help his cousin save it from being shut down. Badr and Gamilla have always been the relationship we grew up wishing we’d have fully knowing it was not possible. Not that it is healthy, but our pre-teen selves didn’t know better.
El Basha Telmeez (2004)
I just saw a facebook event/meme called: “Al bahth a’n motatawe’een li amal shellet Tarek Cabbo a’shan hayatna teb’a laylo laylo“. El Basha Telmeez is an iconic movie starring Karim Abdel Aziz, Ghada Adel, Ramez Galal, and Hassan Hosny, among others. Bassiouny is a cop sent undercover to a private university to investigate potential criminal activity by an unknown group of students. Follow Bassiouny as he gets attached, developing a brotherly bond with Hamza and Maya, becoming Tarek’s nemesis, and falling in love with Ingy. That movie came out in 2004 and it’s kind of sad that it is still extremely relatable in terms of its comedy-coated issues.
Hob El Banat (2004)
Layla Elwi, Hanan Tork, Ahmed Ezz were rising stars back in ‘04ー this movie was a major highlight and a step upwards in their careers. The movie tells the story of three half-sisters trying to live in ‘harmony’ after the death of their father, only to find the love they longed for with each other after a long journey of epic – and rather comic – fails. It’s a romantic cliche, but it’s a cliche that we all grew up watching, loving, and fantasizing about. Does anyone else still sing Naseeni Wana Gambak when they’re melancholic on girls nights?
Sana Oula Nasb (2004)
Even if you’ve never watched Sana Oula Nasb, everyone – and I mean everyone – knows the words to Khaled Selim’s Balash El Malama, which he sings in this movie. Starring Ahmed Ezz, Nour, Khaled Selim, and Dalia El Beheri, this is a line-up of golden stars at their starting point, ‘the good old days’ is a bit too accurate here. Khaled and Ahmed move to Hurghada to make a living out of conning tourists, however, they meet Nour and Dalia and – predictably – their lives are forever changed.
Fool El Seen El Azeem (2004)
Starring the amazing Henedy, Fool El Seen El Azeem tells the story of Mohi, who is sent to China to participate in a culinary competition so he could escape the wrath of the gang his grandfather and uncles have made enemies of. There, he meets the gorgeous Lee and – in true Egyptian film fashion – falls in love and is put through an extreme and intense amount of trials by her family and the Chinese gang to win her heart and her family’s approval. Mohi eating a sorsar is a scene that will forever be burned behind my eyelids.
Abo Ali (2005)
A love story for the downtrodden and an accurate representation of our socio-economic issues. Hassan – played by Karim Abdel Aziz – resorts to theft when he can’t find enough jobs to feed his family, when the authorities catch up to him, he makes a run for it. While on the run, he runs into Salma – Mona Zaki – who is also escaping a figure of authority in her life, a sexually abusive stepfather. It’s a gripping a love story for sure, and one of the most celebrated relationships in the modern history of Egyptian cinema. I’ll just go grab a cup of hot chocolate and cry to Li Kol Asheq Watan.
Banat West El Balad (2005)
First off, Hend Sabri and Menna Shalaby are an iconic power duo the likes of which we are blessed to see, because a partnership like this only happens once in a single generation. Starring Khaled Aboul Naga, Mohamed Nagaty, Menna Shalaby, and Hend Sabri, this film is centered in Downtown Cairo with all its nooks and crannies, telling their intersecting stories and social interactions. Menna and Hend work as a saleswoman and hairstylist respectively, and it is through them that we experience West El Balad at that time, living with them their daily experiences until they stumble upon true love.
I have nothing to say, I just stan them so hard.
Yana Ya Khalti (2005)
Any Mohamed Henedy film is automatically comedy; it’s almost intuitive. This movie captured the laughs of Arabs for a while. Taimoor decides to dress as a woman and become Khalah Noosa (a dagala) to try and get the blessings of his love’s mom. It seems like Henedy always plays the desperately single role… ah, I feel represented. In fact, Henedy saying ‘ana khayfa’ as Noosa right before the first act/meeting is the biggest mood ever.
P.S the song Henedy sings in the prison is a feminist anthem to boot, the lyrics are literally: “bil sala ‘al nabi ehna elneswa me’at3een el regala bel marra” which sort of explains why we’re single…
Fi Mahatet Masr (2006)
ٍReda was as typical as they come—a young man who graduated college and couldn’t really find a well-paying job. While at work, he meets a girl who comes from a wealthy family—the favour she asks him was a recipe for disaster, but seemingly his only way out of his situation. By all means, it’s a movie that gets you hypnotized with the ease of dialogue and the many laughs. The infamous “na7n nakhtalef ‘an el-akhreen…khales” expression is a whole different mood that I think we all can relate to, to some extent. Karim Abdelaziz (cue fangirling, again) shines along with Menna Shalaby (also cue fangirling).
Matab Sena’y (2006)
This is the perfect mix between drama, comedy and romance. Mimi is a hardworking and goofy guy who gains the trust of a wealthy businessman named Farouk – played by Ezzat Abu Ouf – when he saves his daughter Zaina from drowning. Mimi is then hired as part of the house staff, teaching and essentially babysitting the young girl, meanwhile he starts to develop a crush on Mai, the resident secretary – played by Nour. Drama ensues when Farouk passes away and leaves his company in charge of Mimi, who then has to face wrathful nephews and board members to keep the company floating. I think our favorite take away will always be the relationship Mimi had with Zaina, we all wished we had a glorified babysitter who played with and sang with us when we were left alone.
Can y’all say “arnabna fi manwar anwar, w arnab anwar fi manwarna” 5 times?
Khaleej Ne’ama (2007)
I remember Bassem Yakhour visiting me in my nightmares after this movie and Ahmed Fahmi coming to my rescue every time, I have no idea how my seven year old self fashioned herself to be Ghada Adel, but that’s child imagination for you. I also remember Mobinil signing the cast on for Ads throughout the year because it was such a big success. Starring Ahmed Fahmi, Ghada Adel, Esseily, Randa El Beheri, Edward, and Mai Kassab. The story revolves around a band that decides to play a concert in Sinai to promote tourism after devastating terrorist attacks. They meet the girls, love takes its hold, but news arrive saying that terrorists seek to corrupt the concert, and so it’s a race with time and heartbreak as they try to save their event and loved ones.
Keda Reda (2007)
Starring Ahmed Helmi and Menna Shalaby (she’s a queen), the plot is about a father of triplets who decides to ‘merge’ them so to speak into a single person. So, at home, his sons are Brince, Bibo, and Semsem – out in the big bad world, all three are one person: Reda. A different sibling goes out each day, pretending to be Reda, but what no one counted on was that they would all fall in love with the same girl, and date her simultaneously…without her knowing ‘Reda’ is actually 3 brothers. Personally, Nada – Menna Shalaby – holding her sandwich and prioritizing it over Reda is a forever mood, I never felt more represented.
Ramadan Mabrouk Abu El Alamein Hamouda (2008)
I think my first crush ever, like, real life crush was on Ramzy, Amir El Masry truly cemented himself as every pre-teen/teen girl’s crush with this role. Who doesn’t want the cute popular boy with a British accent? (I’m not quite sure that crush has ever faded, if I’m honest). Ramadan – a strict and nearly unbearable Arabic teacher – leaves his poor village and is personally invited by the Minister of Education himself to teach the various privileged kids of an international school, including three Minister sons. Cyrine Abdel Nour – or in this movie, Naglaa – plays the role of an iconic singer, who the boys are always sneaking out to see instead of studying, and so Ramadan camps out in her residence to make sure the boys don’t visit, falling in love along the way.
“Or’os yakhoya or’os” is a line none of us can ever forget.
Ameer El Behar (2009)
Amir, played by Henedy, is a young man who’s a model representation of an Arab male who can’t take care of himself, studies at the Naval Academy. Throughout the movie, we see him trying, and almost always failing, to impress the father of the girl he loves. Kheyara – as he calls Sherry Adel – breaks his poor heart when she chooses his best friend over him, and so he takes his friends for a collective sad night on his dad’s yacht, where his family catches up to him and they take off into the sea. Trouble ensues when their yacht is taken over by pirates. “Ana za’lan, dahhakny ya qaseer” is a line none of us can ever forget, espcially because it is followed by Henedy dancing and singing ‘Kotomooto ya helwa ya batta‘.
Al Thalatha Yashtaghaloonaha (2010)
This movie is a roller coaster. Starring Yasmine Abdelaziz, it told a story of a die-hard nerd who, quite literally, lived by the books. It was unusual for the leading role to be a woman a decade or so ago, so this movie was one-of-a-kind. We get to see Yasmine falling in love with three different men who are all rather extreme in their ideas and lifestyles. It seems like she never got to learn and got her heart broken every single timeーnot that I can’t relate. It was also the second time for us to see then-bad boy (and every middle schooler’s crush) Amir El Masry on our cinema screens.
Etha’et Hob (2011)
Starring Menna Shalaby, Sherif Salam, Yousra El Lozy, and Edward; this is yet another love story (this is Egyptian cinema) between a magazine writer and a radio host. When they met, they both acted like party animals who loved to drink and smoke just to please each other, having made assumptions about each others’ lives. The entire film is a classic rom-com type, where we watch them interact and stumble, cracking their masks with each new meeting. The hilarious scenes of Edward and Farida teaching both Laila and Hassan how to look badass and “cool” are the best part of it all. A lesson in staying true to ourselves, at a relatively young age, some of us realized that whoever will love us, truly, will love us as we are.
Assal Eswed (2011)
Just hearing the movie title, we can’t help but reminisce of all the alashat we had from Emy Samir Ghanim’s iconic first meeting with Ahmed Helmy. “Enta ezai taktahim alayya el kelaaaaas”, “shut up estoobid”, and “sank you fairy much” are lines we’ve used in countless memes – classist as that behavior was/is. Masry’s slap in the face moments and reality hitting scenes are what make this movie so funny and memorable, because it portrays our culture as Egyptians and our eftekassat authentically. The year of the production and the obvious political insinuations weren’t lost on us as kids at the time, either, no?