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Hella: السّلام عليكم everyone. Hella, here.
Simon: Hi. Simon here for another All About Arabic, Lesson 10: The Top 5 Things to Know About Pop Culture in Egypt.
Hella: Now, let's keep this in mind. As popular culture changes quickly and drastically, this lesson is focused on the most recent pop culture. Please keep in mind this lesson was written at June, 2009.
Simon: In this lesson we'll focus on the top five pop culture icons in Egypt.
Hella: I would start with popular music.
Simon: In Egypt, Arabic style plus pop, hip hop are most common now. It's very popular basically everywhere. A very famous song of this type is نور العين . The Arabic songs have been influenced by the American music, plus Spanish a long time ago and, in some cases, the African style, too.
Hella: Now, with that short introduction to music in Egypt, our number five pop culture icon is music.
Simon: So is the most popular singer in Egypt right now?
Hella: That would be Amr Diab. He's considered to be the king of Arabic songs.
Simon: Interesting. What kind of style does he sing?
Hella: With the Arabic, it's not easy to classify the song style. It's mostly Arabic Egyptian style mixed with a little pop or hip hop. It really depends on the singer.
Simon: Ok. So who are some other artists similar to Amr Diab or have the same style?
Hella: I would say Tamir Hosni and Mohamed Hamaki.
Simon: What song is Amr Diab most well-known for?
Hella: With no doubt, نور العين , "The Light of the Eye."
Simon: I know it, and I love what it means as well. Who usually Amr Diab?
Hella: Well, Amr Diab is liked by a huge majority of people. That includes students of all ages, generations under 45 years old, and the general public.
Simon: Do you find that he's popular outside of Egypt? If so, where? Where else is this person popular?
Hella: Yes, I think he's extremely famous all over the Arabic world, but then so is all the Egyptian singers. Now, what makes him more special is that he's known worldwide as well. He even won a Grammy award.
Simon: Ok, so how about we talk a bit about the movies? What are they like?
Hella: Movies, when they were black and white, they were very simple. Mostly comedy with romance along. Also war movies, as this time was very influencing in the Egyptian history. Not much of action-makers or thrillers at that time. It also depended on famous novels by famous and very talented writers, such as Naguib Mahfouz who won the Nobel Prize.
Simon: I remember seeing a few old movies, and it fits your description. How have they changed?
Hella: Well, now it's mostly action, thriller, comedy plus romance. It can be found all in one movie, by the way. We just call it all-in-one film for fun sometimes. Also, we started having more movies to discuss the current social problems.
Simon: That's very interesting. Are Egyptian movies only popular in Egypt or are they popular elsewhere?
Hella: Mostly yes, as Egypt holds the record for the biggest number of movies made in the Arabic world. What Egypt produces in one year exceeds what the rest of the Arabic world makes all put together throughout the year. But still, you will find some Arabic movies made by Palestinians, Moroccans, and Lebanon for example.
Simon: Great. So I assume that some Arabic movies would be famous worldwide?
Hella: Yes, for sure! You may have seen some recent movies, such as Yacoubian Building, Al Mohager or The Emigrant, and حدّوتة مصريّة , An Egyptian Tale.
Simon: Well with that short introduction to movies in Egypt, our number four pop culture icon is movies. Hella, who is the biggest movie star in Egypt right now?
Hella: Now, that's not easy to answer, but I would say Adel Imam. He's an old and very important and influencing actor. Plus Ahmed el-Sakka, a young action/romance film hero.
Simon: What movies made them?
Hella: Since we're talking about two of them, it would be الارهاب و الكباب , which means Terrorism and Kebab (the famous Egyptian meal) for Adel Imam, and Africano for Ahmed El-Sakka.
Simon: I've actually seen both, and I think they're very good. Have these movies been reproduced in other countries?
Hella: No, both are only produced in Egypt.
Simon: So what made these movies so popular?
Hella: For Adel Imam, he was already famous and well-known, but this movie marks a different era in his movie-making career. It was one of the first films to discuss some social, political, economical, and educational problems in Egypt. All in a very fun and attractive way. Not to be depressing to see, but it raises questions as well.
Simon: I enjoyed watching it a lot. I didn't understand everything it was aiming at, as I didn't know much about the Egyptian society, but later on I knew exactly what he was talking about.
Hella: It's one of my favorites.
Simon: And what about Ahmed El-Sakka?
Hella: As for Ahmed El-Sakka, his movie was probably the first real action movie made that gained the respect of critics. It was also shot in the jungles of Africa. Lots of nature, some romance, great action. It wasn't bad at all for a start.
Simon: Who usually likes them?
Hella: Both are liked by all ages and general public.
Simon: So where else is the person recognized or famous? In what other countries?
Hella: Both are very well known and recognized all over the Arabic-speaking world. Again, it's the same thing as singers. All Arabic actors are known all over the Arabic world. Adel Imam might be known abroad a little bit because of his long history in movies and theater.
Simon: Excellent, Hella. How about popular television? What are some popular foreign TV program in Egypt right now?
Hella: Well, most of what is shown on the foreign TV is shown here at the same time. We have 24, Prison Break, Heroes, Desperate Housewives. For comedies, we also have Friends, which was very popular and it still is. We have Ugly Betty, Two and a Half Men. For programs we have Opra, the Tyra Banks Show, Dr. Phil or Doctors, The Late Show with David Letterman. WE also have all reality TV programs. It's pretty much the same programs and at the same time.
Simon: Are there any shows from Egypt which are similar to those?
Hella: No. I'm afraid whatever is known and famous here is only here. Just the Arabic world.
Simon: So what kind of native television shows are most important now in Egypt?
Hella: I would start with dramas, comedy shows, talk shows, and a very little reality TV.
Simon: Yeah, I've rarely seen reality TV shows. What's a typical show or series like?
Hella: Dramas, it's around 30-part series and usually have a definite end.
Simon: How is this different than some of the television shows in the west? What made this type of show so popular? What show started it all?
Hella: First, we don't have soap dish shows. People like to watch drama knowing there will be some events taking place and that it will be quick as well. They don't want to spend too much time watching it. It's very popular because it's easy shown every month, easy to make and it's not a lot of cost of course. It started with the beginning of the drama-making in Egypt, for the same reasons we just mentioned.
Simon: With that short introduction to television in Egypt, our number three pop culture icon is television. So, Hella, who is the biggest television icon in Egypt right now?
Hella: Nour el-Sherif, a TV actor. Makes movies as well. Plays. Very popular and loved. He has done more than 40 movies, 40 TV series and 10 plays.
Simon: What television show made him famous?
Hella: I would say القاهرة و النّاس , which means "Cairo and the People." It's very old series. It go back to late '60s, probably.
Simon: Who usually likes him?
Hella: He's liked by the general public, for he has been on TV for a very long time. Older generations are used to him. Younger generations respect and love what he does.
Simon: Where else is he recognized or famous? Which other countries?
Hella: All over the Arabic world. He's a true icon for TV series and movies. Also, Nour el-Sherif is most well-known for the TV show called الحجّ متولّي , or as a nickname, ميتو . It's about a man marrying four wives and what goes on with his life and the family, his work. It's a bit funny, discusses some social problems. It's not very common, by the way. I'm not saying it's ok or it's common for men to have four wives here, but it was nice and refreshing to see it. Everybody simply loved it.
Simon: I'd love to watch it someday.
Hella: Well, I think you will soon. They keep showing it all the time. Ok. Now, in Egypt, people are very passionate about sports. One of the most popular sports in Egypt is football, or as known in U.S.A., the soccer.
Simon: Ok, but why is this particular sport so popular Egypt? Since when did it become popular?
Hella: Well, it has been popular for a very long time. Since the British occupation at 1883. Ever since it was entered here, it was loved at once.
Simon: With that short introduction to sports in Egypt our number one pop culture icon is a sports figure. Who is this biggest or most famous sports figure in Egypt right now?
Hella: No question about it, Abu Trika.
Simon: What sport does this person play?
Hella: Football. He is one of the best players ever.
Simon: Yes, I've seen him for sure. He's a great player. Is he strictly a sporting figure?
Hella: Yes. He focuses all of his energy on playing football. He might appear in some commercials every now and then maybe on a TV show, but really that's all.
Simon: Who usually likes Abu Trika and why?
Hella: Everyone of all ages and genders. He's very polite and decent. No scandal or any kind of misbehavior has been ever attached to his name. He's an excellent player and an amazing person, really. Looking at how crazy Egyptians are about football, they would sure love him for the great job he has done, plus he plays at the biggest club in the Middle East and most popular as well, which is al-Ahly.
Simon: Is he also popular abroad? If so, where?
Hella: Yes, I would say he's popular because the club he plays at, al-Ahly, had won club of the century by the FIFA and it's found also on the game and he's one of the figures that you find there. When we also played for the African Cup and we won it, he was one of the main reasons we got it. Again, popular, famous all over the Arabic and probably the African world. Not so sure about the foreign countries though.
Simon: Well, thanks for that. I've learnt a lot today.
Hella: Thank you, Simon. I'm glad you did!
Simon: Thanks very much.
Hella: So, see you on our next lesson, guys. مع السّلامة
Simon: Bye-bye.

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Do you have any favorite cultural icons or movies in Arabic?