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Modern Arts in Egypt

Modern Arts in Egypt

Egypt with its political, intellectual and ancient history is considered the cultural capital of the Arab world. Egypt has a variety of modern cultural institutions such as Cairo Opera House, the National Puppet Theater, the Pocket Theater, the National Symphony, the Egyptian Museum of Modern Art apart from the rest of the country's many museums.


The new seven-storey Opera House at the Gezira Exhibition Grounds was inaugurated in October 1988, and it is an architectural masterpiece of Islamic design. The opera house was designed by a team of Japanese and Egyptian architects. It is equipped with the most sophisticated audio-visual systems and combines other cultural installations such as the Nile Hall for the Arts, the Modern Art Museum and the Planetarium. The Opera House itself consists of

The Main Theater, a closed hall containing 1200 seats, is used for opera, ballet and classic music performances. The Second Theater is also a closed hall containing 500 seats and is used for various purposes including film festivals and conferences. The Third Theater is an open one containing 1000 seats. There are other halls, some of which are used for training and rehearsals, in addition to the Museum and the Library containing references pertaining to them most significant artistic works.

The Egyptian Museum of Modern Art displays more than 10,000 paintings and sculptures that represent the development of Egyptian art movement from the pioneers of the early 20th century to the contemporary art trends.

The Arab television and cinema is dominated by the Egyptian film industry as is the Arabic music and literature. The influence of the Egyptian cinema on the Arab world is compared to that of the American cinema on the rest of the world.

Directors such as Youssef Chahine have gained international respect and recognition and many of Egypt's literary figures, including Nobel Prize winner Naguib Mahfouz, have written for the cinema. Egypt's strong cinematic tradition dates back to the 1930s, with the golden age being in 1940s and 1950s.

The same period was the golden age for the Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum, who was famous all over the Arab world. She became a spokeswoman for various causes. She managed to get governmental support of Arabic music and musicians, endowed a charitable foundation, and after the Egyptian defeat in the 1967 war, she began a series of domestic and international concerts for Egypt. She travelled throughout Egypt and the Arab world, collected contributions and donated the proceeds of her concerts to the government of Egypt. Umm Kulthum was entertained by heads of state and in interviews she repeated her views concerning the importance of support for indigenous Arab culture.

Since 1992, an oriental music festival has been taking place in the Opera House. The festival allows the discussion of a number of relevant issues such as the future of oriental music, the multiple-voice approach in oriental melodies, and the effect of electronic musical instruments on oriental ones. The gathering serves to link the Arab countries through their various arts and lays great emphasis on the Arab identity.

Egypt also produced some of the greatest 20th century Arab writers like Taha Hussein and Tawfiq el Hakim. Taha Hussein was blind and poor but he managed to overcome many obstacles and be accepted in a newly established secular university in 1908. He was the first Egyptian, and the only member of a mission sent by the government to succeed in obtaining his BA from Montpellier University and then his Ph.D. from the Sorbonne. He was granted honorary doctorates from the universities of Oxford, Madrid and Rome. Through his own will and craving for knowledge, he grew to be the leader of the Arab cultural renaissance.

As for the best known and most studied Arab novelist in the Anglophone world, it is Naguib Mahfouz who is given the title, with dozens of novels to his name, collections of short stories, studies of his work, the increasing number of doctoral theses, and an enormous number of articles in literary and academic.

Last Updated on Sunday 16th January 2011

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