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9 Must-Watch Documentaries Dipping Into The Ins and Outs of Different Lives Within Cairo

Each from a perspective, and each of its own story and characters, these 9 documentaries are a must-watch for a study into the different lives that fill Cairo.

el banat dol

AT NIGHT, THEY DANCE (2011), Isabelle Lavigne, Stéphane Thibault: An expository and exclusive portal into the day-to-day lives of a belly-dancing family in Cairo, the film follows a matriarch and her daughters in raw sequences on and off the job.

GIRAN (2009), Tahani Rached: A dip into Cairo’s tree-dubbed Garden City, one of the capital's most pivotal neighbourhoods. The documentary is an exploration of the now-and-then of its residents and dwellers, villas and rooftop living quarters, and embassies and boulevards.

CAIRO DRIVE (2013), Sherief Elkatsha: A cordial affair captured from the POV of everyone’s least favourite aspect of Cairo: its traffic. It explores Cairo before and throughout its revolution in tales both humorously vehicular and political.

ZELAL (2010), Marianne Khoury, Mustapha Hasnaoui: Harrowing, sobering, and sensitive, Zelal is a hard-hitting report on the enclosed world of two of Cairo’s psychiatric hospitals and their residents.

GARBAGE DREAMS (2009), Mai Iskandar: Filmed over the course of four years, Mai Iskandar follows three teenage boys born into Cairo’s Zaballeen at a time when the trash labyrinth is at a crossroads.

FORBIDDEN (2011), Amal Ramsis: Intimate and cathartic, the documentary explores, both rapidly and calmly, the whats and whys of all everything Egypt deems to be forbidden.

EL BANAT DOL (2006), Tahani Rached: With equal amounts violence and freedom, this film is a portrayal of the lives of six young women living on the streets of Cairo and an exposé into the harsh workings often invisible to indifferent eyes.

ELECTRO CHAABI (2013), Hind Meddeb: The very interior of Cairo is a vibrant world, as seen through Hind Meddeb’s view of the city’s prolific Chaabi music scene, its artists and its parties.

CITY OF THE DEAD (2009), Sergio Tréfaut: Serene but in turmoil, Cairo’s necropolis has a soul of its own. Shot over five years, this film shows El Arafa cemetery not as an infamous enclave, but in an expository of its inhabitants that have made homes out of the tomb houses serving as a cornerstone between the living and the dead.