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Maha Maamoun –Domestic Tourism II

Domestic Tourism II is the second phase of a project about tourism, consumption and popular culture in Cairo. The first chapter features pictures inspired by stereotypical postcard images. The second is a film made of clips from Egyptian cinema featuring images and sound bytes about the pyramids, monuments whose presence eclipses the architectural and social nature of this megalopolis. Focused on Egyptian production, this chronological compilation of a national symbol reflects the social reach of movies. The 35 clips featured, descending and ascending like pyramid geometry, reject Western exoticism with a more political, nearly nationalistic approach – “I am Egyptian, whose essence is pure, who built fame with its pyramids,” comments one of the characters during the 15th minute. This formal structure paradoxically adds to the global narrative, each scene responding to the precedent with the use of visual or sonorous repetition. Days turn into nights through emotional chronology, while insisting on the passage of time, this eternal witness to change, much like the pyramids. A traditional background to these local films, they provide testimony to the population’s preoccupations over the past half-century. The flighty films of the early 21st century make way for more dramatic scenes of political and social movements, climaxing with this 1959 scene honoring the middle class. The movie then changes, telling the story of the economic and political crisis. “These Kings were the best in the world, they built the pyramids to provide work for their people” – before concluding optimistically: “It is our country and we won’t leave it. We will fight for it!”. Removing these timeless monuments from their artistic and commercial frame – popular films on one side, post cards on the other – highlights their role in a contemporary social-political context.

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