With its ancient history, cosmopolitanism, strong Islamic traditions, modern pan-Arab political and intellectual history and relative freedom, Egypt is the cultural capital of Arab world. The Arab television and cinema is dominated by the Egyptian television and film industry as is popular Arabic music.
The Egyptian Ministry of Culture presides over a variety of western-style cultural institutions such as the Cairo Opera House, the National Puppet Theater, the Pocket Theater and the National Symphony, as well as the country’s many museums (see Museums section under Tour guide).
Egypt has also been a fount of Arabic literature having produced some of the greatest 20th century Arab writers from Taha Hussein and Tawfiq Al Hakim to Nobel prize-winning novelist Naguib Mahfouz. Egypt has also produced some of the greatest modern artisans, including the brilliant jewellry designer Azza Fahmy and her equally gifted sister Randa Fahmy, who single-handedly revived the art of Mamluki metalwork.
Egypt has had a strong cinematic tradition since the 1930s. Egypt has the only major motion picture industry in the Arab world, with Cairo is its capital.
The influence of the Egyptian cinema on the Arabs is as profound as that of the American cinema on the rest of the world. The golden age of Egyptian cinema was in the 1940s and 1950s. During that period Omar Sharif emerged as a major international star and his former wife, Fatin Hamama, reigned as the queen of Arab cinema.
Directors such as Youssef Chahine have gained wide respect internationally and many of Egypt’s leading literary lights, including Tawfiq Al Hakim and Naguib Mahfouz, have written for the cinema.
Today, the reigning superstar of the Egyptian cinema is comedian Adel Emam, whose political satire has earned him the respect of serious film-goers and occasionally ire of the government. Other film stars include Ahmad Zaki, Mahmoud Abdul Aziz and Yusra.
The modern atmosphere of profiteering and heavy entertainment taxes have served to drastically lower the standards of modern Egyptian cinema.