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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Finding Middle Eastern Movies on Home Video

Table of Contents



Some Titles to Look For

If you're new to watching Middle Eastern movies on home video, you may feel overwhelmed at knowing where to start.

Here are some titles that I have enjoyed, and would recommend to others who are just beginning to explore movies from the Arabic-speaking world. All of these are available in versions with English subtitles:

  • Afrita Hanem (The Genie Lady). Light-hearted comedy. Stars Samia Gamal as a genie and Farid al-Atrache as her master. Includes several dance scenes.
  • Sigara wa Kass (A Glass and a Cigarette). Drama about a wife/mother who battles alcoholism. Several excellent dance scenes by Samia Gamal.
  • Abi Foq al-Shagara (My Father Is Up a Tree). One of the most popular Egyptian movies ever made. Stars Abdel Halim Hafez. Dance scenes by Nadia Lotfi.
  • Shatie el Gharam (Shore of Love). Drama starring Tahia Carioca as a rich man's former mistress who tries to come between him and his bride. Excellent dance scenes.
  • Khally Balak Men Zouzou (Pay Heed to Zouzou). Drama about a dancer who goes to college to build a better future for herself. One of the most popular Egyptian movies ever made. Dance scenes by Souad Hosni.
  • Tamra Henna (Henna Flower). Drama about a Ghawazee dancer who falls in love with a wealthy young man. Dance scenes by Naima Akef.

Samia Gamal

PHOTO CREDIT: Samia Gamal dances for Farid al-Atrache in a scene from Afrita Hanem (The Genie Lady).



Pitfalls to Watch Out For

Read descriptions carefully to ensure that the movie you're thinking of buying will meet your needs. Pitfalls to watch for:

  • Make Sure It Will Work On Your Equipment, Part 1: NTSC vs PAL. Many of the Egyptian movies I have purchased on DVD are manufactured using the PAL video format. Historically, televisions and video equipment in the U.S. played a standard known as NTSC, while those in Europe, South America, and much of Asia/Pacific played a different format known as PAL.
    • In countries where the PAL format has prevailed historically, most newer CD players and televisions are able to play both NTSC and PAL. Therefore, people in Europe, Australia, and South America with newer equipment should be able to play these videos regardless of which format they use.
    • Computers can play both NTSC and PAL. If you plan to watch the movie on your computer, you'll be fine.
    • Some newer U.S. DVD players will support both NTSC and PAL formats, then feed NTSC output to the television. If you have one of these, then a PAL video will work on your equipment. Check the documentation that came with your device, or do some research on the web.
    • Some newer televisions in the U.S. will play either NTSC or PAL

Tahia Carioca

PHOTO CREDIT: This image of Tahia Carioca comes from a scene in the motion picture Mufattish al Aam (The Inspector General).

  • Make Sure It Will Work On Your Equpment: Part 2, Region Encoding. Movies distributed by the major players in the worldwide movie industry often use technology to restrict where the movie can be viewed. Their reason for doing this is so that they can negotiate distribution contracts with certain business partners to offer exclusive distribution rights in certain countries.
    • Many DVD's are sold without this restriction. Smaller producers don't do business through such distributors, and therefore don't have a need to place restrictions on where their videos can be sold.
    • You can tell whether a DVD contains a restriction by looking for the words "all regions" or "region-free".
    • Some DVD players offer a way to remove the region restriction, usually through some kind of special set of keystrokes on the remote control. Before buying a DVD player, spend some time searching the web to find out whether it offers such a region-free option. Search the web for the model number of your DVD and the words "remove region code from dvd player".
    • Software exists to allow you to play DVD's from any region on your computer. I use one called AnyDVD on my Windows machine, and I have been very happy with it.

Samia Gamal

PHOTO CREDIT: Samia Gamal dances in a scene from the motion picture Sigara wa Kass (A Glass and a Cigarette).

  • Check for Subtitles if You Need Them. If you don't speak Arabic, check the description of the movie carefully to make sure it contains English subtitles. The primary market that many of these sites sell to is Arabs, and many of the videos do not contain subtitles. In my experience, older movies often do come with subtitles, whereas newer movies often do not.
  • Double-Check Whether The Movie Contains What You Hope It Will. If you hope to purchase a movie that contains Oriental dance scenes, it's not enough to choose one that features a famous dancer in the cast.
    • Most of Tahia Carioca's movies made after 1960 do not include any dance scenes, even those (such as Shatie el Hob / Love Beach) in which her character is a dancer.
    • In Samia Gamal's movies, many of the dance scenes feature Euro-American dancing rather than Oriental. For example, in Afrita Hanem / Genie Lady, only one of Samia's dance scenes is Oriental in style. The other scenes look as though they could come from any Hollywood musical of the era.

Nagwa Fouad

PHOTO CREDIT: Nagwa Fouad made her silver screen debut performing this dance scene from the movie Sharia el Hob (Love Street).



Where to Buy These Movies

I have purchased items from all of the vendors in this list. I have found all to provide quality product and prompt shipping.

Company Name

Web Site

Best Way to Search It

Arabic DVD's Click here for a list of those with subtitles
Maqam By the Arabic movie title
Rashid Sales  
Pyramid Imports Click here for a list of those with subtitles



Available on Netflix

Afrita Hanem Fatma Mother of the Bride Glass and a Cigarette

These are some movies from the Arab world available from Netflix which contain dance scenes:

  • From Egypt
    • Afrita Hanem. Stars Samia Gamal and Farid al-Atrache.
    • Fatma. Stars Oum Kalthoum in the title role. The movie is mostly a vehicle for her singing. Has a dance scene near the end.
    • Mother of the Bride. Stars Tahia Carioca.
    • A Glass and a Cigarette. Stars Samia Gamal. Several satisfying dance scenes.
    • Dunia. Stars Hanan Turk.
  • From Tunisia
    • Satin Rouge. Stars Hiam Abbass.



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