Egypt is a land of stark contrasts: the remains of an ancient civilization are juxtaposed with today’s modern, bustling society; desert landscapes stretch away from the great Nile River on one side, while crowded, chaotic towns and settlements encroach on the terrain on the other side; mud-brick villages stand beside buildings of steel and glass; some wear traditional, long flowing robes while others are dressed in Levi’s jeans and Nike shoes. The sound of the muezzin – the Islamic call to prayer- clashes with
boisterous dance music from clubs and donkeys compete with street vendors and taxis for space on the narrow streets of ancient cities. Certain film locations in Egypt require film producers to leave behind a structured routine and go with the flow, and often, filming in Egypt requires patience! African Fixer will help you navigate the aspects of filming that require patience and flexibility. In between periods of shooting, you can enjoy ‘a million marvelous things,’ as the ancient historian Herodotus wrote in the 5th Century B.C.E.
Marvelous Things About Egypt:
● Greater Cairo is the biggest city in Africa and the Middle East, and it is one of the most populated cities in the world.
● Aswan High Dam is the world’s largest dam and is known as the third sunniest place on earth.
● The Hanging Church is one of the oldest Coptic Orthodox churches in the world.
● The Pyramids of Giza and the Sphinx are the only remaining Seven Wonders of The Ancient World.
● Alexandria, dubbed ‘The City of Knowledge’ by its founder, Alexander the Great, is a historic place that attracts many visitors interested in learning about Egyptian culture.
● Luxor is also one of the most visited places in Egypt, as it was the political and religious capital from 1550 to 1080 B.C.E. The Temple of Karnak is one of the most visited tourist sites in the region and preserves the legacy of interactions between Egyptian dynasties and Greek, Roman and early Christian dignitaries.
● The Khamal-Khalili is the largest bazaar in the Middle East and reminds visitors of scenes from ‘Aladdin’ as they browse through antiques and crafts.
Old Treasures, New Discoveries
The new Grand Egyptian Museum next to the Giza Pyramids that will open in November 2022 will be the largest archaeological museum in the world. While Egyptian tombs and temples have long served as locations for such classic films as The Ten Commandments and The Mummy, recent archaeological finds are sure to attract documentary filmmakers interested in Egyptology.
One of the most incredible recent archaeological finds that will now be housed in the new museum is the dagger of King Tut. While the dagger itself was discovered in the 1960s, a recent archaeological dig uncovered diplomatic correspondence showing that the dagger was a wedding gift from the ruler of the Mitanni Empire (modern-day Turkey). Dr Zahi Hawass, a leading Egyptologist and former Minister of Antiquities, has said that this recent find of diplomatic correspondence “will rewrite what we know of ancient Egyptian history.”
From amazing archaeological finds to its majestic sites, it is no wonder that Egypt is one of the oldest film markets in Africa!
Nevertheless, the ease of filming in Egypt depends on the type of production. Drone filming is illegal, with penalties including arrest and confiscation of equipment; however, African Fixer can arrange to hire a military drone operator if you need aerial footage. While most permits can be obtained within a few days, for shoots on historic sites the government requires a minder to be on set to liaise with local security personnel, and this takes a couple of weeks to arrange.
Safety and The Best Seasons for Filming
Egypt is a Muslim country and while safe, foreigners are expected to respect Islamic culture. While it is alright to wear swimsuits and shorts at the beach, please dress modestly in all other places. It is considered a sign of disrespect for foreigners to ignore the modest dress code.
After a brief period of political instability, the Egyptian government is eager to reassure tourists and visitors that the country is now safe. Locals will follow you around wherever you go wanting to sell you something, offering guided tours or just wanting to know about life in other countries after the Covid pandemic. Be polite, as the locals are just being friendly and eager to welcome back tourists, but do not let anyone accompany you back to your hotel for any reason. African Fixer will arrange all guided tours, and it is advisable that you only use the private cab company recommended for going out at night.
African Fixer will also advise you about religious dates and festivals that could interrupt filming. The Mawlid an-Nabi parade takes place across the country during the fifth month of the Islamic calendar and Leylet en-Nuktah is celebrated in June, just before the start of Ramadan, during which many services are limited or closed. The best seasons for filming are between February to April and September through November. While filming in Egypt may present a few of the same challenges experienced in any African or Middle Eastern location, it has the least expensive day costs for shooting and the lowest talent costs. Many directors use the local talent, as Egyptian production companies provide excellent crews and can source good equipment from Dubai if you are not bringing your own. Egypt’s thriving film industry has made it renowned for some of the best documentaries and high-end television dramas, especially those filmed from private boats or cruises along The Nile, The Suez Canal and the shores of The Red Sea.