The Night of Counting the Years, Egypt 1969, director Shadi Abdessalam

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One of the most famous movies of its time, The Mummy, also known as ‘The night of counting the years’ is directed by Shadi Abdel Salam in 1969. The Arabic version, Al-Mummia, is considered to be the most significant film by the Egyptian Critics.

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Film’s story line and message:

The movie is shot near the ancient Thebes, which is recognized as the burial places of the kings of Egypt. The story revolves around a clan that lived in the mountains, known as the Horrabat. The clan has lived for generations by shredding works of art and a number of decorations from a burial mound identified only to them, and then used to put them up for sale to the merchants.

Later on the leader of the tribe passes away, his two sons, refuse to carry on the tradition of selling the stolen things. Therefore, one of the sons, the elder one, is assassinated by his uncle. The younger son, Wannis goes to the authorities and tells them about the actions of his uncle. In the end, the soldiers bring an end to the entire tribe of Horrabat’s by removing all the coffins to Cairo (Gönül Dönmez-Colin, 2007, pp. 25)

The main message that can be extracted from the movie is not to allow the people of tribes to steal the antiques and the precious ornaments from the legally undiscovered tombs and sell them to earn money. Also discontinue the business at the expenditure of stopping the stream of wealth to the deprived individuals. The movie develops into an analysis of the significance of protecting the history from the possible cultural abusers.

There is a potential in the theme. It is a clash among the straight-thinking civilization of the tribe for whom the dead are the lifeless and—in a real Nilotic phase—the starting place of their existence; and the superior, unfriendly concern of Cairo with protecting the past.

Egyptian people and their ancient heritage:

The movie gives a prominence between the relation of the tribes with the treasures, along with the Egyptian people and their Ancient heritage. The picture removes all the aspects of differentiation on the basis of class. Class developments of the Egyptian civilization, predominantly inside the majestic environment, compel the undersized rural community to look upon the antique works of art as the resources of endurance, a method in which authority of the clan is their secret.

Arab Egypt and the pre-Arab past:

Arab Egypt is the Arabic name for Misr. It is usually counted as a country within itself. While pre-Arab past is the Egypt’s virtual separation. Here most of the people are living in the Nile Valley and Nile Delta.  Either side of the valley has a desert which produces a very high amount of educational distinctiveness.

National Culture:

The film portrays the culture of the Egyptians. The movie shows the individualistic or collectivist aspect of the Egyptian culture. It also shows that the societies there have masculine culture. The nation can be categorized on the basis of high power distance and low power distance. Another important feature of national culture is the context culture. Furthermore, propinquity and self-expression is another essential variable of national culture.

Analysis of the film:

Mise-en-scene: Most of the scenes in the movie move on a slower pace. But due to the beautiful locations used, these scenes don’t let the viewer to miss a single moment in the film.

 Visual composition and Editing: Its slow speed, extraordinary camera positions and outstanding colors present the movie a fantastic and illusory superiority.

Language: The original movie is shot in Arabic and is also available in English translation. The dialogues that are uttered in pure Arabic, give a certain flavor to the motion picture. The classical Arabic is an extremely extraordinary and strange characteristic of an Egyptian picture. This further adds to the significance of unreality.

Music: The music of the film is done by Mario Nascimbene’s eerie. The entire movie contains slow themes. These themes provide a complete combination to the scenes of the picture. The music of the picture is more towards a classical category; slow-moving but absorbing.

Traditional arts and forms of expression:

The movie is based on the real chronicle of the detection of 40 Royal Mummies in 1881 in Thebes, which is known as the capital of the Pharaonic Empire. For over more than three thousand years, the mummies had reclined peacefully, until a few archaeologists from the Antiquities Department in Cairo become aware of the fact that several things bearing regal names from the 21st family were continually emerging on the traditional black market. It is majestically a conflict with the vagueness of prehistoric customs and the problems of building an alternative involving the unknowns of the history and the future.

By presenting a legend that investigates into multifaceted relations among archeological grave thieves and Egyptians, the movie confronts European descriptions that associate the elimination of antique Egyptian works of art with statements of “liberty” or “methodical evolution”. It gives more than an effortless disapproval of persons and organizations that raised and carried Egyptology. The fundamental theme of the movie is discovering the Egyptian cultural individuality, a difficult uniqueness that depends on the combination of Pharaonic history, Arabic language and Islam.

Artistic works and Politocal/Historical Events:

Thartharah fawq al-Nil [Adrift on the Nile] (1971) by Hussein Kamal is a version of a legend by Naguib Mahfouz, and like the narrative itself it merges specific study of Egyptian civilization with a traditional hint. Iskanderija… lih? [Alexandria… Why?] by Chahine was another work worth mentioning because it gave a new name to the traditional Egyptian music. (Amin Farzanefar, 2008, pp. 1)

One of the prominent events the influenced the movie was Egypt’s imperial expansion northward and southward until the Pharaoh’s power. Another event that had an impact on the movie was the war of 1967 in which Israel was defeated. This event gave Egypt a chance to regain its identity.


Gönül Dönmez-Colin. 2007. The cinema of North Africa and the Middle East. Published by Wallflower Press

Farzanefar, Amin . 2008. The Revolution in 35mm – A Voyage Round the World of the Films of ’68. Retrieved on 17th May’ 09 from


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The Night of Counting the Years, Egypt 1969, director Shadi Abdessalam. (2017, Feb 20). Retrieved from

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