A short documentary shows how warehouse dance parties, rooftop pop-and-lock sessions, and motorcycle stunts help young Egyptians reclaim neglected spaces.

Young Egyptian men furiously pop and lock atop a crumbling high rise. Down a desolate highway, one of them stands up on his speeding motorcycle. In abandoned warehouses, others bounce and rap, decked out in basketball jerseys and bling.

“Here, I escape my mind,” an unidentified narrator says over a dark beat. In Selim El Sadek’s new documentary, The Youth Culture of Cairo, “here” is at the margins of the Egyptian capital.

Cairo is a chaotic place—“out of control,” even. For years, the city’s bad urban practices have compounded with political instability to create conditions where most of its residents don’t have access to affordable housing, jobs, and transportation. It’s developed into a place where only the elite few can live comfortably.

But beneath this layer of political and urban dysfunction, and in response to it, a movement of young artists and musicians has been simmering. In his film, El Sadek presents a slice of that life through glimpses of Cairo’s underground rap and dance scene. “At a young age, we've experienced anger, victory, hope, defeat, and unimaginable grief,” the director writes on Nowness, the video platform where his film is showcased. “This rapidly changing mixture of feelings has caused confusion but helped mold our identities into what they are today.”

In Egypt, hip hop culture has emerged as a way to protest oppression and reclaim discarded urban spaces. It’s what the art form was born in The Bronx to do, and that’s why it has been such an influential force across the rapidly urbanizing world, from Shanghai to Sao Paulo.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Smoke from the fires hangs over Brazil.
    Environment

    Why the Amazon Is on Fire

    The rash of wildfires now consuming the Amazon rainforest can be blamed on a host of human factors, from climate change to deforestation to Brazilian politics.

  2. Graduates react near the end of commencement exercises at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, U.S.
    Life

    Where Do College Grads Live? The Top and Bottom U.S. Cities

    Even though superstar hubs top the list of the most educated cities, other cities are growing their share at a much faster rate.

  3. An aerial photo of downtown Miami.
    Life

    The Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Aren’t What You Think

    Looking at the population and job growth of large cities proper, rather than their metro areas, uncovers some surprises.

  4. Transportation

    Atlanta’s Big Transit Vote Is a Referendum on Race

    As suburban Gwinnett County weighs a MARTA expansion, changing demographics and politics may decide the Georgia capital's transportation future.

  5. a map of London Uber driver James Farrar's trip data.
    Transportation

    For Ride-Hailing Drivers, Data Is Power

    Uber drivers in Europe and the U.S. are fighting for access to their personal data. Whoever wins the lawsuit could get to reframe the terms of the gig economy.

×