EDIT: This post has been updated to include links to the videos of various events sited. If you have the time, you will enjoy this post even more if you click on all the links and watch them. Read it through one time first, then go back and watch all the links. And remember - We watched all 69 episodes so you wouldn't have to!
Disclaimer: I am not by any means making fun of this woman. I actually enjoyed her movie and thought it would be fun to give it an actual "review".
What would you do if you had been in Egypt for 3 weeks, had only 8 days left, an endless supply of battery power for your video camera, and your children were back in the US? Well, you would do what Aisha Hossam did and film your every waking moment for the duration of your trip. The result would be a 69 part documentary uploaded to YouTube in increments ranging from 17 seconds to 9 minutes and some odd seconds. Very odd seconds. "A Trip to Egypt an American's Point of View" is the title of this masterpiece and my husband and I sat through the entire saga in what turned out to be a seven hour marathon session complete with 4 cups of coffee and 2 bowls of popcorn. Anyone who has ever sat through Schindler's List, Reds, or the Green Mile can tell you that it's not as bad as it sounds. Or is it?
If the jerky strobe cam does not make you feel like vomiting after the first 3 episodes, every other minute or so Aisha unleashes a shrill laugh that is a cross between Fran Drescher and Beavis and Butthead. Seriously, this girl cracks herself up over everything. Even sexual harassment and hymen restoration surgery are laughable topics for her. There is no script here just fantastic ad-libbing skills with very little dead air time. Aisha effortlessly coaches her supporting cast Ahmed, and uncle Nabil from Sweden through their dialogue with prompts such as "Say Hi. Say Hi again. Say bye. Say bye again. Say hi to America." She often talks directly to the camera addressing her children - an approach that not only gives the film a documentary feel, but engages the viewer. The banter is so mind numbing that when she falls down the stairs in Episode 25 you find yourself breaking out into an inappropriate hysterical laughter. Interestingly enough it is the only point in the movie where Aisha herself, does not laugh. She is a lovable, jubilant, perpetually perky woman (who I pray I never have to sit next to on a Transatlantic flight).
Despite a slow start, the movie slowly but surely sucks you in like a vortex and makes you care about the characters. Aisha guides us play by play on a tour of Cairo including a trip to the Mogamma building, the the airport to pick up Uncle Nabil from Sweden, and the telephone office. Along the way she imparts pearls of wisdom such as:
- The buildings are older than my great-grandfather.
- The whole country of Egypt is nothing but a big desert with some buildings and trees added.
- Big boats come into the Suez Canal and make waves.
- The buildings are made of stone, the pillars are made of stone and the streets are made of cobblestone. So if there is a fire it would be ok.
As the days progress and her time in Egypt winds down, we will ride a micro bus with Aisha to Ismailia where she will convince her co-stars to take off their clothes and run into the Suez Canal (what she thinks is the Mediterranean Sea) in March. In the most daring and dramatic move in the film, Aisha removes her higab and abaya and runs into the water fully clothed. She then proceeds to make sand angels and bury herself up to the neck all while worrying about being drowned by one of the big waves. Afterwards, the entire cast winds up in a club where they chow down on Koshery and Aisha poignantly observes that "everywhere I look I see Lipton Tea".
As the end approaches and her last day in Egypt is upon her, the emotion increases to climactic levels as our characters fight to repress the tears as they prepare to say good-bye to each other. An in-depth discussion about public beheadings and Sharia Law in the final few minutes of the film seems grossly misplaced and anti-climactic. The ending was a sweet, touching and sincere good-bye delivered beautifully by Ahmed. However, I found it to be a bit abrupt leaving us wondering what happened when she got to the airport - perhaps leaving the door open for a sequel. I would have liked to have seen her off at the airport with the leading man waving as she passed through the metal detectors.
Despite the frequent outbursts of hysterical laughter from our hero, there are several genuinely laughable moments in the film like when she says her name wrong and states on more than one occasion that she travelled 4,000 miles from the US to get to Egypt (this would have put her somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic). Uncle Nabil's character makes an appearance late in the film and although he does not have much screen time, he has impeccable comedic timing and animated responses that make you wish he was in more scenes. His broad range of acting abilities were further demonstrated when he was called upon to play the straight man in the scene in the coffee shop downtown where he gets Aisha to open up about the real reasons she came to Egypt.
Throughout the film there are strategically placed moments where Aisha declares that "this is why I don't want to live in America anymore". One such moment was in a small park in Cairo where she looked around then declared matter of factly that "there is nothing as beautiful as this place in America". Although she claims to be well travelled (even revealing some of the destinations at the end) she often appears provincial and overly obsessed with re-enacting scenes from Titanic.
All in all the movie delivers what it promises in the title: a trip to Egypt an American's point of view. If nothing else it gives you a real time glimpse into life in Egypt. When you start watching though make the coffee and popcorn first. Once you start you won't be able to stop.
Part 1 of 69 appears below. To continue viewing please go the Aisha's YouTube Channel and click on "view all" for her video uploads then scroll all the way down to the bottom.
Map of Amman from 1956 - Here’s a really cool map from 1956. For more information, head over to Tobzeh. How small the city was.
3 months ago