Family & “Bain al-Qasrayn”


When translated into English, Bayn al-qasrayn literally means “between two palaces.” This movie was based off the novel titled Bayn al-qasrayn, which was published in 1956 depicting the cultural and political transition Egypt was undergoing at the time. The story of Bayn al-qasrayn occurred during 1917-1919 in Cairo, beginning in World War I and ending in the year of the nationalist revolution, two events that seriously impacted Egypt’s historical movement from then on. This movie, as well as the novel, intricately outlined the society and culture of Cairo during this time period, detailing the traditional and patriarchal life of the al-Jawad family. However, one thing it did do exceptionally well is to tie in the traditional life the al-Jawad family led into the political movement occurring that was against the British occupation of Egypt.

Fahmy was considered the middle son of the al-Jawad family and was an intelligent and politically active law school student. He was active in protesting against the British occupation of Egypt despite his father, al-Sayyid Ahmad, commanding him not to. The family, but mainly the women and younger children, tended to act out of fear of al-Sayyid Ahmad. Al-Sayyid Ahmad came off as a tyrannical, patriarchal ruler of his family. He had to be in control of their actions in order to prevent any shame damaging the family’s reputation. He was also hypocritical however. Al-Sayyid Ahmad considered it permissible for him to go out and indulge in the usual forbidden pleasures because he was the leader of the family, of course. But Fahmy would not accept this. Fahmy was swept up in the nationalist movement, protesting the British occupation because of his love for his country. He would not stand by and take his father’s word as law like the rest of his family. Fahmy needed to speak out for his rights and for his country. In the traditional, patriarchal family this is something that is not often seen, especially for this time period. The father’s word is supposed to be seen as the law and Fahmy went against this tradition, braving exile from his family to stand up for his country and nationalist beliefs. Even though Fahmy acted in spite of his father’s words, he was still devastated to learn that his father was not the man he thought he was .

While Fahmy was protesting the British occupation, the youngest child Kamal is befriending the British officers occupying Cairo and living across the street from their home. His budding friendship with the soldiers scared the al-Jawad family and not without good reason. As the nationalist movements grew in fervor, more dangerous events started to occur. Fahmy began to be more involved in these nationalist protests. The family was starting to dissolve with the marriage of Khadija and Aisha. Yasin was taking after his father in his immoral acts of lust and drinking. Amina, the mother, was continuing to remain in her sphere of solitude and obedience to al-Sayyid Ahmad. Then, after the marriages, the rebellious attacks and demonstrations against the British, al-Sayyid Ahmad was arrested and Fahmy died in a demonstration at the hands of a British soldier. The traditional, patriarchal family was no longer a cohesive unit. Fahmy’s death could be seen as an act of martyrdom but his death was also a symbol of the family’s dissolution from the unity they once might have had. His death could also be seen as an symbol of the family’s transition into the next life phase as well. Fahmy’s death had a sense of finality to it but it also forced them to address the question of how the al-Jawad family would transition into its next phase with the death, arrest of al-Sayyid Ahmad, and the marriage of Aisha and Khadija.