DIRECTED, PRODUCED, WRITTEN AND EDITED BY TIM COLEMAN
This 70 minute documentary is one of the few films ever made about the amazing Sufi/Dervish festivals in Egypt called Moulids.
This documentary is not currently available on DVD but
click on the clip adjacent to see some of the edited highlights.
Tim Coleman filming the Zikr in a Sufi festival - Cairo 1986
BACKGROUND TO MAKING FILM
The documentary was originally commissioned by Channel 4 TV in the UK, but I ran foul of the Egyptian government who made it impossible for me to film these festivals. So I abandoned this commission and returned to the country without a large crew. Armed with small cameras, given to me by Sony, I posed as a tourist and shot the film myself.
In many ways this improved the film greatly as it enabled me to gain access to areas I would never have been able to film with a big crew.
When I finished the film it premièred at one of Britain's top universities - The School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS) in London. It has subsequently become part of many ethnographic film courses in British universities.
RIFAI DERVISH SWALLOWING SNAKES
EGYPT AS MY CONSTANT MUSE
Egypt has long been a source of inspiration to me. You will discover this ongoing fascination in all the other sections of this website. Not only have I made this documentary but I've also written articles for numerous magazines, made radio programs for the BBC and taken many photographs in this endlessly intriguing country.
In the Photographic section you will discover the fruits of many years labour photographing the Moulids. The best of these images I am currently aiming to get published in a book next year.
I have been photographing these festivals for several decades. I find them deeply inspiring on a spiritual level and an endlessly rich visual vein to tap into.
I first discovered them in the mid 80s. I had finished making a radio program for the BBC and wanted a new subject to explore. A friend suggested I go to the Moulid of Sayid el Bedawi which takes place in October every year in the city of Tanta.
YOUNG WOMAN IN A ZIKR
Knowing nothing about these festivals I got the shock of my life when I arrived. I was confronted with over a million devotees squeezed into every spare inch of the city. Many had come from the furthest reaches of the Islamic world to attend.
I had never before seen such passionate displays of faith. Sufis twisted and turned for hours in an ecstatic embrace of the divine. Some so deeply in trance they could not feel skewers thrust through their bodies or red-hot coals place in their mouths.
MAN IN FULL TRANCE STATE AFTER HOURS IN ZIKR
As you can see from the documentary I made on the subject attending these festivals is not for the faint hearted.
The closest analogy in Christianity would have to be the Pentecostal church just for the sheer ferocity and commitment with which believers engage in their faith.
In the Moulid tents are open all day and night to feed anyone who is hungry for free. This generosity of spirit and the loving sense of brotherhood that you find at these festivals is a beautiful antidote to all the horrors of Islamic extremism that floods our media daily.
But alas, in the west, very few people have heard of these wonderful festivals devoted to community and compassion.
(Please have a look at the article I wrote on the Moulids if you want more detail in articles section).
THE EGYPT CONNECTION AND THE POSSIBLE RE-DATING OF THE SPHINX
My long standing love affair with Egypt began by studying ancient Egypt.
Originally this interest began with research into the controversial work of R. A. Schwaller de Lubicz, the French occultist and student of sacred geometry whose twelve-year study into the art and architecture of the temple of Luxor and his remarkable book: The Temple in Man.
Later I became fascinated with the culture and beauty of contemporary Egyptian life. And especially the vibrant and remarkable Sufi-Dervish festivals called Moulids. (See article)
I have traveled to Egypt numerous times to work on Magazine articles, Radio programs for the BBC, photographic projects and to shoot the documentary: Beyond the Pyramids Lie Fairgrounds of the Faithful.
As far as my interest in Ancient Egypt, I was introduced to de Lubicz’s work, by reading ‘Serpent in the Sky’. Written by rogue Egyptologist, John Anthony West, a brilliant writer and original thinker who made de Lubicz’s complex ideas accessible to the lay reader.
I subsequently approached John about doing a documentary on de Lubicz and the whole debate surrounding the dating of the Sphinx, which was soon to become a huge topic of debate. And continues to be one to this day.
De Lubicz thought that Ancient Egyptian civilization began far earlier than orthodox Egyptologists believed. In his writing he suggests that the Sphinx may have dated from this period of extreme antiquity. A suggestion West took seriously. This culminated in a collaboration between West and Boston University geologist Dr Robert Schoch, who after careful surveys of the Sphinx and surrounding area concluded that the Sphinx was probably built around 7000-5000 BC, much to the horror of orthodox Egyptologists who insisted it was constructed by the Pharaoh Khafre around 2500 BC.
Schoch’s conclusion was based on geological analysis of the Sphinx enclosure which he believes shows unmistakable signs of erosion from rain water, improbable given the climatic conditions since Khafre’s times.
Article I wrote on this debate for theX-Factor magazine
I never did get the documentary off the ground, (these were later made by NBS and Channel 4 in the UK) but I was the first journalist in the UK to write about the re-dating of the Sphinx for the Independent Newspaper. I then went on to write numerous other articles about this issue and on the controversy surrounding the building of the pyramids at Giza.