Evaluation of “The Yacoubian Building” Overview

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Evaluationof “The Yacoubian Building”


TheYacoubian Building is a classic movie inspired by the famous 2002novel by a famous Egyptian novelist known as Alaa Al Aswany, a formerdentist in the Yacoubian building. It revolves around thedissemination of the lives of people presumed to be the inhabitantsof the Yacoubian building, by highlighting their social, economic,political and religious conflicts in the modern day Egypt (Murray1082). The movie highlights a saddening characterization of a nationundergoing some serious social changes in addition to the personalconflicts revolving around the main characters. This is cleverlybrought out as the author tries to balance the old Egypt order withthe modern Egypt society. It highlights the once magnificent buildingin Cairo that housed the cream of the society in addition to being asymbolic building of prestige- the Yacoubian building. This settingwas before the Nasser regime rose to power, a change that completelytransformed the social standings negatively. The evidence from themovie is the inhabitancy of the Yacoubian building by people from allsocial standings an aspect that the movie commentator observes aswell changed the setting of not only the once prestigious buildingbut the country as well. The movie progresses through a clearrevelation of the masked main characters’ real lives, where seriousprostitution, drugs, corruption, violence, sexual exploitation andterrorism are articulately highlighted. All these are happeningsoutside the perceived face of the once decent Yacoubian buildingdwellers. The theme of hypocrisy is as well rampantly outlined as agay editor by the name Hatim ignores the plea to have his newspaperhighlight the gay-related issues. The movie as well highlights theplight of Zaki, a scion of a rich aristocratic family who lives withhis sister and has decided to do nothing of significance with hislife other than whoring. This is an aspect that downplays theimportant aspect of his family tree, a prestigious point upon whichhe prides his identity.

Zaki`ssister, Fanous, is keen on denying him of his inheritance by cleverlyplotting to rent him a tailor shop at the roof of the Yacoubianbuilding. This conniving plotting is amidst her strong Christianstanding. The character Hajj Assan is brought out as an illegalbusinessman who succeeds and politically maneuvers his way up thesocial ladder. He has marital issues that compel him through hisImam`s advice to marry a young second wife, something that he does intotal secrecy. Taha is also highlighted as a poor janitor`s sonliving in the rooftop of the Yacoubian building. His poor backgrounddenies him of a chance to join the military an opportunity he thoughtfit to get out of his poor life. His sorry encounter with the law andthe realization that his girlfriend is a subject of sexualmolestation drifts him to Islamic radicalization. Buthayna, who wasformerly Taha’s girlfriend, is constantly changing jobs andcontinues to be sexually molested by her successive elderly maleemployees. She later adopt the prostitution nature to her advantageand results in wearing short skirts as well as disassociating herselffrom Taha, who had started growing a religious beard. In as much asthe movie`s mood is sad amidst all the social conflicts, it has asatirical aspect as the characters seems to be intimately intertwinedwith their character`s of choice and the social aspects that theirsociety has given them. The Yacoubian Building movie is a greatmodern day Egypt story embodied with great character, background, andmusic that dilutes the sad mood that engulfs the deterioration of asuperior past and the yearning for a better future.


Themoral decadence as witnessed across the various characters in themovie The Yacoubian Building depicts the repercussions of a highlycorrupt and repressive regime (Boutrig 48). The novel’s authorhighlights a disheartening case of the societal moral decadence asorchestrated by the shortcomings of the government. For instancethrough the character Zaki Pasha, we witness a case of a crumblingpast figures (Boutrig 79). He lives off his rich aristocratic parentsby living an idle life and basking in the past glory of his parent’sriches. This gets him into a life of prostitution and lack of socialresponsibility. Hypocrisy and contradiction is another theme that iswidely highlighted (Boutrig 98).From the film, we witness HatemBey, another rich scion from an aristocratic family who lives ahighly dignified life during the day but at night he engages inforbidden homoerotic by exploiting the social-economic standings of ayoung soldier named Abd Rabbo by giving him money. Additionally,Hatem refuses to publish gay issues in a newspaper his family ownswhen he is himself gay. The same is seen through a richbusinessperson Hajj Azzim, who engages in the illegal drugs trade andpretend to be religious because that what is expected of him by thesociety. Prostitution and sexual exploitation are other themes thatdominate the movie as witnessed across various scenes (Boutrig 84).For instance, Bousaina a beautiful young girl who hails from a humblebackground is sexually exploited by her rich employees in her questto give her family a decent life.

Shelater turns the exploitation into her lifestyle by trading sexualadvances for monetary gains thus resulted in serious prostitution.Souad, a young widow, is as well exposed to sexual exploitation as wewitness Hajj Azzam take advantage of her poverty to force her into arelationship where he has completely limited her against havingchildren. He later sends goons to terrorize her into miscarriage whenhe realizes she is pregnant with his child and later abandon her. Thetheme of corruption is as well highlighted in the movie as seenthrough characters like the lawyer Fikri Bey, politicians, Zaka’ssister and Bousayna (Murray 1087). Zaka’s sister and her lawyerFikri hatch a plan to use Bousayna to deceive Zaka of his rightfulshare of the inheritance. The same is seen as Hajj Azziam corruptshis way into the government parliament by bribing the partyleadership. He later becomes a victim of the same corruption anddeception when the party leadership uses his drugs business againsthim. This was after he failed to bribe them with the money he hadillegally obtained from investors. Religious extremism and terrorismare as well witnessed through Taha as he joins an extremist groupciting failure to be enrolled in the military and his girlfriend’ssexual exploitations as the reason (Street 43).

Personalcritical idea

Themovie The Yacoubian Building portrays a society that is completelyindifferent of the decadence that revolves around it. This isostensible since the survival of mankind is largely dependent on thegreed and corruption that plagues the town (Street 43). The entiremovie revolves around a theme of personal needs conflicting withpersonal morality and dignity. The need for money and riches has farsurpassed the need for self-respect and dignity. This in a major wayhas made the characters in the movie The Yacoubian Building to engagein highly disgusting and demeaning endeavors. Notably, the majorityof the characters in these demeaning experiences are women. Forinstance, the rich businessperson Hajj engagement with the youngwidow Souad is akin to a business arrangement as compared to a realrelationship (Aswany 54). The disgusting ordeals that transpirebetween the two later are to facilitate a poverty free life forSouad`s nine years son (Aswany 126).

Thisneed versus self-respect is again witnessed through Abduh, whoengages in homosexual activities with Hatim to feud for his family.He tells Hatim that if he could, he would have left the army, but hewould as well be arrested and his family would be in trouble (Aswany78). He engages in prostitution with Hatim to escape abject poverty.Busayna on the other side trades her dignity to support her familyand siblings. This drives her to tolerate highly demeaning advancesfrom her boss Talal in the store room as her mother’s words echoesinto her brain, ‘’a clever girl can fend for her family andmaintain her dignity.’’ (Aswany 45). Taha as well is changed bythe needs to compromise his high moral standards. For instance havinggrown up as a brilliant and ambitious boy, his dreams of joining themilitary are shattered by the lone fact that he hailed from a poorfamily. This pushes him to religious extremism to seek solace. Asthey talk with his sheikh, he reveals that the torture at a policestation had killed him thus he was not afraid of death anymore(Aswany 190). In all these instances, the victims are often peoplewho had prior high moral standards, whose values have beencompromised and negatively transformed by the harsh and corruptsociety.

Implicationsof this debate on the current situation and for the future

Thecurrent debate is healthy as it highlights a plight of a society thatis corrupting the morals of its people because of corruption, forcingthem to engage in socially unacceptable practices such asprostitution and corruption. It highlights the impact of a corruptregime on the society at large citing the political, religious andeconomic negative impact upon such a system. This debate helps thesociety to address challenges that compel people to engage in varioussocially immoral activities and helps the society to come up withways to avert the same. This way, people are aware of the impendingchallenges and can control these challenges without pushing people tocompromise necessarily their moral standings to the societal needs.Though a classic, the movie ‘The Yacoubian Building’ not onlyhighlighted a plight of a brilliant past and doomed present andfuture in Egypt. It as well sensitizes and forewarns the current andfuture community of the danger of a morally decayed society and theimpacts upon the society. The human hunger witnessed in the movie andthe needs that compel the characters in the movie, depicts a societywhere social injustices are prevalent. It also serves as a warning onany society that would wish to go the same route.


AlaaAl Aswany, The Yacoubian Building, Translated from the Arabic byHumphrey Davies, HarperPerennial, (2006) 1-255pp. Print.

Boutrig,Ottman. Agentsin Translation: Bridging Gaps or Consolidating Stereotypes. The Caseof the English and French Translations of Alaa Al-Aswany’s TheYacoubian Building.Diss. Concordia University, 2012. Print.

Murray,Stephen O. &quotConceptions About and Representations of MaleHomosexuality in the Popular Book and Movie, The Yacoubian Building.&quotJournalof Homosexuality60.7 (2013): 1081-1089. Print.

Street,Steve. &quotThe Yacoubian Building (review).&quot TheMissouri Review30.1 (2007): 143-144. Print.

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