Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Cairo Station (1958)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Cairo Station (1958, Egypt) (aka The Iron Gate, or Bab el Hadid)

In Youssef Chahine's breakthrough, daring crime melodrama (censored and banned for 12 years in its native Egypt for its lurid and provocative content), nominated as Best Foreign Language Film (Egypt's entry) - the first great Arab film:

  • the opening pre-credits, voice-over narration by news-agent Madbouli (Hassan el Baroudi) - amidst a montage of bustling, noisy locomotive trains coming and going with hundreds of travelers moving about: "This is Cairo Station, the heart of the capital. Every minute one train departs and every minute another one arrives. Thousands of people meet and bid farewell. People from North and South, natives and foreigners, people with and without jobs"
Newspaper Vendor Qinawi
Train porter Abu-Serih
Drink Vendor Hanuma
  • the depiction of a microcosm of Egyptian society in the course of a single day - the lives of three characters located at the Cairo train station, involved in a love triangle:
    - sexually-frustrated, degenerate and perverted Qinawi (director Chahine), a limping, impoverished newspaper vendor (residing in a ramshackle one-room shed near the station, plastered with cut-outs of pin-up girls on the wall), hired for work by Madbouli, and madly infatuated and obsessed with
    - feisty, sultry, and flirtatiously sexy Hanuma (Hend Rostrom), who illegally sold cold drinks from a bucket to train passengers - she was romantically engaged to
    - muscular and burly train porter Abu-Serih (Farid Shawqi), a union organizer pushing for better wages
  • the continual stalking of Hanuma by Qinawi - capped by finding her at a public outdoor fountain, where he gave her his mother's solid gold necklace ("It's your wedding present"); when she began to lead him on, he then proposed to her and described his fantasy of living with her as the perfect couple ("I'm asking you to marry me...I love you so much. I'll take good care of you...We'll get married and go back to my village. And I'll introduce you to everyone. You'll be the loveliest woman there...I'll build you a house by the sea...far from the crowds, and trains...We'll work the land, have some cows and live happily ever after"); finally, when she had enough, she rebuked him: ("Just like that?...Find yourself another girl...Why me?...The heat's gotten to your head. Have a cold drink....Serious? Come off it. A house? Cows? You call that serious? Don't have a penny to your name....Use your head. Look around. I work hard for a living selling drinks and you limp around the station selling newspapers. Get a grip on reality. I've had enough...You call your pennies a living? Look at Abu-Serih...I am marrying him. Can you compete with him, Gimpy?"); he demanded the necklace back: "You don't deserve it"
  • two other side stories: young ingenues - with the boyfriend about to leave for four years, and the ongoing newspaper tale of the brutal and unsolved murder (the "Rasheed Murder") of a young woman found nearby whose mutilated body was in a blood-stained trunk without head or arms; the murderer had used either a saw or a butcher's knife
  • the railway barn sequence, when Hanuma offered sex to Abu-Serih in the hay as she leaned back and displayed her voluptuous figure; anguished and jealous of their affection, Qinawi stood nearby outside and listened to the two making love - while clutching a Coke bottle in front of him; he turned away (paired with a sudden camera cut to a metaphoric shot of a sagging joint of a railway track under the weight of a moving train, signifying Qinawi's mental stress); he smashed his glass Coke bottle against the wall in torment
Train Porter Abu-Serih with Hanuma in Hay
  • in the next ominous sequence, obviously inspired by the "Rasheed Murder" case, Qinawi purchased a long butcher knife from a vendor
  • and in a stunning scene with dramatic fast-edited shots (pre-dating the shower scene in Hitchcock's Psycho (1960)), he stabbed a woman in a dark warehouse that he thought was Hanuma, who had come to pick up her drink bucket; believing the female was dead, he then dragged and locked her body into a wooden crate-trunk that was supposed to contain Hanuma's trousseau for her impending wedding to Abu-Serih
  • the tense sequence as Qinawi watched the heavy wooden crate with the body of the female victim (with blood dripping out) carried by porters onto a train, when he feared that they would realize it carried a body -- in fact, the female victim was not dead, but discovered alive - and she was able to identify Qinawi as her assailant
Qinawi Holding Hanuma Captive With a Butcher Knife in Railyard
  • in another stunnng sequence, Qinawi chased Hanuma in the railyard, and threatened to stab her in the head (and the two were almost run over by a train in reverse on the tracks), to keep a crowd from apprehending him; to subdue the insane man, his boss Madbouli was urged to come forward and promise that he could marry Hanuma: ("Why are you upset? I'll let you marry Hanuma. I've got your wedding present in my pocket. We'll have the wedding tonight, but first get off the rails. Qinawi, my son. Tonight is your wedding night. I'll be one of your witnesses. I'll throw a big wedding for you. I'm talking about your wedding, Qinawi. Don't you believe me? Let her lie here and rest for a while. Come along with me. Put on your wedding costume. It's your wedding, son. It'll be the best wedding ever. There will be music, lights, singing. Only the best for you. You'll be the groom, son. Come, put this on. Come on, that's my boy. Put your arms in the sleeves. There you go, fine. Fine, now the other sleeve. Stand tall, bridegroom. Qinawi, my son, the bridegroom") - Qinawi was tricked into putting on a strait-jacket before he realized what was happening - and he struggled as he was being led away

Cairo Station

Qinawi's Pin-Ups

Qinawi with Hanuma at Fountain

Young Ingenues

Qinawi Eavesdropping on Hanuma with Abu-Serih

Qinawi Purchasing a Butcher Knife

Stabbing Motions

Watching the Heavy Crate with Body Inside Loaded on Train

Bloody Hand Coming Out of Crate, Revealing Wounded Woman Inside


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