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For Those Who Sail to Heaven
Directed by Elizabeth Wickett
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This film presents a multi-faceted portrait of the mūlid festival of Sīdī Abu’l Hajjāj, an extraordinary example of the richness and longevity of Egyptian tradition in the unique landscape of Luxor temple. 

The mūlid of the Sufi saint, Sīdī Abu’l Hajjāj, takes place annually at his mosque within the Luxor Temple complex in a celebration of the sheikh’s birth-feast and his baraka (or life-force). 

The Theban festival known as the ‘Beautiful Feast of Opet’, the precursor to the mūlid, was celebrated in 1500 BCE in what is now modern Luxor.  During this ceremony, the sacred boats of the gods would be processed from Karnak to Luxor, and the king’s divine power would be renewed through a marriage with a divine consort. Remarkably, images of this procession and its various rituals have been engraved for posterity on the temple walls. 


In the film, the principal participants describe the various rites and rituals performed for Sīdī Abu’l Hajjāj during the mūlid, and highlight various legends central to their devotion, including the story of Sitt Tarzah, former Roman/ Coptic matriarch of Luxor, who converts to Islam as a result of the sheikh’s divine power.

This festival was filmed every year from 1983 until 1986 and inevitably, since that era, aspects of the mūlid festival have changed. For Those Who Sail to Heaven, therefore, is a historical document, especially as it includes scenes from the remarkable footage of the mūlid shot by Harry Burton for the Metropolitan Museum in 1922. 

“Wickett has carefully portrayed the intertwining of ancient and modern so important in Egyptian life but often missing in Western portrayals of Egypt. We have the voices of the local participants as well as the voice of producer Wickett who narrates the film and provides a scholar's analysis. The result is a rich film with many levels of meaning." —Middle East Studies Association Bulletin

Margaret Mead Festival, Museum of Natural History 1991
American Anthropological Association (AAA) 1991
Royal Anthropological Institute Film Festival 1991
Middle East Studies Association (MESA), USA 1991
American Folklore Society (AFS) 1991
Society for Visual Anthropology Film Festival 1991
International Society for Folk Narrative Research, India 1995

48 minutes / Color
English; Arabic / English subtitles
Closed Captioned
Release: 1990
Copyright: 1990

For colleges, universities, government agencies, hospitals and corporations

This DVD is sold with a license for institutional use and Public Performance rights.

Subject areas:
Anthropology, Cultural Anthropology, Egypt, Middle East, Sociology

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