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The Desert in Your Air-conditioned Living Room

One movie a week for a year in the heat, whether it’s in Dubai, Jeddah, or Tucson. In English unless otherwise noted. All available on VHS and/or DVD. Arranged by movie release date.

Intolerance. 1916. 178 minutes. Silent. D. W. Griffith, director. Four stories of life and history, notable for Babylonian sequences.

The Sheik. 1921. Silent. Rudolph Valentino. For its time, Rudy’s sensuality (despite the stiff acting) caused a sensation. Arabian decorating also became popular.

The Son of the Sheik. 1926. Silent. Rudolph Valentino (his last film). Better than The Sheik.

The Mummy. 1932. This is the original and can still make you jump. Boris Karloff is Imhotep. There have been many remakes and sequels. The 1999 Mummy is pretty good with Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep.

The Arabian Nights. 1942. John Rawlins, director. Edgar Barrier, Leif Erickson, Maria Montez. Sheherazade is cast under a spell by the evil caliph.

Casablanca. 1942. Michael Curtiz, director. Humphrey Bogart as Rick Blain and Ingrid Bergman as Ilsa Lund. Ex-pats waiting to escape war-torn Europe in Morocco. A classic with excellent supporting cast.

Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves. 1944. Arthur Lubin, director. Scotty Beckett, Maria Montez. Exploits of Caliph of Baghdad’s son.

A Thousand and One Nights. 1945. Alfred Green, director. Phil Silvers, Cornell Wilde.

Sinbad the Sailor. 1947. Richard Wallace, director.
Maureen O-Hara, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. as Sinbad, Anthony Quinn as evil Emir.

Samson and Delila. 1949. Cecil B. DeMille, director. Hedy Lamarr, Victor Mature.
Remade in 1996 with Elizabeth Hurley and Eric Thal in title roles.

Bagdad [note spelling]. 1949. Charles Lamont, director. Maureen O’Hara.

The Flame of Araby. 1951. Charles Lamont, director. 74 minutes.
Jeff Chandler: Bedouin chief Tamerlane, Maureen O’Hara: Princess Tanya of Tunis.

David and Bathsheba. 1951. Henry King, director. Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward.

Son of Ali Baba. 1952. Kurt Neumann, director. Tony Curtis, Piper Laurie.

The Egyptian, 1954. Edmund Purdom, Jean Simmons, Victor Mature.

Land of the Pharoahs. 1955. Howard Hawks, director. Jack Hawkins, Joan Collins. Complications as the Pharoah builds his pyramid tomb.

Solomon and Sheba. 1959. King Vidor, director.
Yul Brynner, George Sands, and Gina Lollobrigida as the Queen of Sheba.

Lawrence of Arabia. 1962. 228 minutes. David Lean, director. Peter O’Toole unites Arabs to defeat Turks during World War I.

Cleopatra. 1963. Joseph Mankiewicz, director. Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton. Lavish retelling of entanglements between Cleopatra, Julius Caesar, and Marc Antony. The most expensive movie ever made for its time.

She. 1965. Robert Day, director. Ursula Andress, Peter Cushing. Set in Palestine.

Khartoum. 1966. Eliot Elisofon, Basil Dearden, directors. Charleton Heston as Charles Gordon, Laurence Oliver as Mahdi. Colonial politics in Sudan.

The Battle of Algiers. 1966. Fight for freedom from French rule. Serious documentary-feel movie, not for the faint of heart.

The Wind and the Lion. 1975. John Milius, director. Sean Connery as Berber chieftan, Candice Bergen. Based on true story of American woman’s kidnapping.

The Man Who Would Be King. 1975. John Huston, director. Michael Caine and Sean Connery as British soldiers reinventing themselves after abandonment in India.

The Message. 1976. Moustapha Akkad, director. 220 minutes.
Anthony Quinn, Irene Papas. Explains Islam tenets and history.

Lion of the Desert. 1981. 206 minutes. Moustapha Akkad, director. Anthony Quinn, Oliver Reed. Hero defends Libya against Mussolini (Rod Steiger).

Raiders of the Lost Ark. 1981. Stephen Spielberg, director. Harrison Ford as adventurer Professor Jones seeking to take Ark of the Covenant from the Nazis. Introduced Petra to worldwide audiences.

Sadat. 1983. Two VHS tapes. Richard Michaels, director. Louis Gosset, Jr., as Sadat.

Door to the Sky. 1989. Morocco.

A Dangerous Man: Lawrence after Arabia. 1991. Made for television. Ralph Fiennes. Takes up where Lawrence of Arabia left off. A more complex portrait of Lawrence.

From Mesopotamia to Iraq. 1991. Iraq.

Aladdin. 1992. Animated. Ron Clements, John Musker, directors. Disney production. Robin Williams, Scott Weinger, Lea Salonga. Music quite good. Jeremy Irons’ Jafar (the bad guy) can be pretty scary for kids. The Return of Jafar was the direct-to-video sequel.

The Tornado. 1992. Lebanon.

The Extras. 1993 in Arabic with English subtitles. Nabil al-Maleh, director. Poor young Syrian couple’s difficult courtship.

Black Hawk Down. 1993. Ridley Scott, director. American military fiasco in Somalia.

Stargate. 1994. Roland Emmerich, director. Kurt Russell, James Spader.

Abraham. 1994. Joseph Sargent, director. Richard Harris as Abraham, Barbara Hershey as Sara. Filmed in Quarzazate, Morocco.

The English Patient. 1996. Anthony Minqhella, director. Ralph Fiennes as archaeologist Lazlo de Almasy mapping the desert, falls into doomed love affair with Kristin Scott Thomas as Katherine Clifton. “Cave of the Swimmers” and other desert cinematography quite stunning.

A Summer in La Goulette. 1996. Tunisia. Three girls have relationships with men of different faiths.

Living in Paradise. 1998 in French and Arabic with English subtitles. 105 minutes. Bourlem Guerdjou, director. Algerian man brings family to his construction job in France with disastrous results.

The Prince of Egypt. 1998. Animated. Story of Moses from Disney. Val Kilmer voices Moses.

Christine. 1999 in Farsi with English subtitles. Iran.

The English Sheik and the Yemeni Gentleman. 2000. 76 minutes. Bader Ben Jirsi, director. Man returns to Yemen to rediscover his home with an Englishman who has lived in Yemen for 16 years.

Good Kurds, Bad Kurds. 2000. 79 minutes. Kevin McKiernan, director.

Rules of Engagement. 2000. William Friedkin. Yemeni Arab mobs attack US embassy for no apparent reason. Film is notable for its racist, cartoon cutout portrayal of Arabs as bad guys.

Daughters of the Sun. 2000. 92 minutes. Maryam Shahriar, director. Woman disguises self as boy to work in carpet workshop.

Joseph—King of Dreams. 2000. 74 minutes. Animated. Disney’s direct-to-video sequel to The Prince of Egypt. Ben Afflect voices Joseph.

Kandahar. 2001. 85 minutes. Mohsen Makhmalbaf, director. Farsi and English with English subtitles. Woman returns to Afghanistan to find sister.

Fables of Bah Ya Bah. 2001. 60 minutes. Animated. Ammar Al-Shorbaji, director. Six short stories.

The Last Supper. 2002. 96 minutes. Fereydoun Jeyrani, director. Love and revenge.

Rana’s Wedding. 2002 in French and Arabic with English subtitles. Set in Palestine.

Lost Boys of Sudan. 2003. 87 minutes. Megan Mylan and Jon Shenk, directors. Two teenage Dinka boys go from Sudan to America.

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