In Search of Oil & Sand
In Search of Oil & SandOriginal Title: Nafat wa Turab
Director: Wael Omar Sayed el Ahl, Philippe Dib
Egypt, United Arab Emirates | English, Arabic
| Colour and B&W
Soon after the Black Saturday of January 1952 when Cairo burned and witnessed massive
rioting, an emerging star from Hollywood by the name of Frances Ramsden came to town.
She integrated into the vibrant social life of Egyptian society, particularly the Zohreya
Set, a group of royals, diplomats, and aristocrats that had formed around Princess Fayza.
Together they embarked on the production of a film extravaganza, to be called Oil & Sand,
about an archaic leader trying to regain control of his kingdom after being ousted in a coup.
What started out as simple fun, strangely enough, ended up as an oracle foreshadowing
the turbulent events soon to come. Members of the Zohreya Set could not imagine that six
weeks following the production of this ﬁlm, a real coup d’état would depose and exile the
King of Egypt in favour of a military command council, marking the end of an era.
Sixty years later, a series of 8mm ﬁlm reels of Oil & Sand emerge from the attic of Mahmoud
Sabit, and he takes us through firsthand accounts of both his father Adel Sabit, an Egyptian
royal cousin and insider, and his mother, Frances Ramsden who got caught up in a story of
love and adventure at a pivotal moment in Egypt’s history. Mahmoud reconstructs the strange
story of the ﬁlm production and its array of real-life players, as well as their subsequent fates
in a post-monarchial Egypt as the Cold War begins. What the film reveals is a man who is both
a guardian and a prisoner of his legacy with a family caught in the middle.
– Mohammad Khawaja