A documentary film by Sandra Gysi and
Ahmed Abdel Mohsen

September 08: previous shooting in Cairo and Suez
May / June 09: Shooting in Qus, Esna and Cairo
2010: Completion

Director of photography : Peter Liechti
2. Camera: directors
Sound: Ramon Orza
Editing: Marcel Derek Ramsay
Production: Franziska Reck, Reck Filmproduktion
Production Egypt: FEKRA Film Productions


80-year-old Sayyed el-Dawwy is the last living interpreter of the Sira, the most significant Arabian epic poem. He is the only one who knows by heart its 5 million verses. And only he keeps the stories about the people of the crescent moon alive. Now, he wants to pass the Sira down on to his grandson Ramadan, just as it has been passed down by word of mouth for generations.

SIRA – SONGS OF THE CRESCENT MOON follows them touring Egypt for their concerts. And while Sayyed wants to teach the Sira to his grandson the way he knows and loves it, Ramadan is more interested in modern interpretations of the Sira, influenced by Pop music and soap operas.

In the struggle of generations over the meaning of the Sira, the picture emerges of a world caught between tradition and modernity. A world in search for its respective heroes – in the past as well as in the present.


Background Information

The documentary reflects the world of the most monumental and important epic in the Arabian world – the Sira el-Hilaliyya – is produced by Reck Filmproduktion in Zurich (, in Egypt in cooperation with FEKRA-Filmproductions. First recordings of the music of the Sira el-Hilaliyya already took place on the stage of the «FEKRA cultural centre» in September 07.
After a pre-shooting in September 08 in Cairo and Suez and the main shooting took place successfully in May / June 09 in Qus and Esna.

UNESCO has declared the Sira an Intangible Cultural Heritage. In doing so, it has not only acknowledged the cultural importance of the Sira but it has also confirmed that the epic and its traditions are of great significance far beyond the boundaries of Egypt and the Arabian world. After long preparations, the UNESCO has granted its patronage of this project with the explanation: «Finally, the ‚Hilali epic’ is still considered to be the most important epic in the Arabian world - the only epic still performed in its integral musical form - even though it has disappeared from everywhere except Egypt. By presenting an important tradition of the Arabian cultural history, this documentary contributes to promoting intercultural understanding and international cultural cooperation». Different institutions like the Zurich film foundation support the film.

The two directors of the film – Sandra Gysi from Zurich (Switzerland) and Ahmed Abdel Mohsen from Aswan (Egypt) – have done researches about the epic and its world during several years and translated written texts, the ones existing in Arabic, into German. The cooperation of the two directors allows an inner and the outer view on the epic which will flew into the film.

Because the film «When the Half Moon Speaks...» can only present little parts of the singing of Sayyed el-Dawwy – the last great interpreter of the epic – a follow up project is initiated with the aim to record the integral performance of the oral epic. Sayyed el-Dawwy will be invited for several weeks to the «FEKRA cultural centre» to present all the stories of the epic. With these recordings his art and his knowledge will be conserved and later on published on Cds. The projects around the Sira el-Hilaliyya are the first big engagement of FEKRA to support and promote local traditions. Other projects are planed in «EL-MUSTAQBAL DELWAQTI» (The Future now).