Filmmakers Race Against Clock to Document Vanishing Cairo Tradition

Levantine Review
By Jen Reinhardt

Muezzin Voices of the Adhan, Islamic Call to Prayer, Soon to be Silenced

A documentary film and audio archive project, Voices and Faces of the Adhan: Cairo aims to tell the story of the adhan, or the Islamic call to prayer, as it has been recited in Cairo for 1400 years. Supported by the Hartley Film Foundation and National Geographic’s All Roads Film Project, the film is being produced by On Look Films and director Miguel Silveira, producer Anna Kipervaser and field producer Jeremy Johnson.

In early 2010, the Egyptian government will permanently alter the ancient tradition of the adhan under the Tawheed al Adhan, or Adhan Unification Project, that plans to synchronize the adhan into a single call transmitted via wireless speakers to the city’s 4,000 mosques.

This plan will also affect the economic make-up of the city, as the honored position of muezzin is traditionally the role of the blind, handicapped, aged and others suffering extreme poverty. These muezzins, historically undocumented, will disappear into the general poverty level underbelly of Cairo and become almost impossible to trace.

Cairo’s thousands of adhan interpretations remain poorly documented, with little historical record to preserve them for the future. On Look Films is not only filming a documentary about the changing tradition, but will create interactive public showcases of the results and an online digital media library that will give viewers access to live recordings of these Cairene adhans alongside historical and biographical information about each muezzin. Upon completion, On Look Films will donate these archives to educational organizations such as the Library of Congress.

The greatest challenge to the success of the Voices and Faces of the Adhan: Cairo project is funding. Because the documentary film project is meant not only to raise awareness but also to generate revenue for the audio archiving and art installation phases of the project, production and post-production funding is crucial to the completion of the film as an action to realizing these important next steps.

On Look Films has been fortunate to have raised almost $30,000 in the last five months through fundraising events and support, but in order to begin principal photography and to initiate the sound archiving of Cairo’s 4,000+ mosques, another $140,000 must be raised before the unification takes place.

The filmmakers seek contributions at any level through their fiscal sponsor, Hartley Film Foundation. All donations are tax deductible. Donations of over $2,000 will receive a donor credit in the film. Donations of $25,000 or more will receive a producer credit in the film.

To make a donation, visit the Hartley Foundation and type in “Voices and Faces of the Adhan: Cairo” or go directly to theOn Look website.

To watch the fundraising short film put together by Director Miguel Silveira, Producer Anna Kipervaser and Field Producer Jeremy Johnson during their 10-day research and development pre-production trip to Cairo in August 2009, visit

Click here for an earlier, more extensive report. See also the BBC report.