The Birth Of Middle Eastern Sci-Fi: A Look Back At 1959’s ‘Rehla Ilal Kamar’

1959’s “Rehla Ilal Kamar” (Journey to the Moon) emerged and led the Middle Eastern sci-fi revolution. Starring Rushdy Abaza and Ismail Yaseen, and directed by Hamada Abdel Wahab, this film pushed the boundaries of imagination in an era devoid of computer-generated graphics and visual effects.

The sci-fi follows Ismail (Yaseen), a daring driver for a newspaper company, who stumbles upon a golden opportunity for fame. While attempting to capture photographs of the interior of a German rocket during a technical test, he accidentally launches himself, along with Dr. Sharvin, the rocket’s German scientist, and Ahmad Rushdi (Abaza), an Egyptian meteorologist, into the vast expanse of space.


Their unexpected landing on the moon unveils a mesmerizing encounter with Dr. Cosmo and the remnants of an intelligent civilization devastated by a nuclear war. Amidst this lunar journey, Rushdi finds himself captivated by a moon girl, igniting a bittersweet romance. Determined to return to Earth, they embark on a journey to the moon’s foreboding side in search of the “atomic petrol” necessary for their voyage home. Will they ever make it back to Earth?

Contrary to popular belief, the birth of this genre dates back further than you might imagine. Fast forward to the early days of cinema, when the first ever sci-fi film was shot in 1902, French filmmaker Georges Méliès astonished audiences with his silent film, “A Trip to the Moon.” Inspired by the works of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, this adventure depicted a spacecraft launched toward the moon using a colossal cannon. The film’s ingenious special effects redefined the possibilities of sci-fi on the silver screen, captivating audiences worldwide.

These works paved the way for future sci-fi films, captivating audiences with their imaginative narratives and pushing the boundaries of what was thought possible on screen. “Rehla ill kamar” ignites a spark of optimism, fueling our desire to witness a new wave of Middle Eastern science fiction films that elevate the art of visual effects and delve into the uncharted realms of artificial intelligence and extraterrestrial life.

WE SAID THIS: Don’t Miss…Arab Sci-Fi Films Reinventing The Middle East