CAIRO EXIT-SYNOPSIS: Amal Iskander is a poor 18-year-old Coptic Egyptian girl. Her Muslim boyfriend Tarek is planning to leave Egypt on an illegal boat-crossing to Italy. Amal tells Tarek she is pregnant but he gives her an ultimatum - abandon the country with him, or have an abortion.
Amal, who loves Tarek and wants the baby, rejects both choices. But when the battered scooter she uses for food deliveries is stolen. Amal is fired from her job and suddenly finds herself with even fewer options. Her future, limited from the start, looks even more uncertain. In the poor neighborhood of Bashtel where Amal lives with her mother and a step-father who is a compulsive gambler, day-to-day existence is difficult for everyone. Her sister, Hanan, is also an unwed mother with few paths to a better life.
Her best friend, Rania, is trying to raise money for an operation that will disguise the fact that she is no longer a virgin so that she can marry an wealthy, older man whom she does not love. Amal seeks guidance in prayers to the Virgin Mary, but with few real possibilities left, she takes the only job she can find - in a hair dresser with low pay. The new job opens up the underworld life within Cairo that Amal never imagined - a life of luxury, leisure, expensive homes and cars - but also one of vice. At one of her destinations, a high class brothel in an exclusive part of town, she discovers her sister Hanan working as a prostitute in order to support her child. Devastated, disgusted by the life of the underworld, she gives up her only possibility for self-sufficiency.
Neither desiring a loveless marriage like Rania's, nor wishing to end up destitute like her mother and sister, Amal decides that she must abandon her family and their difficult existence in Egypt to join the man she loves and take the risky journey across the sea to another life.
A raw, slice-of-life portrait of the Cairo streets and the true lives of its struggling class, "Cairo Exit" is director Hesham Issawi's view to the hardscrabble lives of the working people of the country of his birth.