A hit film that pokes fun at Westernized Egyptians has managed to anger Israel and the American University in Cairo as well as point up deep differences in this Arab country's society.

"Saidi at the American University," tells the story of Khalaf, a bumpkin southern Egyptian who wins a scholarship to study at the university whose students - many from Cairo's upper class - are known for their Americanized attitudes.The "saidi," the Arabic word for a southern Egyptian, runs into trouble from his first day. Wearing a tie and yellowish suit, he draws giggles from fellow students in casual college dress.

"Did you fall into a mustard jar?" one asks Khalaf.

But audience reaction, as reported in the Cairo press, has turned the tables on the students' derision - with cheers for Khalaf and boos for his detractors.

Both film and reaction speak to the contrast between upper middle class Cairenes who go to bars and American fast-food restaurants and the vast number of Egyptians who are conservative Muslims.

Khalaf - definitely in the second group - doesn't drink alcohol, speak English to fellow Egyptians or dance with girls. In his hometown of Sohag, Khalaf never saw men and women dance together.

Some who have seen the film feel that Khalaf is the real Egyptian while the university's students represent an alien culture.

Whatever the reaction, the film is so popular that tickets must be bought days in advance.

The American University in Cairo, which was founded in 1919 and sees itself as having educated generations of Egyptian society, sued to stop distribution of the film using its name. But it withdrew the lawsuit this week after the filmmaker said he intended no harm to the university.

The movie's main scene also angered Israel. It shows an anti-Israeli demonstration on the 50th anniversary of the Jewish state earlier this year.