Veteran Egyptian comedian Hassan Hosni died of a heart attack last Saturday at the age 89. Working in supporting roles, he was an incredibly prolific actor who, thanks to his exceptional talent and unique sense of humour, became among the most intimately familiar in Egyptian households.
Born in 1931 in Al-Qalaa neihbourhood in Old Cairo, Hosni started his career in the early 1960s when — together with another beloved comedian, the late Hassan Abdine — he joined the Military Theatre Troupe, affiliated to the army, which was dissolved following the 1967 War. It was then that he started rising in the ranks, slowly at first. He worked with director Samir Al-Asfouri on the play Kalam Faregh (Nonsense), participating in several plays with the National Theatre and joining the Tahiya Kariouka troupe in the 1970s. Among his appearances with that troupe were such plays as Robabikia and Saheb Al-Omara (Owner of the Building). He did not appear on television until 1979, when he took part in Abnaai Al-Aezaa Shokran (My Dear Sons, Thank You) starring Abdel-Moneim Madbouli.
Hosni participated in over 490 films, plays and TV series, working with almost every Egyptian actor across different generations.
In the 1970s, Hosni featured in films like Souq Al-Harim (Women’s Market, 1970), Amira Hoby Ana (Amira, My Love, 1974) and Al-Karnak (Karnak, 1975). His fame began to grow after he played the villain Awni in Atef Al-Tayeb’s Sawwaq Al-Outoubis (Bus Driver, 1982), written by Mohamed Khan, and acting alongside Nour Al-Sherif and Mervat Amin. He worked with Khan on Zawget Ragol Mohem (The Wife of an Important Man, 1987), which made the 100-film Memory of Egyptian Cinema list in 1996, starring Ahmed Zaki and Mervant Amin. Four other films featuring Hosni were on the list: Al-Karnak, Al-Barie (The Innocent, 1986), Bus Driver (1982) and Radwan Al-Kashef’s Leh Ya Banafseg (Why Violet? 1993) starring Farouk Al-Fishawi and Lucy.
He became especially prolific in the 1990s, when his name grew connected with the likes of director Osama Fawzi — with whom he worked on Afarit Al-Asphalt (Demons of the Asphalt, 1996) — and actor Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz in Abu Kartouna (Mr Carton, 1991). He worked with Khan again on Fares Al-Madina (City Knight, 1993) and with Dawoud Abdel-Sayed on Sareq Al-Farah (The Wedding Thief, 1995).
Hassan Hosni by Bahgory
Hosni also starred in a number of hit television shows: Raafat Al-Hagan in its second season in 1990, directed by Yehia Al-Alami, Bawabet Al-Halawani (Cairo Gate, 1992), Al-Mal wal Banoun (Money and Sons, 1993), directed by Magdi Abu Emera and Arabesque written by Osama Anwar Okasha in 1994.
Through the 2000s Hosni appeared with the younger generation of star comedians: with Mohamed Saad in Al-Lemby, Al-Lemby being a character originally created in Sherif Arafa’s Al-Nadher (The Principal, 2000), in which he played a corrupt school manager opposite the late Alaa Walieddin. He appeared alongside Saad in Elli Bali Balak (My Brain, Your Brain, 2003), Okal (2004), Bouha (2005) and Karkar (2007), and alongside Walieddin in Abboud ala Al-Hodoud (Abboud on the Frontier, 1999). He also appeared alongside Karim Abdel-Aziz, Mohamed Heneidi, Ahmed Helmi, Hani Ramzi, Mona Zaki, Hanan Tork, action star Ahmed El-Sakka and many others.
Besides Ahmed Zaki, he collaborated with comedy superstar Adel Imam on Bekheit wi Adila (1995).
Among his numerous honours were five awards for his brilliant role Rokba in Dawoud Abdel-Sayed’s Sareq Al-Farah (Wedding Thief), which opened the inaugural Egyptian National Film Festival in 1995. He also received the Faten Hamama Appreciation Award in the 40th Cairo International Film Festival in 2018.
Hosni’s last appearance was in the Ramadan TV series Sultanet Al-Muizz starring Ghada Abdel-Razek and directed by Mohamed Bekir. His last film was Khayal Maata (Scarecrow, 2019), directed by Khaled Marie and starring Ahmed Helmi, Menna Shalabi and Khaled Al-Sawi.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 4 June, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly