Egyptian actress and producer Magda Al-Sabahi died last week after a struggle with illness. She was born in 1931 in Tanta as Afaf Ali Kamel Al-Sabahi, and started her acting career when she was 19 without her family’s consent, picking the screen name Magda for herself. Her true beginning in acting started in 1949 in Seifeddine Shawkat’s Al-Naseh (The Advisor), starring alongside Ismail Yassine. She founded her own production company in 1956.
Her stardom sparked during the 1950s and 1960s when she starred in over 60 films including Hassan Al-Imam’s Baeat Al-Khobz (Bread Seller, 1953), alongside Amina Rizk, Shadia and Zaki Rostom, Malish Hadd (I Have No One, 1954), Ayna Omry (1957), Banat El-Yom (Girls Today, 1957), Hazza Al-Ragol Ohebo (I Love This Man, 1962), Al-Omr Lahza (1978), and Kamal Al-Sheikh’s Al-Ragol Alazi Faqad Dheloh (The Man Who Lost his Shadow, 1986 alongside Kamal Al-Shenawi and Salah Zulfakar and Nelly.
In 1958 she starred in and produced Youssef Chahine’s Djamila l’Algérienne (Jamila, the Algerian) when she played the role of the iconic Algerian political activist Djamila Bouhired, she worked again with Chahine in Haddouta Masriya (An Egyptian Story) in 1982.
She married actor Ihab Nafie in 1963, with whom she had her only daughter Ghada.
In 1995 Magda was elected president of the Egyptian Women in Film Association. In 2016 she won the Nile Award for Arts.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 23 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.