Creative minds: Egypt's artists, writers, art critics who died in 2017

Ahram Online , Saturday 16 Dec 2017

The year 2017 was difficult for the Egyptian creative field, with many renowned actors, musicians, writers and critics passing away


2 December

Mekkawi Said, 61, author

Said nurtured a lifelong love for Cairo's Downtown district, in which he himself was an icon. Said wrote several books set in the district, including The Swan Song, and his 2010 book, Moktanayat West El-Balad (Downtown Belongings).

In the latter, Said weaves stories about Downtown's most unique areas, streets and cafes, using his distinct style to offer a detailed vantage on Cairo's busiest and most vibrant areas.

Many of Said's works have been translated into English. He was also a publisher and a columnist at Al-Masry Al-Youm.

Read Said's obituary here

Mekkawi Said
Mekkawi Said

28 November

Shadia, 86, singer actress

Born Fatima Ahmed Kamal Shaker, she was reportedly given the screen name Shadia by director Helmy Rafla.

Known for roles in light comedy and drama, Shadia has starred in over 70 films, many of which are considered classics. She worked alongside top actors including Mohamed Fawzy, Abdel-Halim Hafez, Anwar Wagdy, Kamal El-Shennawy, Emad Hamdy, who was also her first husband, and Salah Zulfikar, her third and last husband, to whom she was married between 1967 and 1969.

In many films, she sang opposite stars Farid Al-Atrache and Abdel-Halim Hafez, appearing alongside the latter in a famous performance role in The People’s Idol (1967) by director Helmy Rafla.

Shadia also took part in several radio shows, including a well-known performance in Miramar, which was based on a novel by Naguib Mahfouz.

Shadia's only theatre performance was in the comedy Rayya Wa Sakina, which was first staged in 1982 tothe great acclaim.

Read Shadia's obituary here and check the photo gallery of her career throughout the years here

Shadia (Photo: Al Ahram)

6 October

Dalia Al-Tuni, actress

Young actress who died in a car accident, kicked off her career in 2011 with her role in the series "Al Kabeer Oy" where she acted besides Ahmed Mekki.

In 2012, she appeared in a series starring Mohamed Ramadan in a role that brought her a considerate exposure and interest of the viewers.

She appeared in a number of television series with the last one Halawa Al-Donya, (aired in Ramadan 2017) where she acted besides stars such as Hind Sabri and Dhafer Al-Abidine.

Dalia Al-Tuni
Dalia Al-Tuni

3 September

Fawzi Soliman, film critic

In the course of a decades-long career, Soliman wrote about film and film criticism for several daily and weekly newspapers. He was also the culture editor of the daily newspaper Al-Masaa.

Soliman was the founder of the Goethe Institute Film Club, which he also presided over for 25 years.

He became a returning jury member of the Locarno Internatonal Film Festival (in 1996, 2001, 2012), while in 2016, he sat on the jury of the 41st Karlovy Vary Film Festival.

Fawzi Soliman
Fawzi Soliman

2 September

Halim El-Dabh, composer and ethnomusicologist

El-Dabh was an Egyptian-American ethnomusicologist and pioneer of electronic music.

Until the late 1940s, El-Dabh’s compositions such as The Expression of Zaar (1944), or It Is Dark and Dump on the Front for solo piano referencing the Nakba of 1948, made a strong impact on Egypt’s musical life of the time. The latter composition was a turning point in his career and in 1950, El-Dabh was offered a Fulbright Music Grant to study music in the USA.

In the 1950s, he served as Igor Stravinsky’s assistant at the first Aspen Music Festival.

El-Dabh’s explorations included many trips during which he studied the musical traditions of different countries and cultures. He became an active member of New York’s community of musical thinkers and one of “Les Six d’Orient”, representing the vanguard of contemporary composers inspired by Eastern music. 

Even if El-Dabh never defined himself as an avant-gardist, world music literature classifies him as the father of the Arab avant-garde. 

Read El-Dabh's obituary here

Halim El-Dabh
Halim El-Dabh (Photo: still from YouTube video)

19 August

Mahfouz Abdel-Rahman, screenwriter

Abdel-Rahman wrote regularly in many newspapers including Al-Ahram, Al-Adaab, Al-Masaa and El-Gomhouria.

He published several literary works including the collection of short stories Looking for the Unknown, Four Seasons of Winter and the novel The Eighth Day.

Though he began his career as a novelist and critic, he quickly turned to scriptwriting, perhaps with a special focus on historical narratives.

Among his best known works for television is the highly popular series Um Kalthoum (1999), as well as Bawaba El-Halawany (1992 - 2001), which ran for four seasons, Leila Soqoot Ghernata, Soliman El-halab, Leila Masraa El-Motanaby.

Mahfouz Abdel Rahman
Mahfouz Abdel Rahman (Photo: Al-Ahram Arabic)

23 July

Mohsen Farouq, singer

Farouq was Arabic music lead singer of the Cairo Opera House.

He contributed greatly to the Egyptian cultural and musical scene, working to preserve and spread the country’s rich musical heritage.

He served as the Arabic music lead singer at the Cairo Opera House, and was one of the last remaining members of the Arabic music group founded by prominent artist Abdel-Halim Nowera.

Until his death, Farouq also served as the head of the Heritage Committee of the Supreme Council of Culture.

Mohsen Farouq
Egyptian singer Mohsen Farouq performing at El Sawy Culturewheel in 2009

16 July

Osama Afifi, 63, culture journalist

Afifi, who was the top culture editor in many publications – mainly Nasserist leaning ones – was one of the best regarded journalists in culture journalism in Egypt.

Afifi, who was known for his objectivity and decency and hailed as a noble journalist, was also a poet though he never collected his poems in a book.

He leaves behind hundreds of articles and reviews, and also a vast legacy alive in most cultural publications in the form of tens of journalists whom he trained.

Osama Afifi
Osama Afifi (Photo: Osama Afifi''s Facebook page)

5 July

Amr Samir
, 33, TV presenter

Samir began his film career as a child, when he acted in the film El-Katl El-Laziz (1997), directed by Ashraf Fahmy and starring Mervat Amin.

After completing his studies in media, he returned to the television screen as a presenter, working with OTV Egypt, where he presented the TV programme "What's Up."

He also hosted the youth programme "Shababeek" on Dream TV channel, before moving on to the Nile Life channel.

Amr Samir
Amr Samir

22 May

Sharif Hatata, 93, novelist

Hatata was a Marxist author and former communist activist.

Hatata's father was a feudal landowner and his family from the upper-middle class. However, despite this privileged social background, Hatata developed leftist political views.

Hatata, who was also a medical doctor, met his wife Nawal Saadawi, in 1964 and they remained married until 2010.

He authored many books including his autobiography The Open Windows, in which he details his struggles in the Egyptian leftist movement.

He also authored many novels, such as The Eye with an Iron Lid (1982) and The Net (1986).

Read Hatata's obituary here

Sharif Hatata
Sharif Hatata

1 May

Mazhar Abol Naga, 72, actor

The Dakhleya-born actor starred in dozens of popular films, plays and TV dramas over a career stretching back to the early 1970s.

He is best known for a number of plays he appeared in alongside comic actor Mohamed Negm in the 1980s.

Mazhar Abol Naga
Mazhar Abol Naga (Ahram Arabic Website)

12 April

Wagdi Francis, singer, founder and principal dynamo of Les Petits Chats band

Francis was considered a musical child and he sang in a choir formed at the Jesuits College which he attended. He also joined the church choir and became the youngest solo singer.

Following his graduation, he founded Les Petits Chats, first as the band's bass guitarist, soon becoming its vocalist.

Les Petits Chat saw the peak of its success in the 1960s and the 1970s and brought together many renowned musicians and artists together, with the lineup including names such as tenor Sobhi Bidair, actor Ezzat Abo Auf, composer and pianist Omar Khairat, among others.

Francis was a strong backbone of the band managing its repertoire and concerts, drawing in new musicians and ensuring that they all remained at the highest artistic level.

Wagdi Francis
Wagdi Francis in Les Petits Chats singers concert, Alexandria 2014 (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

5 April

El-Taher Makki, 93, critic and Andalusian studies specialist

He was one of the most well-known critics and writers in the fields of Arabic Literature and old and contemporary poetry.

His works on Andalusian poetry have been indispensible assets for research.

Makki authored many books on comparative Arabic literature and comparative Islamic literature.

He translated some of the works of the French medievalist, orientalist and Arabist Évariste Lévi-Provençal, most famously The Arab Civilisation in Andalusia.

Makki won the state's First Class Order of Science Award in 1992 and the Excellence Award from Cairo University in 2009.

El-Taher Ahmad Makki
El-Taher Ahmad Makki (Photo: Al-Ahram)

4 April

Samir Farid, 73, writer, film historian and critic

Farid was widely recognised as one of the most prominent film personalities of the Arab world.

He headed the Cairo International Film Festival more than once.

Farid also served as a jury member in many international festivals, including the Oberhausen Film Festival, the Torino Film Festival, and the Venice Film Festival. He was a president of the 36th edition of Cairo International Film Festival (2014).

His achievements and extensive contributions to the world of cinema were rewarded with the Cannes Film Festival Gold Medal in both 1997 and 2000, the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Osian’s Cinefan Festival in New Delhi in 2012 and at the Dubai International Film Festival in 2013.

He also authored and translated over 60 books on film and film history

Samir Farid
Samir Farid (Photo: Al Ahram)

2 April

Ghazali, 79, singer and poet

Dubbed Captain Ghazali, the singer is widely known for his songs about popular resistance during the wars, particularly the War of Attrition in 1970 and the October War in 1973.

Among his best known songs are Ya Beyoot El-Suez (Oh, Suez Houses), and Fat El-Keteer ya Baladna (The Worst Has Passed, My Country) and has presented a large number of patriotic songs on the semsemeya instrument.

He was the founder of Welad El-Ard troupe (Sons of the Earth), which reportedly was present with the army at the frontlines of the two wars, to motivate soldiers with their songs.

Singer and poet Ghazali (Photo: Al-Ahram Arabic)

19 March

El-Sayed Yassin, 84, thinker and writer

Yassin is considered one of the most prominent and influential writers on Egyptian politics in the years prior the 2011 revolution.

The sociologist was director of the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies from 1975 to 1995 and was a researcher at the National Research Centre.

Most recently, he served as the director of the Arab Center for Research and Study, conducting extensive research in the fields of sociology and philosophy.

Yassin penned hundreds of articles, op-eds and books covering a range of topics including politics, political sociology, and criminology.

Yassin received a number of awards over the course of his career, including the State Award and Nile Prize in sociology.

El-Sayed Yassin
File photo of El-Sayed Yassin. (Photo: Ahram)

15 February

Ali Osman Alhaj, Egypt-based Sudanese conductor, composer

Alhaj was based in Egypt since he came from Sudan to attended the Cairo Conservatory in 1978. He served as conductor of Cairo’s Al-Nour Wal Amal Orchestra for blind girls since 2001.

He returned to the conservatory as a lecturer of music composition, theory, analysis, counterpoint, and harmony in 2002.

As a researcher, his specialty was music from Sudan. He held a Master’s degree and a PhD on the subject of "Arabic Rhythmic Patterns and their Role in Constructing Melody in Traditional Arabic Music."

Alhaj also lectured at the Academy of Arts in Egypt in 1990, and at The High Institute of Arabic Music till 2014.

From 2006 to 2008 he was artistic director of the Cairo Opera House Library.

Ali Osman Alhaj
Ali Osman Alhaj (Photo: Ali Osman Alhaj's Facebook page)

25 January

Sayed Hegab
, 76, poet

Hegab was one of Egypt's most accomplished Ameya poets and writers, active over the course of more than half a century.

He wrote lyrics for dozens of songs performed by prominent singers such as Afaf Rady, Mohamed Mounir, Ali El-Haggar and Samira Said.

He also wrote the intro credits to numerous acclaimed soap operas including Layali El-Helmiya (Helmiya Nights) and Al-Mal Wa Al-Banoon (Money And Offspring).

His poetry was composed into music by famous composers including the late Baligh Hamdy.

He also wrote the script for the popular month of Ramadan entertainment show Fawazeer Ramadan, which was hosted in the 1980s by actress Sherihan.

Hegab was politically active throughout his adult life and spent five months in jail during the Nasser era, and was an outspoken supporter of the 25 January revolution of 2011.

Read Hegab's obituary here

Sayed Hegab
Sayed Hegab (Photo: Ahram Arabic website)

12 January

Karima Mokhtar
, 82, actress

Mokhtar starred in dozens of popular films, plays and TV dramas over the course of more than half a century.

Her first role on the big screen came in the film Thaman Al-Horeya (The Price of Freedom, 1963).

Nicknamed “mother of Egyptians,” Mokhtar’s most remarkable role was that of Zeinab, a mother of seven, in the highly successful film Al-Hafeed (The Grandson, 1974), opposite the late Nour El-Sharif and Mervat Amin.

Her roles on TV included classic soap operas such as Yetraba Fi Ezo (May He Grow Up Prosperous, 2007) opposite Yehia El-Fakharany, and Bardis (1985) remain all time classics for TV viewers.

Karima Mokhtar
Karima Mokhtar (Photo: Al-Ahram Arabic)

6 January

Nehad Selaiha
, 72, theatre critic

Selaiha held the post of professor of criticism and drama at the High Institute for Art Criticism since 1984, and in 2001 to 2003 she was dean of the same institution.

She authored numerous books and hundreds of articles in both Arabic and English, varying from theory and criticism to translations of plays and critiques.

She was the first theatre critic to write for the English-language Al-Ahram Weekly newspaper, where she also held the position of supervisor and editor of the theatre criticism section.

She was also recognised by various Arab theatre festivals, including the Sharjah Festival, the Gulf Cooperation Council Festival, the Carthage Festival, the Amman International Theater Festival, and the Doha Arab Theatre Festival in 2012.

Nehad Selaiha
Nehad Selaiha (Photo: Nehad Selaiha facebook page)

1 January

Ahmed El-Hadary
, 91, film critic

El-Hadary was dubbed the ‘sheikh’ (master) of critics, and was the founder and former head of the Egyptian Film Writers and Critics Association, which announced his death Sunday in a statement of condolences.

The association had previously honoured the founder by naming one of its halls after him.

El-Hadary was also the former head of the Alexandria Mediterranean Countries Film Festival, and was named the honorary president of the 32nd edition of the festival.

He authored a multi-volume series titled The History of Cinema in Egypt.

Ahmed El-Hadary
Ahmed El-Hadary (Photo: Al-Ahram Arabic)

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