A journalist and TV presenter who was the first to launch talk shows in their very elementary format on Egyptian TV in the 1990s, Moufid Fawzi died in Cairo this week at the age of 90 after a short illness that had stopped his otherwise regular TV weekly appearances on Al-Nahar TV Channel.
Every Wednesday, Fawzi would appear with Al-Nahar flagship presenter Tamer Amin to share segments of his memories on culture, cinema, and politics in Egypt as he had covered them for years since he first joined journalism in the early 1960s, often with a display of some rare photos of Egypt’s cinema, culture and at times sports stars.
Fawzi’s death will also end his regular columns that appeared in Al-Masry Al-Youm on a regular basis every Saturday. Fawzi’s last column appeared in Al-Masry Al-Youm on 15 October under the title “How can I scrap your name?” where he shared memories of his first days as an intern at the then prominent weekly magazine Akher Saa (The 11th Hour). It was that early on, Fawzi wrote, that he had to learn how to work his way from the incredible influence of style that legendary journalist Mohamed Hassanein Heikal had on him.
From the early days of Akhr Saa throughout a very long and eventful career Fawzi moved across many other weekly magazines, including Al-Izaa wal Television (Radio and TV), Rose El-Youssef and Sabah Al-Kheir where he eventually became editor-in-chief. As a journalist, Fawzi developed a unique style of writing where puns and metaphors were conspicuously present, both in his reporting and in his columns.
In parallel to a very successful career in journalism, Fawzi was a favourite editor for many of the Egyptian Radio and TV star presenters whose success is partially owed to the diligent research he prepared for them. He contributed to the success of such flagship radio programmes including Fawazir Ramadan (The Ramadan Quiz) that Amal Fahmi presented on the evenings of the holy Muslim fasting month, and Fengan Shai (A Cup of Tea) presented by Samia Sadek, who was at one point chair of Egyptian Radio & TV. Fawzi’s name is associated with some of the jewels of Egyptian TV, working closely in the editing and research team of Layla Rostom’s Negmak Al-Mofadal (Your Favourite Star) and Samir Sabri’s Al-Nadi Al-Dawli (The International Club).
Fawzi’s remarkable imprint in the research and editing of these programmes got him several offers for jobs with radio and television channels in many Arab countries. He took up some of these offers to give his name a much wider audience. And, in 1982, Fawzi made his own appearance on Egyptian TV as a presenter. His shows focused on art and culture, and they verged on being soft documentaries.
In the 1990s, Fawzi opened the door for the talk shows of Egyptian TV with his widely viewed programme Hadith Al-Madina (Talk of the Town) which was first aired in 1994. In many ways, and despite the unmasked praise that Fawzi had for then president Hosni Mubarak, the show was known for allowing the people on the street to share their views on socio-political, economic, and cultural issues.
Fawzi’s TV archive was rich. He had so many interviews with top political, art, and intellectual figures, and was such a prominent journalist that Mubarak himself sat down several times to answer questions put across by Fawzi. Throughout his diverse TV appearances, Fawzi always insisted that he was not a TV presenter but rather a TV interviewer.
On politics, Fawzi was hardly ever critical except of two things: political Islam and the Arab Spring. On art and cinema, he was unbeatable, especially concerning the stars of the golden years of the Egyptian silver screen, in the 1950s and 1960s, including the life of the icon of Egyptian song Abdel-Halim Hafez whom he was very close to.
Fawzi was once asked whether he felt his heart was closer to print or TV journalism, saying his heart was “wherever a good story was there to be told”. He had loads of stories from the many years he lived, the many places he visited and the many people he met and interviewed.
Fawzi was born in Beni Sweif on a summer day in 1933. Less than 20 years later he moved to Cairo to join the English Department of Cairo University’s Faculty of Arts. In 1968, he married Amal Al-Omda, a radio presenter, after a short love story. Ten years ago, he lost Al-Omda to cancer. His solace was their one daughter, Hanan Moufid Fawzi, a journalist.
Many prominent journalists and artists mourned the death of Fawzi, a naturally inquisitive journalist who had lived to see and tell the big news of Egypt from the second half of the 20th century well into the early decades of the 21st century.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 8 December, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly