Salah Al-Saadani (1943-2024) Farewell, Soliman Ghanem

Soha Hesham , Tuesday 23 Apr 2024



When Salah Al-Saadani passed away last Friday at the age 80, he had been absent from the public eye for many years. Yet the renowned actor was so widely and deeply loved his death sent shock waves across society. Al-Saadani is remembered for numerous film and especiallly television roles, the most iconic of which may be as the rich Omda — or village mayor — Soliman Ghanem, an upstart in Cairo high society, in the phenomenal television hit  Layali Al-Hilmeya (Hilmeya Nights, 1987), a character he played so convincingly many Egyptians think of him now as a distant relative. Al-Saadani also played Al-Usta Hassan Al-Noaman, a role for which he is lovingly remembered, in Arabesque (1994), another hit TV show.

Al-Saadani was born on 23 October, 1943 in Giza, and he graduated from the Faculty of Agriculture. During his university years he joined a number of theatre troupes where he often performed with the aspiring talents and comedians, including subsequent comedy superstar Adel Imam, a lifelong friend, on campus stages. His career took off when he began to collaborate with director Nour Al-Demerdash on series like Al-Daheiya (The Victim, 1964), La Tutfei Al-Shams (The Sun Will Never Set, 1965), and Al-Raheel (Departure, 1967). It was in the 1960s that he began to appear in films too, performing in Niazi Mustafa’s Shayateen Al-Leil (Devils of the Night, 1966) alongside the already established film actors Farid Shawki, Hind Rostom and Amina Rizk.

Another landmark that demonstrated his outstanding talent was Al-Ard (The Land, 1970) by Youssef Chahine, with whom he also collaborated on Al-Youm Al-Sades (The Sixth Day, 1986), starring Dalida and Mohsen Mohieddine. In the 1970s and 1980s he began to play lead roles, starring in Ali Abdel-Khalek’s Oghnia Ala Al-Mamar (A Song on the Passage, 1972), together with Mahmoud Morsi, Salah Qabil, Mahmoud Yassin and Madiha Kamel, and the iconic October War film Al-Rosasa La Tazal Fi Gaibi (The Bullet Is Still in My Pocket, 1974), directed by Hossameddine Mustafa and co-written by Ihsan Abdel-Qoddus and Ramses Naguib, also starring Mahmoud Yassin, Hussein Fahmy, Nagwa Ibrahim and Said Saleh. Al-Saadani’s credits from that time also include Mohamed Salman’s Kalam fil Hob: Shellet El Moshaghbeen (Talking About Love: The Troublemakers, 1973) and Mohamed Fadel’s Shaqqa fi Wasat Al-Balad (An Apartment in Downtown, 1975).