Hanaa Abdel Fatta (Photo: M.Rębalski, courtesy Polish Embassy in Cairo)
Mohamed Hanaa Abdel-Fattah Metwaly, well-known Egyptian theatre director, actor and critic, passed away on Friday morning at a hospital in downtown Cairo following a long battle with cancer. He was 68 years old.
Born in December 1944, Metwaly – usually known as Hanaa Abdel-Fattah – began acting at the age of 8, landing a number of roles in both radio and film. In 1958, at the age of 14, he played a prominent part in Youssef Chahine's celebrate Bab Al-Hadid ('The Iron Gate').
Following his studies in Egypt in the early 1970s, Metwaly left to continue his education in Poland. In the more than two decades he spent there, he studied at the directing department of Warsaw's State Institute of Theatrical Arts, where he was the only foreign student to ever be accepted by the institute.
Metwaly went on to earn his PhD in theatre theory from Warsaw University. He was actively involved in Polish theatrical and intellectual circles, directing a number of plays in Warsaw and other European capitals. In 1986, his production of Carlo Goldoni's 'The Servant of Two Masters' received the audience’s first prize.
He returned to Egypt in the 1990s, where he continued his work as a theatre director and began teaching at Cairo's Higher Institute of Theatrical Arts. In the early 2000s, he became head of the institute's acting and directing department. Meanwhile, he continued to regularly direct theatre productions in both Egypt and Poland.
Metwaly also translated numerous theatrical works from Polish into Arabic, directing a number of them on Egyptian stages. He also brought Egyptian theatre to Poland, where he frequently directed Polish actors. Metwaly was also among the principal promoters of Polish cultural activity in Egypt, overseeing numerous lectures, presentations and workshops.
In 2009, his adaptation of a work by Egyptian playwright Alfred Farag at the Dramatic Theatre in Bialystok was received with acclaim. The following year, he was awarded the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Culture Award for his work "promoting Polish culture internationally."
Metwaly's other awards from the Polish government include the Polish Literary Syndicate Prize and the International Theatre Institute award for promoting cross-cultural dialogue between Poland and the Arab world.
Most recently, in June 2012, he was awarded the Gloria Artis by the Polish Ministry of Culture, given to persons and organisations who make exceptional contributions to Polish culture and heritage. Metwaly was among very few international artists to have received the medal.
In 2011, he was granted the Appreciation Award by the Egyptian government for his lifetime contribution to culture.
Metwaly leaves behind a wife and three daughters.
The wake ceremony for Hanaa Abdel-Fattah will take place on Monday 22 October, 6-9:00pm at Al-Hamdeya Al-Shazleya mosque in Mohandessin, Cairo.