Republished - Shwikar: My fair lady

Soha Hesham , Sunday 14 Aug 2022

Shwikar (1935-2020)


The versatile actress Shwikar passed away last Friday at the age of 85, leaving millions in mourning.

Born Shwikar Ibrahim Topsakalin (Topsakal the name of her Ottoman grandfather) in 1938, Shwikar had a Turkish father and Circassian mother whose ancestors arrived in Alexandria from Greece in the late 19th-century.


Her acting career started at the Sporting Club in Alexandria, where the great filmmaker Fatin Abdel-Wahhab spotted her. She rose to stardom in the 1960s, notably alongside legendary comedian Fouad Al-Mohandes whom she married in the wake of the 1963 play Ana wi Howa wi Heya (Me, Him and Her), a turning point in both their professional lives. Both had been married before – Shwikar to Hassan Nafie, whith whom she had her only child, a daughter named Menna – and their union lasted for 20 years.  

Me, Him and Her
Ana wi Howa wi Heya (Me, Him and Her)

The duo made numerous appearances together on stage. In Sayidaty Al-Gamila (stage director Hassan Abdel-Salam’s adaptation of My Fair Lady), Shwikar shone as the street character who is transformed into a society lady. They also starred opposite each other in Al-Secertair Al-Fanni (Executive Secretary), written by the legendary Naguib Al-Rihani and directed by the equally legendary Abdel-Moneim Madbouli, Hawaa Al-Saa 12 (Midnight Eve), also directed by Madbouli and featuring Hassan Mustafa, Zahret Al-Ola and Abdallah Farghali. Much later, they also made the memorable Enaha Haqan Aela Mohtarama (It Is Indeed a Respectable Family), directed by Samir Al-Asfouri and starring Amina Rizk, Abdallah Farghali and Mahmoud Al-Gendi. After their divorce Shwikar took part in Al-Mohandes’s Sok Ala Banatak (Lock Your Girls In) with her (recorded) voice only. Their last stage appearance together was Essam Al-Sayed’s Rawhiya Etkhatafet (Kidnapped Rawhiya) in 1989.

Midnight Eve
Hawaa Al-Saa 12 (Midnight Eve)

Among the films in which they appeared together were Mahmoud Zulfakar’s Agazet Gharam (Romantic Vacation, 1967),  Hossam Eddine Mustafa’s Shanabo fil Masyada (Shanabo in the Trap, 1968), also starring the great Youssef Wahbi, Zuzu Shekib, Samir Sabri and Tawfiq Al-Deqin, Niazi Mustafa’s Akhtar Ragol fil Allam (The World’s Most Dangerous Man, 1967) and Hassan Hafez’s Viva Zalata (1976), starring comedy superstar Samir Ghanem along with Hassan Mustafa and Tawfiq Al-Deqin.

Fouad Al-Mohandes
With Fouad Al-Mohandes

Without Al-Mohandes, Shwikar starred in Fatin Abdel-Wahhab’s Al-Zouga 13 (Wife No. 13, 1962) alongside Shadia and Roushdy Abaza, and Arous Al-Nil (Nile Bride, 1963) alongside Abaza, Lubna Abdel-Aziz and Abdel-Moneim Ibrahim.

Shwikar was an accomplished singer and a powerful dramatic actress with exceptional charisma, and she will be remembered as much for her timeless Ramadan duet with Al-Mohandes Al-Ragel Dah Haiganeny (This Man is Driving Me Crazy), about overeating after the fast. She also worked with the late Youssef Chahine in The Sixth Day (1986).

During the 1990s and the 2000s Shwikar played smaller roles in television series like Hawanem Garden City (Garden City Ladies, 1998), Emraa Min Zaman Al-Hob (A Lady from the Time of Love, 1998), Bint Min Shoubra (A Girl from Shoubra, 2004) and Serr Alani (Open Secret, 2012).

*A version of this article appears in print in the 20 August, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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