A threefold loss to art

Soha Hesham , Thursday 10 Feb 2022

Egypt lost three artistic giants this week.

Galal El-Sharkawy

Galal El-Sharkawy (1934-2022)

The renowned stage director and actor Galal El-Sharkawy passed away last Friday at the age 88, following Coronavirus complications. El-Sharkawy was an icon of Egyptian theatre, contributing some of the most unforgettable plays in the history of both state theatre and the commercial theatre including legendary commercial hits like the timeless Madraset Al-Moshaghbeen (School of the Misfits, 1973), perhaps the greatest commercial comedy of all time, starring Adel Imam, Said Saleh, Soheir El-Bably, Ahmed Zaki, Younis Shalabi and Hassan Mustafa.

El-Sharkawy was born in 1934 in Damietta, and earned his bachelor degree in science from Cairo University in 1954. A year later he earned a diploma in education and psychology from Ain Shams University, and soon started to pursue his directing career by enrolling in the Higher Institute of Theatrical Arts, graduating in 1958. El-Sharkawy then travelled to France where he studied directing at the Institut des hautes études cinématographiques (Institute for Advanced Cinematographic Studies) – one of the oldest and most prestigious film schools in the world, founded during the World War II – and graduated in 1962.

On his return from France El-Sharkawy became an instructor at the acting and directing department of the Higher Institute for Theatrical Arts, serving as dean of the institute in the late 1970s.

His directorial debut was the film Armala wi Thalaath Banat (A Widow and Three Daughters, 1965), an adaptation of the French play The Crows by Henry Becque starring Amina Rizk, Salah Mansour, Nawal Aboul-Fottouh, Saad Ardash and Zizi Al-Badrawi.  

El-Sharkawy also acted in numerous television dramas, films and plays. In television he starred in series like Sami Mohamed Ali’s Al-Mofsidoun fil Ard (The Corruptors, 1973), starring Mohsena Tawfik, Laila Taher, Abdel-Moneim Ibrahim; Elwia Zaki’s Meerath Al-Ghadab (The Inheritance of Anger, 1981), starring Mahmoud Yassin, Laila Elwi, Farouk Al-Fishawi and Shahira; and Wafik Wagdi’s period drama Malhamet Al-Hob wal Raheel (The Love and Departure Sage, 1986), starring Hamdy Gheith, Salah Al-Saadani, Ibrahim Khan, Hanaa Tharwat and Ahmed Khalil.

In the cinema, El-Sharkawy was a frequent and familiar face as well, appearing in films like Sobeiha (1971), starring Youssef Wahbi and Nahed Youssri, directed by Hassan Hafez; Omahat fil Manfa (Mothers in Exile, 1981), starring Adel Imam, Magda Al-Khatib and Essad Younis, directed by Mohamed Radi; as the psychiatrist Tawfik in Khali Balak Min Aalak (Take Care of Your Mind, 1985), starring Adel Imam and Sherihan, directed by Mohamed Abdel-Aziz; and Maweed Maa Al-Qadar (A Date with Destiny, 1987), starring Youssra, Nabila Ebeid, Mahmoud Yassin, Mustafa Fahmi, directed by Mohamed Radi.

Early in his career El-Sharkawy also starred in countless radio series like Al-Leil Al-Taweel (The Long Night), Al-Goudran Al-Dafeaa (The Warm Walls), Al-Thaman (The Cost) and Assad Al-Behar (The Sea Lion).

His passion for the stage was one of a kind and it lasted his entire life, his plays leaving deep marks in the history of the Egyptian theatre. Among these plays were Tamr Henna (1974), Al-Joker (The Joker, 1979), starring Mohamed Sohbi and Hanaa Al-Shorbagy, in which – in addition to directing – he initially played the role of Shawkat (later performed by Mahmoud Al-Qalaawi), Al-Moutahazlekat (The Female Pedants, 1982), starring Mohamed Sobhi, Laila Hamada, Elham Shahine and Ahmed Bedeir, Al-Baghbaghan (The Parrot, 1984), in which El-Sharkawy played the role of Fouad, starring Mohamed Sobhi, Azza Gamal and Abdallah Mourad, Raqesa Qettaa Aam (Public Sector Dancer, 1985), starring Yehia Al-Fakharani and Samah Anwar, Attia Al-Erhabya (Attia the Terrorist, 1992), starring Soheir El-Bably, Hussein Al-Sherbiny and Ahmed Adam, as well as Houda Karama (1998), starring Ahmed Adam, Salah Abdallah, Abeer Sabri and Ghada Abdel-Razek.

El Sharkawi’s most recent appearances included Omr Min Al-Bahga (Life of Joy, 2020), a documentary hosted by Moufid Fawzi, as well as Habib Allah (God’s Messenger, 2016), Al-Omr bel Makloub (Growing Younger, 2006, directed by Hamdi Al-Ibrashi and featuring Al-Sayed Radi, Aisha Al-Kilani and Al-Montaser Bellah) and Ala Bab Masr (At the Gate of Egypt, 2006, directed by Hani Ismail and featuring Raghda, Nabil Al-Hagrasi, Aisha Al-Kilani and Fahmi Al-Khouli).  

El-Sharkawy condensed his life’s lessons, drawing on all kinds of talent and skill, in a number of books on Egyptian theatre and cinema. He received the State Appreciation Award in 1994 for his contribution to the Egyptian cultural scene. He is survived by his only daughter, the actor Abeer El-Sharkawy.


 Aida Abdel-Aziz (1930-2022)

The talented actress Aida Abdel-Aziz passed away on Thursday evening, a day before Galal El-Sharkawy’s death, at the age 92 after a long struggle with illness. Born on 27 October, Abdel-Aziz graduated from the Higher Institute for Theatrical Arts in 1959. After her graduation, she travelled to London with her husband, director Ahmed Abdel-Halim, who was there to complete his studies in the field of acting and filmmaking and pursue training in stage acting. Abdel-Aziz  also worked as a supervisor of school theatre troupes with the Ministry of Education.

At the beginning of her career she played numerous roles in the radio and her first performances included Aghrab Al-Qadaya (The Weirdest Cases), Oryd An Aqtolak Ya Habibi (I Want to Kill You My Love) and Al-Awda (The Return).

Abdel-Aziz then starred in a wide variety of works acriss theatre, cinema and television. She starred in Tawfik Saleh’s films Seraa Al-Abtal (The Heroes’ Struggle, 1962), featuring Shokri Sarhan, Samira Ahmed, Salah Nazmi and Laila Taher. She joined forces with Saleh again in Yawmeyat Naaeb fel Aryaf (Diaries of a DA in Rural Area, 1969, an adaptation of Tawfik Al-Hakim’s novel co-written by Alfred Farag and Tawfik Saleh), featuring Abdel-Azim Abdel-Haq, Ahmed Abdel-Halim, Tawfik Al-Deken, Rawya Ashour.

In 1976 she played a role in Ashraf Fahmi’s Shouq (Desire), starring Nadia Al-Gendy, Hussein Fahmi, Mahmoud Al-Meligi and Emad Hamdi.

In 1984 she worked with the late director Mohamed Khan in Kharaga wa Lam Yaaoud (Gone with No Return), starring Yehia Al-Fakharani, Farid Shawki, Laila Elwi and Tawfik Al-Deken.  She also starred in Shahd Al-Malika (Royal Jelly, 1985), starring Nadia Al-Gendi, Farid Shawki, Said Saleh, Naaema Al-Soghayar, Salah Qabil and Hussein Fahmi, directed by Hossam Eldin Mustafa.

She also starred in Samir Seif’s Al-Nemr wal Ontha (The Panther and the Female, 1987), featuring Adel Imam, Athar Al-Hakim, Mustafa Metwalli and Anwar Ismail.

Later she played the memorable role of Tafida in Ossama Fawzi’s Afariet Al-Asphalt (The Asphalt’s Devils’, 1996), alongside Mahmoud Hemeida, Salwa Khattab and Abdallah Mahmoud.

She was a brilliantly talented stage actor, and her more significant roles included  Awdat Al-Ghaaeb (The Return of the Missing Person, 1978), directed by Shakir Abdel-Latif, featuring Mahmoud Yassin and Shahira. A year later she performed in the play Taaer Al-Bahr (The Seagull, 1979), directed by Abdel-Reheim Al-Zorqani, featuring Farouk Al-Fishawi and Shahira. She also starred in the play Al-Mohager (The Immigrant, 1982), alongside Ragaa Hussein, Nabil Al-Dessouki and Hatem Zulfakar, directed by Abdel-Ghaffour Ouda.

In television Abdel-Aziz starred in the drama Damier Abla Hikmat (Conscience of Teacher Hikmat, 1991, written by the late Ossama Anwar Okasha and directed by Enaam Mohamed Ali), alongside the legendary Fatin Hamama, Ahmed Mazhar, Salah Qabil and Abla Kamel.


 Ahmed Yehia (1944-2022)

Veteran Egyptian filmmaker Ahmed Yehia passed away on Monday at the age of 78. He was born on 16 June 1944 and fell in love with cinema as a child. He was a child actor, starring opposite the late Abdel-Halim Hafez in Hekayet Hob (Love Story, 1959) and Al-Banat wal Seif (Girls and Summer, 1960). On growing up he studied filmmaking at the Higher Institute of Cinema and graduated in 1968, then followed his passion by becoming an assistant director when he worked with some of the greatest Egyptian filmmakers including Hussein Kamal, Helmi Halim, Ashraf Fahmi and Mohamed Abdel-Aziz.

His directorial debut was the film Al-Adhab Emraa (Agony is a Woman, 1977), starring Mahmoud Yassin, Nelly, Omar Al-Hariri and Safeya Al-Emarri, where he collaborated with the great screenwriter Ali Al-Zorqani.  

Yehia left behind a legacy of brilliant films like Leila Baka fiha Al-Qammar (A Night When the Moon Cried, 1980), featuring the late Lebanese diva Sabah and Hussein Fahmi, and Hatta La Yatir Al-Dokhan (So That Smoke Won’t Blow Away, 1984), starring Adel Imam, Soheir Ramzi and Ahmed Rate. He joined forces with Adel Imam again in Karakoun fil Sharie (Station on the Street, 1986), also starring Youssra. Yehia directed Ya Azizi Kolena Losous (We’re All Thieves, Dear, 1989), an adaptation of a novel by Ihsan Abdel-Quddous starring Mahmoud Abdel-Aziz, Laila Elwi, Said Saleh, Salah Qabil and Mariam Fakhreddin. As well as Al-Sabr fil Malahat (The Agonizing Patience, 1986), starring Nabila Ebeid, Tahia Kariouka, Madiha Youssri and Ezzat Al-Alaili.

Towards the end of his career he directed several television series like

Al-Banat (The Girls, 2003), Lam Tansa Anaha Emraa (She Didn’t Forget that She was a Woman, 2006) and – his last TV series – Naam Mazalat Anesa (Yes, She is Still Unmarried, 2010), starring Elham Shahine, Menna Fadali and Nashwa Mustafa.

Yehia received numerous awards during his long career, the last award being at the 34th Alexandria Mediterranean Film Festival in 2018.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 10 February, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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