Ahmad Zaki given a royal memorial service

Published March 29th, 2005 - 07:36 GMT

The memorial service of the late prominent Egyptian actor Ahmad Zaki that took place Monday March 28, 2005 in many ways resembled that of presidents and royals. Thousands of Egyptians from all around Egypt came to take part in the ceremony that was packed with security guards trying to maintain some kind of order.


Government officials (including Egyptian President Husni Mubarak’s son Mahmoud), several ministers, top artists, businesspeople, farmers, and people from around the Arab world gathered at Mustafa Mahmoud mosque to pray over him. The square outside was packed with mourners who pressed to lay their hands on Zaki's casket for a final farewell. Almost everyone at the ceremony was dressed in black and unable to hold back their tears. His body was taken to 6 October City, outside Cairo, for burial.


The funeral was broadcast live on television in Egypt and across the Arab world. It was said that the actor had requested that the directors film the tens of thousands of people who turned out for his funeral to use as crowd scenes in his final movie (Halim), which tells the story of the legendary Egyptian singer Abdul Halim Hafez.


Director of the film revealed that the actor wanted to see the film complete before his death. It was added that Zaki's 21-year-old son Haitham will film the remaining scenes of Halim, playing Hafez in his youth.


Zakiis best known for his roles in dramatized documentaries, in which he played former Egyptian presidents Jamal Abdul Nasser and Anwar Sadat. The two films of the former presidents played to full houses and sparked lively national debates, not only about the two leaders’ legacy but also about the dearth of modern-day Egyptian heroes in an era of political corruption and economic malaise.

Zaki was the first black actor to play leading roles and picking up the nickname “the Bronze Star”. Before Zaki, black actors tended to portray secondary or comic roles. He made his first movie, Children of Silence, in 1974. By 1980 he had made six films, including Alexandria ... Why? with Egypt’s best known director, Yousef Chahine. Zaki appeared in more than 60 movies.

He also starred in television serials, among them The Days, in which he played the renowned blind Egyptian writer and thinker Taha Hussain. Zaki gained notice with his frail figure, curly hair and dark complexion.

He soon became a representative of every Egyptian, especially in movies on people living on the edge. Critics, including those who did not approve of some of his roles, agree that Zaki is a different brand of actor. He wholeheartedly lived the character he played. This explains why the public feel related to him.

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