A look back at the artists and intellectuals lost in Egypt this year

Published December 30th, 2015 - 06:50 GMT

21 December: Visual artist Ramzy Mostafa

Ramzy Mostafa combined in his works an amalgam of art mediums, including photography and ceramic art, and was considered among the avant-garde of modernist artists.

Mostafa was born in Daqahleya in 1926 and studied at the Faculty of Applied Arts, the Fine Arts Academy of Bologna and the Royal College of Art in London, in addition to other schools in Prague, Moscow and the US. The late artist held solo and group exhibitions, and represented Egypt in a number of international exhibitions.


Ramzy Mostafa
Photo: Al Ahram


9 December: Actress Mervat Saeed

Saeed launched her career in 1967 and worked in television, film and theatre.

One of her best known roles came in the 1994 television drama titled Alsoqoot fi Baer Sabaa, directed by Tamer El-Demerdash and starring Said Saleh, Esaad Younes, Hanan Turk and Khaled Mahmoud. Saeed also gave voice in an Arabic dubbed version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.


Mervat Saeed
Photo: Elcinema.com

1 December: Actor Motawaa Oweiss

Oweiss began his film career in the late 50s. His repertoire included 300 films and TV dramas that span the period between the 1950s and the 2000s. He starred in Seraa Fi Al-Meena, Al-Rosasa La Tazal Fi Gaybi, Al-Anesa Hanafi, Tamr Henna, Batal Min Waraq, Naseeb Al-Asad, amongst other films.

Oweiss was born on 6 August 1929, and died on 1 December at the age of 86.


Motawaa Oweiss
Photo: Elcinema.com


1 December: Novelist Edwar El-Kharrat

Born in Alexandria on 16 March 1926, El-Kharrat is considered one of the founders of the modern Arabic novel and short story as well as a pioneer of Arabic literature. He was also a prominent critic and translator. He published over 50 books including novels and poetry. He is best known for his novel Rama wal Tinin (Rama and the Dragon) and his short story collection Hitan Aliya (High Walls). 

El-Kharrat was awarded the Nile Prize for Literature in 2014, the highest honour bestowed by the Egyptian state in the field of literature. He was also granted the Naguib Mahfouz Medal for Literature by the American University in Cairo in 1999.


Edwar El-Kharrat
Photo: Al-Ahram


19 November: Actress Madiha Salem

Born in Cairo in 1944, Madiha Salem’s career took off in the 1960s during what is considered the golden era of Egyptian cinema, starring in films like Ah Min Hawaa, Om Al-Arousa, Fagr Youm Gadid, Sobyan Wa Banat, Losoos Laken Zorafaa, and Mozakarat Telmeeza.

Salem appeared in supporting roles alongside Egyptian icons including Soad Hosny, Hend Rostom, Emad Hamdy, Rushdi Abaza and Ahmed Mazhar. She was nicknamed “teenager of the cinema” and “the innocent cat of the screen” for her roles.


Madiha Salem
Photo: still from YouTube


15 November: Actor Said Tarabeek

Born in 1941, Tarabeek was a familiar face in Egyptian cinema and television, appearing in over 30 films dating back to the 1970s, as well as a number of more recent television series.

His filmography includes Ragol Faqad Aqloh (A Man Who Lost his Mind, 1980) Salam Ya Sahby (Goodbye my Friend, 1986), Bakhit we Adila (1995), Omaret Yacoubian (The Yacoubian Building, 2006), Tabakh El-Rayess (The President’s Chef, 2008), Boushkash (2008) and X-Large (2011). 

One of the first theatrical productions he joined was the 1976 play Shahed Mashafsh Haga (A Witness Who Saw Nothing) starring Adel Imam.


Said Tarabeek
Photo: Still of Said Tarabeek in Al-Kabeer Awy series


9 November: Writer and translator Khalil Kalfat

Kalfat was born in Nubia, Aswan on 9 April 1941. He was a well-known literary critic, writer of short stories, and a translator who translated works on a multitude of subjects into Arabic, including works by Jorge Luis Borges, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Machado de Assis.

Kalfat's translations won him the Rifaa Tahtawy prize in translation from the Egyptian National Centre for Translation in March 2013.

The leftist activist was opposed to the Mubarak regime and supported the January 25 Revolution. In the years following 2011, however, he argued that the revolution failed as power stayed in the hand of the capitalists, who he described as the centre of the counter-revolution.


Khalil Kalfat
Photo: Al Ahram


2 November: Actor Moemen El-Bardisi

The late artist commenced his career in the 1980s, depicting the late Egyptian poet Salah Jaheen in a play called Agabi. Following that role, he played an array of cartoon characters, including Rafiki in Lion King, Sultan in Beauty and the Beast, and Friend Owl in Bambi.

He was also the first Arab artist to voice Uncle Scrooge.


Moemen El-Bardisi


18 October: Novelist Gamal El-Ghitani

Gamal El-Ghitani was born in Upper Egypt on 9 May, 1945. He was one of Egypt's most notable writers and was a close friend of the Arab world’s only Nobel Laureate in Literature Naguib Mahfouz. His literature has been translated into many languages including English, German and French.

El-Ghitani has won many prizes and his works have been recognised locally and internationally, including the Nile Award for Literature in 2015, the highest literary honour granted by the Egyptian state and the French Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1987.

In 1993, El-Ghitani founded and headed Akhbar Al-Adab (Literature News), one of Egypt's most prestigious literary newspapers.

Read interview with El-Ghitani here (published after El-Ghitani’s death) 


Gamal El-Ghitani
Photo: Al-Ahram


22 September: Author Ali Salem

Born on 24 February 1936 in the Egyptian northern port city of Damietta, Salem was the author behind dozens of theatre and film productions, including the iconic Egyptian play Madrasset El-Mushaghebeen (School of the Troublemakers, 1973). His last production was the screenplay for the film Daleel Al-Maraa Al-Zakeya (1990).


Ali Salem
Photo: still from YouTube


28 August: Theatre writer and director Hani Motawaa

Born on 9 August 1944, Hani Motawaa was a theatre professor at the Higher Institute for Theatrical Arts. Motawaa made important contributions to Egyptian theatre, directing the famous Egyptian play Shahed Mashafsh Haga, which starred iconic Egyptian actor Adel Imam. Motawaa also directed Hikayat Farfoureyya (1967), Malek Albi Bel Maarouf (1976), Khashab Al-Ward (1988), Ya Misafer Wahdak (1998) and Hakeem Oyoun (2001). He also headed the Artistic House for Theatre.


Hani Motawaa
Photo: Al-Ahram


22 August: Illustrator Hany El-Masri

Born in 1951, El-Masri graduated in 1974 with a major in set and stage design from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo. El-Masri will also be remembered for his award winning, illustrious creative career, highlighted by the character design of Kimo for the Egyptian ice-cream brand in the late 1970s, his work on a number of Disney’s feature films in the 1990s, and a wide range of projects in between.


Hany El-Masry
Photo: Still from TEDx Cairo's video


16 August: Nahla El-Qodsy, wife of Egypt's late iconic musician Mohamed Abdel-Wahab

Nahla El-Qodsy was the wife of Egypt's late iconic musician Mohamed Abdel-Wahab. El-Qodsy, who was a Jordanian national, supported the museum dedicated to the late musician over the years.


Nahla El-Qodsy
Photo: Al-Ahram


15 August: Novelist Ibtihal Salem

Salem graduated from the Department of Psychology in the Faculty of Arts at Ain Shams University in 1974.

The famous novelist was also a prominent translator from French into Arabic.

The Sky Does Not Rain Lovers, A Little Box in the Heart, and Blue Windows were among her many novels.


Ibtihal Salem
Photo: courtesy of Facebook


12 August: Actor Ali Hassanein

Born on 13 January 1939, the Egyptian actor appeared in dozens of films and television series alongside Egypt’s biggest stars. Throughout his acting career, Hassanein became known for his important secondary roles in movies such as Ice Cream fe Gelim (1992), The Kit Kat (1991) and Searching for Sayed Marzouk (1990). He also did voice-overs for many Disney movies that were dubbed in Arabic.


Ali Hassanein
Photo: Al Ahram Weekly


11 August: Actor Nour El-Sherif

El-Sherif, who was born on 28 April 1946, was one of Egypt's most prominent actors, with an impressive portfolio of cinema, television and theater productions. He boasts around 200 films, 17 plays and more than 20 television series.

His career spans across four decades, beginning with his first screen appearance in 1967 with Kasr El-Shawk (Palace of Desire) by Hassan Imam, and concluding in 2014 with Cairo Time directed by Amir Ramsis.

Seven of his award-winning movies are on the IMDB website's list for the best 100 Arabic movies of all time.

The list is made up of the following films; Said Marzouk’s Zawgaty Wal Kalb (My Wife and The Dog, 1971), Ali Bardakhan’s Al-Karnak (The Temple, 1975), Atef El-Tayeb’s Sawaa’ Al-Otobees (The Bus Driver, 1982), which earned him recognition at the New Delhi Cinema Festival, Ali Abdel-Khaleq’s Al-Aar (Disgrace, 1982), Youssef Chahine’s Hadouta Masreya (Egyptian Story, 1982), Abnaa’ El Samt (Sons of Silence) and Ahl El Qemma (People on Top).

PHOTO GALLERY: Legacy of late Egyptian actor Nour El-Sherif
Fifteen films to watch by late Egyptian actor Nour El-Sherif


Nour El-Sherif
Photo: Al-Ahram


6 August: Actress Mirna El-Mohandes

Mirna El-Mohandes started her artistic career starring in commercials at age nine.

At 16, she started to act in television, landing roles in the popular series Arabesque in 1994 and Saken Ussadi (Lives Across From Me) in 1995. She passed away at the age of 36.


Mirna El-Mohandes
Photo: still from YouTube


24 July: Scriptwriter and director Raafat El-Meehy

Born in 1940, El-Meehy launched his career as a scriptwriter with the drama Gaffet El-Amtar (The Rain has Gone Dry) in 1967, directed by Sayed Essa and starring Shukry Sarhan, Samiha Ayyoub and Naima Wasfy. He later wrote Al-Hob Alazi Kan (1973), which featured even more stars of Egypt's cinema, including Soad Hosny and Mahmoud Yassine.

His first significant work as a director came in 1981, in Oyun La Tanam (Sleepless Eyes), which he also wrote. The film starred Farid Shawqi, Madiha Kamel and Ahmed Zaki.


Raafat El-Meehy
Photo: Al-Ahram


10 July: Actor Omar Sharif

Sharif was Egypt's biggest box-office star when director David Lean cast him in 1962's Lawrence of Arabia. Sharif acted in 118 films throughout his career. His other acclaimed international productions include Doctor Zhivago, Funny Girl, Che! and Hidalgo, and even two French TV mini-series. More recently he appeared in the 2013 film Rock the Casbah, also starring Nadine Labaki.

Prior to his Hollywood stardom, however, Sharif’s long illustrious career included a plethora of now-classic Egyptian films, such as Siraa Fil-Wadi (Struggle in the Valley) and Esha’et Hob (Love Rumour). Sharif married Egypt's movie queen Faten Hamama in 1955. The couple divorced in 1974.

Away from the movies, Sharif was a world-class bridge player who for many years wrote a newspaper column on bridge. He quit the game in later years, however, when he gave up gambling. Sharif was 83.


Omar Sharif
Photo: Reuters


10 July: Actor and producer Sami El-Adl

Sami El-Adl made his film debut in the early 1970s, launching a career that eventually spanned more than 50 movies and television series. His last appearance was in a television series entitled Hareit Al-Yahoud (The Jewish Alley) which was screened during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

He also established a production company in the late 1980s, calling it “El-Adl Film,” before Sami’s three brothers set up the now-famous El-Adl Group in 1997, which produced 18 films and 26 television series. He was 69.


Sami El-Adl
Photo: Al-Ahram


17 June: Nabeeha Lotfy, Lebanese-Egyptian documentary filmmaker

Her rich cinematography includes Sala Min Nawahi Misr al-‘atiqa (Prayer From Old Cairo,1972), Li’ann al-guzur lan tamut (Because The Roots Never Die, 1975), ‘Arusati (My Bride, 1983), Ila ayn? (Where to?, 1991), Risala min Higaza (Message From Hegaza, 1994), Innaha Tazra’ Al-Ard Wa Tasqiha (She Cultivates, She Irrigates, 1999), Sharia Mohammed Ali/Remains Of A Certain Time (Mohamed Ali Street, 2003) and Carioca (2009).

In 1990, Lotfy founded the Association of Egyptian Women Filmmakers. She also took on acting roles in Daoud Abdel-Sayed's Rasael El-Bahr (Messages From The Sea, 2010), Ibrahim El-Batout's Ein Shams (2008), and TV drama series Khawaga Abdel-Qader (2012).

Lotfy was 78.


Nabeeha Lotfy
Photo: courtesy of Lotfy's family


3 June: Novelist Fouad Qandil

Born in Benha in Egypt's Delta in 1944, Fouad Qandil is one of the most known Egyptian novelists and a figure from the 1960s' literary generation in Egypt, who are collectively considered the pillar of Egyptian literary life up to this day.

Qandil left behind a legacy of 18 novels, 12 short story collections and 12 critical studies.

He won many literary prizes including the Naguib Mahfouz Prize for best novel, the State Excellency Award in 2004, the State Appreciation Award in 2010, and the prize of the late Sudanese novelist Tayyieb Saleh in 2011.


Fouad Qandil
Photo: Al-Ahram


24 May: Ceramic artist Aida Abdel-Kareem

Together with her husband, artist Zakaria Khonani, Aida Abdel-Karim launched the Glass Art, Sculpture and Egyptian paste museum, located at Harrania village, which exhibits and presents artwork and the techniques used by artists who work with glass and ceramics.

Abdel-Kareem’s contemporary work draws on Islamic, Coptic and ancient Egyptian heritage.

She was appointed head of the Sculpture Department at her Alma Mater Helwan University of Fine Arts, where she also taught sculpting.

In addition to seven solo shows, her work is acquired in state collections, including the Egypt Modern Art Museum, the Museum of the Faculty of Fine Arts in Minia, as well as in the Fine Arts Museum in Budapest.

She was 89.


Aida Abdel-Kareem
Sculpture by Aida Abd El-Kareem (Photo: Fine Arts Sector)


19 May: Actor Hassan Mostafa

Born on 26 June 1933, a graduate of the High Institute for Theatrical Arts in 1957, Mostafa appeared in hundreds of plays and films alongside Egypt’s biggest stars.

His cinematic debut was in The Most Dangerous Man In the World (Akhtar Ragol Fel Alam) in 1967, of which he was also cinematographer. He acted in the film alongside Fouad El-Mohandes, with whom he would co-star throughout his career, in films such as The Land of Hypocrisy (Ard El-Nefak, 1968) and Love Chase (Moutarda Gharamia, 1968).

In recent years, Mostafa appeared in Hassan and Mourcous (2008) with Adel Imam and Omar Sharif.


Hassan Mostafa
Photo: still from YouTube


21 April: Poet Abdel-Rahman El-Abnoudi

El-Abnoudi's most famous poetry works include the five-volume Sirat Bani Hilal (The Biography of Bani Hilal), Al-Mashrou' w al-Mamnou' (The Allowed And The Prohibited), Samt Al-Jaras (The Silence of The Bell), and Zahma (Crowded).

He also wrote song lyrics for some of the most famous Egyptian and Arab singers in the second half of the 20th century such as Abdel-Halim Hafez, Mohamed Rushdie, Najat El-Saghira, Shadia, Sabah and Mohamed Mounir.

El-Abnoudi gained popular admiration in the Arab world for his unique ability to turn tragic moments in Egyptian history into genial sonnets that provided both a sense of closure and hope to millions coping with adversity. He was 76.


Abdel-Rahman El-Abnoudi
Photo: Al-Ahram


20 April: Actor Ibrahim Yousri

Ibrahim Yousri was known for several prominent appearances in TV series, with the most popular being: Layali El-Helmiya (1987 -1995), Al-Mal Wal-Banoun (1993-1995), El-Gamaa (2010); and films such as Al-Irhaby (1993), Morgan Ahmed Morgan (2007) and Lahazat Anousa (2008).


Ibrahim Yousri
Photo: Al-Ahram


14 March: Actor Mohamed Wafik

Born in 1947, Mohamed Wafik had a dynamic acting career comprising important Egyptian films and TV dramas.

Some of his best works were TV drama series including Layali El-Hilmiya, Raafat Al-Haggan, Al-Seera Al-Hilaliyya, Al-Asdeqaa and Bawabet Al-Halawani. He is also known for his important roles in historical dramas, including Al-Seoud Ila Al Qima and Al-Abtal.


Mohamed Wafik
Photo: Al-Ahram


27 February: Egypt-based Palestinian actor Ghassan Mattar

Born in 1938, Mattar starred in numerous Egyptian productions. Some of his earliest works were centred on Palestinian resistance.

In Egyptian cinema, his most famous roles were in Al-Tareeq Ila Eelat and Al-Abtal, among other films.


Ghassan Mattar
Photo: Al-Ahram


18 January: Actress Thoraya Ibrahim

Thoraya Ibrahim starred in an array of films and TV drama series, including the films Katkoot and Aandaleeb El-Dokki, and the TV dramas Hadith Al-Sabah Wa Al-Masaa, Al-Gabal, Lahazat Hariga and Tamer Wa Shawkiyya.

Ibrahim was also known as a voiceover artist, and voiced Arabic dubs of Disney cartoons like Atlantis: The Lost Empire. In theatre, she is known for her roles in the plays Sharae Mohamed Ali and Kaabaloun. She died at the age of 77.


Thoraya Ibrahim
Photo: Al-Ahram


17 January: Actress Faten Hamama  

Hamama was born in the Delta city of Mansoura. She made her film debut when she was seven years old in Youm Saeed (Happy Day) alongside late legendary singer and composer Mohamed Abdel-Wehab, before growing up to star in dozens of films.

In 1963, during her heyday, she starred in an American film called Cairo. 

Hamama also starred in several TV shows, including Dameer Abla Hekmat (The Conscience of Mrs. Hekmat) in 1992 and Wagh Al-Qamar (Face Of The Moon) which ran in 2000.

The "Lady of the Screen," as she was dubbed, won a number of awards and honours throughout her career. She was chosen as the “Star of the Century” at the 2001 Alexandria International Film Festival for her lifetime of achievement in Egyptian cinema.

Hamama married Egyptian film star Omar Sharif in 1955. They co-starred in several movies and became one of Egypt's most famous celebrity couples, before divorcing in the mid-1970s.

Read the obituary here


Faten Hamama
Photo: Al-Ahram


16 January: Actor Yousry Mostafa 

Mostafa was known for his TV drama roles, including Layali Al-Hilmiyya, Dameer Abla Hekmat and Zizinia, among other famous TV dramas.

He died at 68 after suffering kidney failure.


Yousry Mostafa
Photo: Al-Ahram


12 January: Egyptian film producer Mohamed Hassan Ramzy  

Ramzy was head of the Nasr Production and Distribution Company, which was founded and headed by his late father, director Hassan Ramzy.

The company is behind the production of many iconic Egyptian films including Gharam El Efa’i (Passion Of Snakes), El Gezira (The Island), and El Dealer.

Ramzy was also the brother of artist Hoda Ramzy, and is the father of actor Sherif Ramzy, who is best known for his role in the film Agamista where he co-starred with Khaled Abul-Naga, and acoustic singer Hassan Ramzy jr, who is well-known within Cairo’s independent music scene.


Mohamed Hassan Ramzy
Photo: Elcinema.com

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