Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

The Second Exodus – Egypt – XCII. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Entertainment (18 of 30)

Samia Gamal

Throughout the ’40s and ’50s two dancers dominated Egypt’s Baladi dancing scene: Samia Gamal and Tahia Carioca. Much has been written and said as to who was the best; more often than not, reviewers have given the nod to Carioca; however, this remains an empty dilemma; they were both superb; they also had very different styles.

I never found myself in a quandary; although I liked Tahia, Samia was my preferred dancer-actress. At a time when my body was making strange new demands, I had a crush on her. Once, when I went to see one of her movies, I took a program with her picture on it. I left it in my drawer; it was not hidden, for not much could be hidden in our Ghamra’s apartment!

She was born as Zeinab Ibrahim Mahfuz in 1924 in Wana, in Upper Egypt. Soon after her birth, her family moved to Cairo and resided near the famous Khan El Khalili bazaar. Many years went by before Samia Gamal got her first break; it happened when she met Badia Masabni. Badia asked Samia to join her dance company and Samia willingly accepted. It was Masabni who gave her the stage name of Samia Gamal; a fitting name since Gamal means beauty and she was indeed very beautiful.

Her first teachers were Badia Masabni and Tahia Carioca. Before long, however, Gamal developed her own style. She incorporated techniques from classical ballet and Latin American dancing into her solo dances. She was also the first to wear high heels on the stage. Finally, following instructions from her classical dance teacher, Ivanova, Samia started veil dancing.

In 1949, King Farouk bestowed on Samia Gamal the title of “The National Dancer of Egypt.” This in turn made her known beyond Egypt’s borders.

In 1950, Samia came to the U.S. and was photographed by G. John Mili. She also danced in a trendy New York’s nightclub. She later married a “Texas Millionaire,” who as it turned out was no millionaire at all! The marriage didn’t last long, and Gamal returned to Egypt. In 1958, she married Rushdy Abaza, one of the most famous Egyptian actor.

In addition to being a first-rate dancer, Samia Gamal was a good actress. She acted in some 40 movies including foreign ones. For instance, in 1954, she was featured in the French movie, Ali Baba Et Les Quarante Voleurs (Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves). The film was directed by Jacques Becker and included the famous French comic, Fernandel. Again, in 1954, she danced her way into the American public’s heart with her feature, “Valley of The Kings.” This movie starred Robert Taylor.

Gamal retired in 1972, came out of retirement, and continued dancing until the early 1980s.

Samia Gamal died in 1994. She left behind her a vacuum that can never be filled.

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