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 – XCIII. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Entertainment (19 of 30)

Tahia Carioca

She was born Badawiya Mohammed Karim Ali Sayed in 1919, in Manzala, in the Northern Delta. Her family would later come to Ismailia, and there, while still very young, she started dancing.

Her childhood was miserable; her father married 7 times; and her brothers exercised overbearing authority over her. Eventually, she ran away to Cairo; some say that she was as young as 12!

Tahia was a survivor; she was determined to succeed. While she worked for Badia Masabni, she studied at the Ivanova Dancing School before moving to Mohammed Ali street, Cairo’s equivalent of Broadway.

Carioca tried her hand at Latin American rhythms and soon fell in love with a Brazilian dance, Carioca, hence her stage name.

Tahia Carioca was seldom the object of scandal; when she fell in love, she married the object of her affection! Ultimately, she married 14 times! One of her husbands was an American who took her to the U.S. But the marriage didn’t last long, and she returned to Egypt.

She was what we call in Arabic a maraa or a me’allema, a strong independent woman who possessed the attributes of a femme fatale.

Tahia was not a mere conformist, she placed principles before career. She spoke her mind regarding existing inequities during King Farouk’s reign. When the revolution exploded on the Egyptian political scene, she again showed that she was not afraid to speak truth to power. She confronted the free officers when she asked for the return of constitutional democracy. She was imprisoned for three months for her efforts; while in prison, she went on a hunger strike. It is probably at this point that she regretted King Farouk’s days; and the fact that she had, at the onset, actively encouraged the revolution.

At the beginning, her movie career consisted of brief appearances as a dancer. Eventually, in 1946, Naguib El Rihani asked her to act in the movie Li’bet El Set (A Woman’s Wile); this movie is now a classic of the Egyptian screen, and it revealed her acting talent. Her feature Shabab Imra’a (A Woman’s Youth), was included in the Cannes Film Festival in 1956.

By the 1960s, having put on weight, she gave up dancing and focused solely on her acting career.

She was included in some 100 to 200 films; presumably in many of those movies she had small (dancing) roles.

Her acting extended to the theater (for a long time, she had her own successful troupe), radio, and television. She received many awards.

Tahia Carioca’s reputation was not confined to Egypt only; she was beloved by Americans, Russians, Italians, Armenians, Dutch, and French.

She was a legend in her own time. Future generations will wish they were alive when she shared her heart and soul with the rest of the Egyptian people.

In 1999, in Cairo, she was felled by a heart attack. Once again, Egypt found itself crying over the passing of another legend.

It can be said without being accused of exaggeration that the like of her will never be seen again.

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