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 – XCIV. My Years at 12A Rue Khantaret Ghamra – Entertainment (20 of 30)

Naima Akef

She bursts seemingly out of nowhere on the Egyptian cinema scene with her movie Lahalibo. People fell in love with her; she danced, sang, and performed acrobatic acts; in one word, she was everywhere; indeed, the movie was a one-woman show. You didn’t ask other people, “have you seen Lahalibo?” rather your question was, “how many times did you see Lahalibo?” The name lahalibo is derived from melahleb, an approximate translation would be “hot stuff,” and that is what she was in this movie.

Lahalibo was not her first film, she had previously starred in El Eich Woul Malh (Bread And Salt), it was an instant success; but Lahalibo remains in a class of its own for many of her fans (myself included). That said, many reviewers will tell you that Ya Tamr Henna (Henna Flower) is her greatest movie.

She was born in Tanta, on the Nile Delta, in 1929. Her family moved to Cairo, Bab El Khalq district. She comes from a circus family, and is sometimes referred to as a circus baby. Her parents were acrobats in the Akef circus (her grandfather owned the circus). At the age of four she joined her parents on the trapeze and in time became the best trapezist in the family. Even though based in Cairo, the family took their show across the country.

At the age of 14, her parents divorced and the Akef circus was disbanded. For Naima, this proved to be the beginning of her career. Her grandfather had connections in the show business and he introduced her to people with clout.

She started putting together an acrobatic and clown act. Eventually, her grandfather, through his connections, arranged an audition for her with Badia Masabni. She was hired on the spot and quickly became a favorite of Masabni and the casino clientele. She was one of the few that could both dance and sing. Not surprisingly, the other performers became jealous and one day ganged up on her and attempted to beat her up, but her circus strength and agility allowed her to win the fight. For Badia this was trouble she didn’t need in her casino, and regretfully she had to fire her.

Naima next went to work at another famous cabaret, The Kit Kat Club. There, she would get her big break. She met the well- known film director Abbas Kamel who introduced her to his brother, Hussein Fawzy, another famous film director. Hussein was in the process of casting his next film, Bread And Salt, and Akef proved to be the ideal lead actress. The film was a box office hit, and Naima became a star at the age of 20.

For the next 10 years, she would star in all of Fawzy’s movies. Fawzy could not resist her charms and they married in 1952 despite a 25 years age difference.

Naima would act in some 20 movies. She also joined one of the first Egyptian folkloric group, The Leil Ya Eini Group and greatly contributed to his success. In 1954, at age 25, she was nominated as best dancer in a folklore contest in the Youth Festival in Moscow.

In 1958, Akef and Fawzy divorced. She remarried to an accountant, Saleh Abdel Aleem, and had a son. In 1964, she retired and devoted all her time to her son. She died in 1966 from cancer. She was only 37.

Naima Akef, Samia Gamal, and Tahia Carioca are now immortalized in the world of Oriental Dancing.

Comments are closed.