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The Life of Badia Masabni
Part 8: The Seeker of Love

 

Starmaker in the Embrace of Happiness & Pain

 

 

Written by Tarek Hashem for Al Jareeda,

Translated By Priscilla Adum

 

This series of articles by Tarek Hashem appeared in Al Jareeda online in August of 2010. It's a long, but fascinating story. This page contains part 8 out of a total of 14 parts. See the bottom of this page for links to the other parts.

The original Arabic version can be found at http://www.aljarida.com/news/index/406008. It appeared online on Al Jareeda on August 19, 2010.

 

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Table of Contents

 

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Back to Beirut

The fear that Badia had felt because of Waheba's war on her was dispelled, as the owner of Cafe Sharabandar launched unprecedented amounts of publicity (*for Waheba*) But the public didn't go to that café on its opening night; instead, they flocked to LunaPark.

Badia's success and brightness increased and she made good money in Aleppo until the summer season ended and with it her work contract at LunaPark.

Badia returned to Beirut along with Mary Bar, her colleague and sincere friend. When the owner of Café Star of the East learned that she had returned from Aleppo he visited her at her home and asked her to sing again at his place. Badia accepted despite the fact that her salary was less than what it had been in Aleppo because of the difficult circumstances of the war.

The audiences of Star of the East received Badia and Mary with cheers and effusive applause and their nights were like an unending party. As soon as they got up on stage the theater would explode with cheers and applause and admiration for this wonderful duo. As a result of the unprecedented admiration of the audience, Badia felt that she had achieved much of what she had dreamed of. She was happy with herself and with her success.

At that time the owner of Café El Marsad was waiting for the opportunity to get Badia to sing again at his casino, so he asked her new boyfriend Mounir to intercede as he was known for his beautiful words, his politeness and his kind manner. He persuaded her to return to El Marsad. Thus Badia returned and with her returned her fans who numbered in the thousands from all social classes, ages, and regions.

Badia

 

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Juliet, Badia's Daughter

On one of the bloody mornings of those difficult days which the cruel war had marked with hunger and death, Badia looked out from her balcony and as she stood there she saw a little girl rummaging through the garbage in the street, looking for food to satisfy her hunger. So she called her sister Nazla and asked her to bring the child to her. As soon as the child saw the food that Nazla set in front of her she pounced on it to kill the hunger that afflicted her and which was on the verge of killing her. Badia let her each as much as she wanted and the child stayed one week in Badia's home, and then she died. Not from hunger but from satiety.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Badia Masabni is wearing a Syrian dress.

Badia was heartbroken by the death of the little girl because she had taken her in to protect her from being ravaged by hunger but she had died of satiety instead. Badia went through days of sadness and pain until she had the idea of adopting a child as a companion. One of her neighbors learned of her desire to to this, and it just so happened that she worked at an orphanage run by nuns near the Beirut River. She told her that the nuns had opened the door to adoptions for those people who could afford to spend money on the children. Badia went to the orphanage accompanied by her private doctor and the nuns welcomed her warmly and showed her the children. Her attention was caught by a blonde girl with blue eyes that radiated innocence, though she was thin. She chose her and was overjoyed. She then learned that the child's father had been in South America and had gotten married and then returned to Lebanon where he fathered the child and named her Julia. Badia named her Juliet.

Badia

 

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To Aleppo Again

One night while Badia was working at Café El Marsad and achieving one success after another, Mikhail Magreb the owner of Cafe El Shahrabandar in Aleppo came to see her. He invited Badia and her troupe to dinner and then asked her to work at his casino. Badia was surprised at his request because the summer season had not yet arrived and it was illogical for her to leave the warmth of Beirut and go in the harsh winter to Aleppo. But he surprised her and told her that he had converted his old hotel in Aleppo into a winter casino and it was equipped with heating.

Badia asked him in surprise, "Why do you want me to work for you and yet you told everyone in Aleppo that I wasn't skilled in singing or dancing?" Mikhail didn't deny that, but he justified his position by saying that Badia had been one of the reasons that he'd closed his summer place and then he offered her his apologies and deep regrets. Badia accepted under the condition that she'd work two weeks for 50 gold lira, as a test. She went alone this time because Mary Bar's boyfriend had rebelled against the rules of his high class family and had decided to wed Mary and emigrate to America and she had already traveled with him.

Badia agreed with Mikhail on a monthly salary of 200 pounds in gold in the event that the first fifteen days turned out to be a success. Mikhail stressed the condition of success in the contract, thinking that Badia's success was linked to Mary and that it wouldn't work out this time. Badia traveled to Aleppo accompanied by the composer Ezat el Gahli and the first song she performed from El Ghali's melodies was "Fouzdouk Memelah Laziz Ya Afandi" ("Delicious Salted Pistachios"). It spread across the city of Pistachios and came to be on every tongue. [*Translator's note: Aleppo is famous for its nuts and pistachios.*] All of this happened in the first 15 days. But Badia decided afterwards not to stay with Mikhail and she chose to return to Beirut. As a result he became enraged and he asked all of her friends to intercede and persuade her to stay in Aleppo. She agreed under the condition that she receive a salary of 200 gold lira every 30 days in advance.

Badia

 

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Buying a New Home

Shortly afterwards Badia finished her work in Aleppo and returned to Beirut longing for her child Juliet. When she entered the home Badia kissed her madly but the child greeted her coldly as if this woman were a stranger to her. Badia paid no heed to this behavior and she was happy because the child had become beautiful.

At that time, her sister Nazla suggested to her that she buy a new home of her own and she told her about a beautiful house in the El Ramel neighborhood. Its price before the war had been 1,000 gold lira, but it was now going for only 1,000 Turkish lira. Nazla advised her to sell the gold bracelets on her wrist and buy the house.

As they were talking, Gibran the broker arrived and he joined Nazla in convincing Badia to buy the house. It was built of stone and was surrounded by a garden and a fence and it overlooked the sea. Badia was persuaded by her sister and the broker, and she put a down payment of 250 Turkish lira on the home.

After this, Badia returned to work at Star of the East and her fans increased day by day, mainly the Turkish Officer Salah El Din. However, Badia couldn't find time enough to satisfy everyone and she rarely met with him anymore because he traveled extensively between Germany and Turkey. Whenever he returned to Beirut and asked about Badia he usually didn't find her because she was either in Tripoli or Aleppo. So their meetings became difficult and few. Perhaps Badia's closeness to Mounir was the reason behind her neglect of Salah El Din. Mounir carried much of the burden for Badia. First of all in regards to the house, he kept safe for her the money that she earned from her work at Star of the East so that she could save up the rest of the house payment money. As a result, Badia viewed him as kind and noble.

Badia

 

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Gamil Bek the Turk

One day while Badia was at her seamstress', she met a woman of short stature with a good looking face. The seamstress introduced her, saying that she was the wife of Mounir. Badia asked her with curiosity, "Is Mounir married?" and the woman answered, "Yes, and he has three children". Badia felt sorry for this woman and thought to herself, "She's a beautiful woman who has three kids, but she feels broken and consumed inside by jealousy."

Badia turned to the woman saying, "Believe me, if I had known that Mounir was married and had three kids I would never have accepted his friendship." She also added, "Anyway, rest assured that I will end the friendship tastefully."

The woman told her that her husband always claimed to accompany her brother to the Café Star of the East, and that he returned home late because of him, but her brother denied this. So her husband was exposed. This made him irritable and he threatened to divorce her. She was fearful that he might deprive her of her house and her children and she asked Badia to make him come back home, and also to not tell him that she had met with her or spoken to her.

The woman's tears affected Badia's feelings and pained her. Badia spoke to her kindly and promised her to completely cut off her relationship with Mounir. She began to think of a way to accomplish this without giving any reasons because he was so kind to her and he showed her nothing but yearning and love and cooperation. He had also promised to pay off the remainder of the mortgage on the house and then she would pay him back in installments and it was only a matter of days until Badia would have this house registered in her name.

Badia continued to be in a state of confusion until a rich and famous trader from Aleppo named Mohamed came in to El Marsad accompanied by a young Turkish man named Gamil Bek. Mohamed introduced his Turkish friend to Badia and she sat and talked with him until it was time for her show. He fully displayed his interest in her and this made her accept to proceed entering into a friendly relationship with him. There were successive meetings between Badia and Gamil and she deliberately increased their frequency and talked about them so that word would reach Mounir. He indeed learned of it and altercations occurred between them. And so, their relationship ended without him ever knowing that his wife had met with her.

Badia searched for love and she believed in it. She drooled over the soft, deceptive words of men and and during one of their moments of serenity Gamil told her frankly that he couldn't stand for her to be away from him and asked her to accompany him to Aleppo. But she remembered the house that she still hadn't registered and she was concerned that she might lose it along with the 250 Turkish lira that she had put as a down payment on it. Gamil noticed her confusion and asked her in God's name to tell him what was going through her mind. So she told him what had happened to her with Mounir and she told him that she needed 200 Lira to finish paying off the house.

After consultations between Gamil and his friend Mohamed, he agreed to pay this money on the condition that 1/4 of the house would be in his name. Badia accepted this peculiar condition and thus she bought the house and registered 1/4 of it in Gamil Bek's name. Badia wondered many times why Gamil wanted to have 1/4 of the house registered in his name and why he didn't give her the money in advance but it seems that the glow of love fooled her and she agreed to his request believing that he loved her, even though her mind was telling her otherwise. After thinking about it she convinced herself that Gamil had asked this of her because he wanted to retain her.

Badia left Beirut and accompanied Gamil. Her focus was on him at the expense of her work and of her band. She believed that he was the only one in her life who was worth making sacrifices for. She spent 2 months with him in Aleppo between love and seriousness, sleeplessness and yearning, with little care for other things such as the audiences who loved her, the acclaim, or the applause, or the gold lira or fame. She forgot the incandescent nights and the fancy dresses and she lived only for him, forgetting everyone else.

One morning, one of her neighbors invited her for coffee at her house and she immediately accepted the invitation. She was surprised by the presence of Bashir el Kaser and Zahi Daher the owners of LunaPark. They offered her work at their casino but Badia asked them to give her a chance to think about it. After they left her neighbor tried to persuade her to return to work, assuring her that love does not last and advised her not to waste her youth because men are not trustworthy, and not to let her talent go to waste.

Badia

 

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The Treachery of Gamil Bek

Badia's meeting with her neighbor shook her up inside and she was unable to shut her eyes that night. The words "men are not trustworthy" were spinning inside her head and for the first time many questions popped into her mind. What was really going on with Gamil Bek? Would he have given her the 200 lira if she had not registered 1/4 of the house in his name? Did he just give her this money so she'd feel safe with him and as a result quit her work? Suddenly the mist was removed from before her eyes and she began to to feel wary about him.

In the evening Gamil returned to Badia and she received him without letting him notice her concerns, but for the first time she drank quite a bit. When he saw her like this he took her to his room and began to sweet talk her, and to ask her about the sudden change. She threw herself on his chest crying without saying anything and Gamil continued with his sweet talk until she told him frankly about her meeting with the owners of the café. He asked her if they had reached an agreement and she replied "Yes, we will start working in one month." At this point he became infuriated because she had acted without his permission and had done something that angered him.

In response to his aggressive reaction, Badia reminded him that she was responsible for the family and the house and for her sister and her children. She expressed remorse for leaving her sister in Beirut prey to poverty and hunger after she'd moved there from Sheikhan her village to live with Badia in order to be protected from the fangs of hunger. And since she (Badia) now did not have the money to assuage her hunger or that of her family, she made the decision to return to work and agreed with the café owner to begin singing there in a month.

He became furious and he blamed Badia saying, "Because of you I'm in Aleppo now, far from my family this whole time. And because of you I quit my job in Istanbul. Since you made the decision to leave me, then I will return to Turkey."

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Badia Masabni is wearing a costume representative of the Levant.

Badia replied, "As for me, I will go back to Beirut. I want to check on my sister and her children and my daughter Juliet. The owner of the café promised to pay me two months' salary in advance so that I can pay you back the 200 lira and you can give me back the 1/4 of the house."

At that moment Badia felt as if a stranger stood in front of her, and he repeated in Turkish, "Tamam, tamam Badia Hanem. I will make all the arrangements. Afarem Aliki Badia." [Translator's note: it means, "OK FINE" in a sarcastic manner.]

Gamil at once realized that Badia was going to leave him and he showed his true self. He began to supervise her like a jailer and treated her badly.

Badia reluctantly put up with him so that he would return the 1/4 of the house that she'd registered for him and after several days she said to him, "Can you accompany me to Beirut so I can pay you back your money and you can give me back 1/4 of the house that is registered in your name?"

He replied, "I don't like Beirut and I don't want to accompany you there. I will give my friend Zaki Mohamed Effendi a power of attorney and you can pay him 250 gold lira." Badia objected, "But you only lent me 200 lira!" He said to her "That's right, but the price of the house today is 1,000 gold lira and I want my part in full. If you agree with this, fine. And if not, then you can do whatever you please."

Badia

 

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About the Translator

Priscilla is a dancer of Lebanese heritage who enjoys researching the Golden Era of Egyptian dance. She owns a collection of more than one hundred classic black and white Egyptian films which is continually expanding.

Priscilla has also gathered a large library of dance related articles and clippings from Middle Eastern magazines and newspapers, many of which she has translated from the original Arabic to both English and Spanish.

Priscilla currently resides in Central America where she is a dance instructor. 

Priscilla

 

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