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The Life of Badia Masabni
Part 9: Crazy About Badia

 

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 9, 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/406199. It appeared online on Al Jareeda on August 20, 2010.

 

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Table of Contents

 

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Crazy About Badia

Badia became a thing of joy and beauty to the people of Aleppo. She was the candy that removed the bitterness from their throats. Even the pistachio vendors would call out: Ya pistachios! The same ones that Badia eats! Ya pistachios! After the end of the summer season Badia was preparing to return to Beirut as usual, when her friends suggested to her that she stay in Aleppo and rent a house in which to host parties and soirees. This was the custom among artists in those days so that art lovers could come from all over and gift them with money and gold. [Editor's note: This was customary among Arabs at the time.] Badia liked this idea, and she asked her friends to help her establish a home in Aleppo. Before long she had opened the doors of her new home to receive the notables of the area and of neighboring countries.

After repeated successes that exceeded all her dreams, Badia returned to Beirut to reassure her sister Nazla. She remained at home on a sort of hiatus until the composer Ezat El Gaahli visited her. With him came the actor Hussein Riyadh who was in the early stages of his artistic career. He was trying to play the roles of Nagib El Rehani, imitating his voice and his movements on the stage. He suggested to her that they form a theater troupe and go on tour to Palestine to present their shows there. Badia welcomed this idea, especially as she'd been focused on dancing and singing. She was at risk of forgetting her acting because she was unable to find an opportunity in Beirut to train in it or to even practice it as a hobby.

Badia

 

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In Palestine

Haifa was the first city to receive Badia and her troupe. Badia began to search for a stage to work on, but the café owners had already signed contracts with dance troupes. After she had searched to the point of despair, someone told her that there was a theater in a Jewish neighborhood. However, he warned her that if she worked there the Arabs wouldn't go because it was a Jewish neighborhood, and Jews wouldn't go because it was an Arab troupe. So Badia moved to Jaffa and went to the Banour Café which had a beautifully conditioned stage. The public flocked with great enthusiasm to see Badia and her troupe. She had much success until the revolution broke out in Jaffa and there were repeated frightening demonstrations. The entire city shut down and people were unable to leave their homes. So the troupe was forced to suspend their shows for several days, hoping that the situation would return to normal again. But the troupe members were being paid in full, so Badia was forced to let them go. Badia Masabni

 

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In Egypt

Badia left Palestine for Egypt, the Capital of Art, taking her adopted daughter Juliet with her. She stayed at a hotel on Emad el Din. The flyers for the Ali El Kasar Theater and for Nagib el Rehani caught her attention, so she went to the El Rehani theater where she ran into Hussein Riyadh who welcomed her. At the time Rehani was presenting the play "You and Your Luck" written by Hussein Riyadh and starring singer Fathia Ahmed. After the show, Hussein Riyadh offered to introduce her to Nagib el Rehani and he accompanied her to the latter's room. With him was Bade3 Khairi and other personalities. As soon as Nagib el Rehani saw Badia, he said to Hussein Riyad, "Where did you get this magical beauty?" Badia

 

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Badia and El Rehani

Riyadh introduced Badia as one of the most famous artists of the Levant, so El Rehani offered her to work in Egypt with him. When she asked him about the salary, he told her that he'd pay her the highest wage that an actress could earn, which was not more than 45 pounds. But Badia objected and Hussein Riyadh interceded and negotiated until Badia agreed to work for a salary of 60 Egyptian pounds and she signed a contract with El Rehani. That day she took Juliet and her maid and ate dinner at the restaurant called Al Parisiana.

Badia wasn't convinced regarding the salary that El Rehani had offered her, so she made an agreement with Regina to work with her for a higher wage. In addition to this, she owed Regina 300 gold lira that she had loaned her without asking Badia for any collateral, so that she might travel to Egypt. So Badia apologized to El Rehani and she returned to Regina in Palestine and began to work quite actively. During her visit to Egypt, Badia had learned new songs including, "Ya Nawa3em Ya Toufah Ya Haga Helwa Kawaysa" ("Oh Smooth Apple, Oh Smooth and Beautiful Thing"), "Salma Ya Salama Rouhna Wi Gaana bi el Salama" ("Salma ya Salama, We went and we return safely") "El Bahr Bdhak Leh Wi Ana Nazla Adal3 Amla El Kolal" ("Why does the river smile when I prance down to fill my jug?") as well as other Egyptian songs that were famous at the time.

In Palestine, Badia achieved a success that made her forget about the bitterness of the failure she had faced the last time, and the tips she collected every night were equal to her monthly salary at the El Rehani theater, in addition to the expensive gifts from her fans. After her contract with Regina had ended she traveled to Palestinian cities and moved on to Aleppo and Tripoli. When fatigue exhausted her she returned to her sister's home in Beirut and she bought a house.

In Beirut, Badia met Aymen Atallah who was collecting a large troupe of artists. He convinced Badia to go with him to Palestine because of the good impression she'd made on the hearts of the Palestinians. But she didn't like working with Atallah because she was accustomed to working alone as the band owner and also because Atallah gave his wife the leading roles and had brought with him from Egypt the singer Ratiba Ahmed, the sister of Fathia Ahmed. Badia's work with Atallah didn't last long, she left him and formed a special group and traveled to Haifa where she met her old friend the singer Mary Jubran, or the Beautiful Mary as she called her.

After Badia finished her work in Haifa, one of the Palestinians invited her to perform at a party in Ramallah and she responded to his invitation. The turnout was great despite the modest place and whoever didn't find a seat sat on the floor. Also, the wealthy ones of the area brought their own chairs with them so they could watch Badia, the one with the famous name and the unique dancing and singing that appealed to everyone. Badia toured throughout Palestine and in the city of Nablus there wasn't a single Jew, but she was accompanied by a Jewish musician named Shehada who was one of the important members in her band, so she was forced to call him Mohamed in order to hide the truth of the matter from the people of Nablus. Shehada only owned an oud, a cushion and a bakj (a large piece of fabric similar to a bed sheet) that he carried his clothes in. He immediately noticed the huge audiences and he began to pressure Badia to increase his salary taking advantage of her need for him. But she didn't give in to this blackmail and threatened him that if he didn't desist from his demands she would call him by his real name Shehada so that the people of Nablus would know that he was Jewish and they'd attack him. At this, he had no other choice but to stop his demands and work silently.

Badia was the first singer whose feet touched Nablus and she loved it. She then went to Jenin and then to Ramallah and to Gaza. She and her band presented an enjoyable show. Her program was successful and she succeeded in attracting audiences. She was invited to perform at parties in the homes of important families in Gaza. When she began to feel tired she let the troupe members go and she traveled to Egypt again.

Badia

 

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Egypt Again

In Egypt, Badia stayed at the San Estefano Hotel in Alexandria to entertain herself and to forget about the exhaustion and the tired sleepless nights. There she met up with her Palestinian friends, among them Habib, Michel and Samy el Shawa the virtuoso violin player and the most famous instrumentalist of the time. She also met up with Ibrahim Bek, a wealthy Egyptian and close friend of Nagib El Rehani. A discussion took place between them and he reproached her for having left Nagib el Rehani and gone to the Levant, and he advised her to return to him once more and fulfill her contract with him. He talked a great deal about Rehani's reputation, the wide popularity that he enjoyed and the respect that the different social classes in Egypt had for him.

In the face of his insistence, Badia interrupted him and said "Rehani may be a genius, but he's very cheap". So Ibrahim asked her about the salary that Rehani had offered her and Badia continued saying "In Palestine I never made less than 300 pounds in gold" Ibrahim laughed and said "300? What? The Prime Minister in Egypt doesn't make that much!" At that, she suggested that he ask her Palestinian friends himself, just to confirm it. But he declined and asked her again about the salary that El Rehani had offered her. She responded "60 Egyptian pounds." Ibrahim was surprised that she didn't accept, but she said to him "How can I accept ya Ibrahim Bek, and stay at the San Estefano where I pay 6 pounds per night?"

So Ibrahim Bek advised her to make this sacrifice for the good of her future. She interrupted him and said, "I have no future in Egypt. My future is in Syria and Lebanon and Palestine. I'm the only artist there, but Egypt is full of artists everywhere." Ibrahim responded, "That's exactly where you are mistaken. Egypt doesn't have artists that can perform the style you do. Yes there are singers and dancers but we lack the style that Badia offers. If you work with the El Rehani troupe, different social classes will know of you and they'll point to you because of your fame, and you'll become one of the most important actresses in Egypt."

While Badia was engrossed in her discussion with Ibrahim Bek, her Palestinian friend Michel came and invited her to go for a walk on the beach. This invitation was the lifesaver that freed her of Ibrahim Bek, the closest friend of Nagib el Rehani.

Badia expected an innocent walk, but she was surprised when Michel frankly professed his love for her and informed her of his willingness to sacrifice everything for the sake of her happiness. However, she remembered her past experiences and she rejected the relationship, warning him to stay away from artists. At that, he rose up and threatened to commit suicide, so she said to him with a smile on her lips "Suicide is not so simple ya Michel."

Then she returned to her hotel where Juliet and her maid were waiting for her. Michel began to follow her around like a shadow. If she went to the sea, she would see him and if she went for a walk in the park, he would walk behind her and kept repeating the same words. She tried everything to get rid of him but was unsuccessful.

When she checked her expenses after her first week at the San Estefano, Badia was surprised to see that Michel had paid for everything and so she was confused about him. Then, while she was sitting on the beach, a hand covered her eyes and a voice said "Guess who?" and she answered "A crazy person of course!" Michel yelled "Michel is crazy about Badia and if you don't believe me, just ask me to throw myself into the ocean and I'll do it!" Badia said to him in a sarcastic manner "Go ahead. Let's see how courageous you are" So he ran off to the ocean and she ran behind him loudly calling him back. As she drew near to him and grabbed his hands he threw her into the water and threw himself in after her. Badia was a good swimmer but Michel didn't let her return to the beach and took the opportunity to kiss her. This is how their relationship began and it continued for a long time.

Badia

 

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To Beirut

After spending a wonderful time in Alexandria, Badia returned to Beirut without meeting with Nagib el Rehani. A messenger from Hassan Alongey went to see her to invite her to work with him in Tripoli. She accepted immediately after remembering her happy times in Tripoli as well as the kind heartedness of the people of Tripoli and their Hatemi generosity. [Editor's note: Hatem was an icon of Arabic generosity, and so people are said have the generosity of Hatem.]

But Badia quickly realized that she was going to be working with Hediya Masameri and her sister Wahiba with whom she'd had differences in Aleppo. As soon as the audience saw Badia Masabni in the sala, the place began to reverberate with applause. That day she was wearing a dress adorned with the four colors of the Arab flag. Among the audience members that night was Aaref Bek El Hassan who got carried away and began making a speech to the audience and in a short time a riot broke out. The soldiers arrested those who they regarded as troublemakers. As for Badia, she avoided arrest by slipping away from the soldiers and rushing backstage where the other artists hid her and denied any knowledge of her whereabouts. Also, it was an opportunity for a reconciliation between Badia, Hediya Masameri and her sister Wahiba.

After this mishap, Badia was under the constant supervision of French soldiers wherever she went to Tripoli and whenever she went to Aleppo. But the French army had her under surveillance, narrowing in on her and supervising all of her songs.

Badia

 

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Egypt for the Third Time

At about that time, Nagib el Rehani traveled to Syria and worked there without much success, so he went to Beirut and his arrival coincided with Badia's return to her house in Mahla El Saafi. After she had rested from the fatigue of traveling, her sister Nazla suggested to her that they return to the village of Sheikhan and Badia agreed to the idea.

In the evening Badia took her sister Nazla to the El Rehani theater and they sat in a theater box next near the stage where she quickly drew everyone's attention. After the end of the first act, one of El Rehani's friends approached Badia and asked her to meet with him as per Rehani's request and Badia agreed. With Rehani was his friend Moustafa Hanafi and they all began to try to convince her to return with them to Egypt. El Rehani reminded her of the prior contract between them and he didn't let Badia leave the place until she swore to him that she'd accompany him on this trip.

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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