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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

About Naemet Mokhtar

Translated By Priscilla Adum

 

This biography represents a partial translation of an article about Naemet Mokhtar that appeared on the Ya Beyrouth (Ya Beirut) web site. The version of the article currently online carries a date stamp of Wednesday, 09 October / 2 November 2011 21:44.

Naemet Mokhtar was born in Alexandria to a wealthy family. She was an only child who grew up in more than comfortable surroundings. Her mother was a woman who loved music and who had many artist friends.

However, the relationship between Naemet Mokhtar's mother and father was full of conflict. When the fights became intolerable, Naemet's mother left her husband and escaped, taking the child with her.

They lived in a rented apartment in Alexandria around the time of World War II. One day, after having spent some time in a bomb shelter, they returned to their apartment to find that the building had been leveled flat by a bomb, leaving them homeless. Mother and daughter then went to live in El Mansoura with a good friend of the mother's who happened to be a well known artist named Oum Zaitoun. It was from Oum Zaitoun that Naemet Mokhtar learned to sing.

Naemet Mokhtar

Later, they went to live in Port Said with another friend of Naemet's mother named Nabaweya Salem. Nabaweya had no daughters of her own and she grew to love Naemet as a daughter. Nabaweya also had a dance troupe who was regularly hired to dance for high class celebrations. She would often take the young Naemet with her to these parties and Naemet would sing and do imitations of vocalists such as Layla Mourad and Sabah.

Eventually the mother returned to Alexandria, leaving Naemet with Nabaweya Salem who cared for her as if she were her own child and put her through school where she excelled in singing and dancing. Her mother later returned for her and took her to Cairo where she rented an apartment from a very well known Almeé named Zouba el Keloubatiya. She was a Mohamed Ali Street dancer who was famous for dancing with a keloub (type of lantern) on her head, hence the name "Keloubatiya".

On one occasion another neighbor who happened to be a musician took the young Naemet to a party where he had been hired to play, where she sang and recited poetry. One of the guests at the party happened to be a film director who was so impressed that he introduced her to the director of Nahas Studios (where Naima Akef was under contract making a movie) and they hired Naemet to be in the movie with Naima Akef.

Even after the success of this film (Fataat al Sirk) Naemet and her mother still had difficulty making ends meet, until one day a well-to-do man came to their apartment building searching for a dancer for his wedding. The wedding was to be held on a Thursday night, which is a weekend (in Egypt) and so most people organize their events and celebrations for Thursdays. It was difficult to find a dancer who was available. Since all the dancers were already booked, they asked Naemet if she would do it. At first she made excuses and said that she wasn't really a dancer and furthermore she didn't even have a costume. But they needed the money badly and so she accepted. She rented a costume and took the job. One of the wedding guests was the agent of singer Karem Mahmoud, and he was so impressed with her that he immediately put her under contract as a background dancer for Mahmoud. Naemet soon became the lead dancer.

Naemet also became a background dancer for singers Mohamed Abd el Moutaleb and Mohamed Kandeel. She later joined Na3ma Abdo´s dance troupe where she soon became the main dancer. During this time she met Farid el-Atrash who would hire her regularly to dance at his parties while he played Oud. Oum Kalthoum was a fan of Naemet Mokhtar, enjoying her dancing so much that she would invite her to many of her parties to dance and even nicknamed her "Symphoniet el Raqs el Sharqi" (The Belly Dance Symphony) Mokhtar said later in interviews, "I never felt guilty about working as a dancer. Quite the opposite. I feel proud of having worked as a dancer. People think that success comes easily, but the fact is that I worked hard to become a successful dancer at a time when the field was full of dance stars."

Naemet Mokhtar always denied that her mother and her friends were Awalem.

Naemet Mokhtar married three times. The first marriage was to director Niazi Mustafa who was considerably older than her, and lasted only one month. Her second marriage was to actor Mahmoud el Melegi and also ended in divorce. Her third marriage was to a general in the police force with whom she had her only son, Mohamed.

She produced several films well into the 70's and also founded a theater troupe to introduce Bedouin style dances to audiences. She retired in the 70's. She repeatedly refused offers to teach dance after her retirement and said she would not, no matter how much money she was offered.

 

 

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Some Video Clips of Naemet Mokhtar

 

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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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