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Photo of Shira

 

 

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

Hekmet Fahmy, the Spy

 

Translated By Priscilla Adum

 

This article about Egyptian dancer/spy Hekmet Fahmy appeared on Monday, October 3, 2011 in the printed version of El Mougaz newspaper on page 18. This picture is a scan of the printed article. Click on it to see more detail. It also appeared in the online version of the paper on October 9, 2011 at http://elmogaz.com/?q=node%2F6574, but this link no longer works. Hekmet

 

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Headline

This is one of the biggest stars of of Egypt of many years ago and in her youth she was called all kinds of beautiful, she had fame and glory. She was known as the Sultana of Tarab, she was Miss Egypt and she danced before Presidents and Kings the world over.

But she could never have imagined how her end would be. Life defeated her and the media ignored her. Let's get to know her secrets, from the time she unexpectedly entered prison until the last day of her life.

 

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Sultanet El Gharam Cried in a Church in Shoubra

[Note: Hekmet Fahmy was known as "Sultanet El Gharam", "The Sultana of Romance".]

The sun set and the hours of the night passed slowly. The beautiful Egyptian dancer arrived at her famous houseboat. A person that she didn't know stepped closer, and without anyone noticing him, he informed her that he was Captain Mohamed Ibrahim Imam. He asked her to come quickly with him so as not cause trouble for herself.

Inside the car, the world spun for the most beautiful and famous dancer in Egypt, and she was very confused. She asked the officer softly, "Where to, Officer?"

He answered, "Official mission."

"But I'm a dancer!"

"Believe me, this is an appropriate task for you."

"So, can I ask who I will meet and where?"

"First you will meet with Oum Saleh, secondly, we're very near the place."

Fear mixed with the dancer's confusion, and the officer's facial expression did nothing to reassure her. The tone of his voice carried a clear gloat and none of her (feminine) weapons meant a thing to him. Nor did her fragrant perfume, nor her femininity which had won over important officials, nor did the many influential relations that she was famous for and who were a source of terror when she called upon them.

The car arrived at a dark street in the Zeitoun neighborhood. The officer got out of the car and extended his hand for Hekmet to come out after him. The famous dancer quickly understood that she was in front of the prison. She didn't say a word and she walked behind the officer until a fat woman with sharp looking eyes appeared. The officer said to her, "Take this parcel while I finish up the administrative procedure."

Hekmet Fahmy swallowed dryly as she stared at the fat woman and at her features, then asked in a sad tone, "Where are we?"

The response was, "This is the foreigners' prison, ya habibti, you've brightened the place up. I've prepared a room for you and changed the water for you!" [Sarcastically]

Hekmet

The heat inside cell 6 of the foreigner's prison was sweltering, the humidity was high, and the famous dancer almost suffocated. The night was long, bitter, and difficult, but Hekmet Fahmy shed no tears. Perhaps because at that moment she understood the magnitude of the mistake she had committed when she fell in love with the young German man of Egyptian origin. She loved him madly and had snatched him away from adoring women in both Germany and Egypt. The dancer, who was loved by all men and by important figures of State, realized that she should have known this would be the end result, from the moment that she had begun to become suspicious of the behavior of her lover. A lover who was like a magician, in that, only his assistants were privy to his secrets. She was very weak in the face of all his requests and in regard to the wireless apparatus that she discovered him with one night. Her love for him made her blind and she turned a blind eye to the fact that he was a spy for the Germans against the British who at the time occupied Egypt and were at war with Germany.

Hekmet Fahmy didn't sleep that night. She didn't feel safe even though she knew that important personalities had been held in the same prison, in adjacent cells, including officer Anwar Sadat and the famous singer Asmahan and also Egyptian leader Aziz el Masri Pasha. She thought that perhaps they'd release her because she wasn't a deliberate traitor but just a woman in love who had fallen for a man who hated the British and spied for the Germans.

She wished they would remember her very full history, that she was the first dancer to receive the title of Miss Egypt, the first dancer to be called Sultanet el Gharam (Sultana of Love), and the first dancer to impress entire world capitals and their leaders. She danced before Hitler, Churchill, the King of Greece, United States President Roosevelt, and other kings and heads of state.

Hekmet

Then her tears began to fall as she recalled these memories and recalled her road to fame, a fame that she had reached after a difficult journey. She began as a small time actress and ended up becoming a dancer who demanded the highest wages in the Arab world, who owned a houseboat on the Nile and a villa in Dokki and large bank accounts. But now she was suffering the bitterness of prison. Perhaps what was happening to her now was punishment for her sin against her husband, the young pilot who was an army lieutenant in the Royal Egyptian Air Force. He had loved her so much, like no man had ever loved a woman, but she had treated him so badly and she left him after only one year of marriage. Perhaps this was the wrath of God after she had stopped attending the church of Saint Theresa in Shoubra and had become occupied with fame and glory and love.

 

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Released After Two and a Half Years

When she was released from prison, she had lost her wealth after selling her houseboat and the villa. Her friends abandoned her, and everyone betrayed her, but the dream of fame and glory had not left her mind. She wanted to reclaim her throne by making a major film and she invested all of the money that remained in her account in it. But the film failed badly and it ended her myth and erased her history. She returned to dancing but was abandoned by the masses. She could not believe that at the very same clubs where men had fallen to their knees before her she was now being ignored by everyone.

Her wealth was lost and her star had faded. The owners of the nightclubs told her that she was no longer desired by the public. As the years passed, she thought deeply about how to face this sentence of time, and she found only one way. She stopped drinking and accepted her poverty and sought refuge in the church. In the later years of her life she went to the Church of Saint Theresa in Shoubra and asked about the pastor Youhana and was shocked to learn that he had died. But deep down inside she knew that the final lesson was that life has no guarantees and that Eternity belongs only to God. She decided to spend most of her time in church lighting candles and asking for forgiveness, and crying. She continued to do this for years and years until she died — without the newspapers ever mentioning a single word about her death.

 

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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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