Photo of Shira



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

Historic Photos from the Golden Era


Collected By Priscilla Adum



Table of Contents

Click any of the photos below to see more detail. They are organized alphabetically by dancers' and singers' first names.

Or, skip directly to a particular artist using these links:



Bamba Kashar

Bamba Kashar was an Egyptian dancer who lived around the same time as Shafiqa el-Koptiyya. In this photo, Bamba is the one who is seated, and wearing a long necklace.

Bamba Kashar was the very first Egyptian dancer to appear in a film. It was a silent movie called Leyla made in 1926, released in 1927, and it was in fact the first feature-length Egyptian movie ever made. Bamba played the role of a dancer named Salma.

The role of the nurse in the film Leyla was played by Mary Mansour. Mary was the owner of a popular sala on Emad El Din street and was one of Badia Masabni's fiercest rivals in the early days when Badia opened the first of her three night clubs.


Bamba Kashar was one of the dancers known for performing with a shamadan (candelabrum) balanced on her head. Today, a number of the albums of music for Oriental dance include a song titled "Bamba Kashar" for use with shamadan. Some say this song was originally composed for her.

In 1974, a biopic titled Bamba Kashar was made about her life, directed by Hassan al-Imam.

Bamba Kashar



Beba Ezz el-Din

This 1937 photo shows Beba Ezz El Din reclining on an assuit shawl. Beba Ezz El Din was the dancer who purchased two of Badia Masabni's nightclubs.

She purchased Casino Badia on Emad el-Din street in 1936 through devious means. Years later, in 1950, she purchased the Casino Opera when Badia sold it to retire to Lebanon.

Beba Ezz el-Din died less than a year later in 1951 in a tragic car accident.




Hekmet Fahmy

These are photos of Hekmet Fahmy, one of the most famous dancers in Egypt during the 1930s, when she was known as Sultanet el Gharam (The Sultana of Romance). Hekmet worked at several popular salas including those run by Badia Masabni and Mary Mansour, and she was said to have danced for Hitler and Mussolini.

Hekmet Fahmy

In this photo, Hekmet Fahmy shows off her sense of style.

Hekmet Fahmy
Hekmet Fahmy appears in this photo with Egyptian actor Hussein Sedky. Hekmet Fahmy and Hussein Sedky

Spying for the Germans

Hekmet Fahmy sits at a table in this photo with two military officers. I don't know whether they are German or British, because I'm not very familiar with military uniforms.

Although Hekmet Fahmy had become very popular as the leading dancer in the Egyptian nightclubs of her era, her fame became almost legendary after she was caught spying for the Germans and was sent to prison for several years. Fahmy's boyfriend, Johannes Eppler, entangled her in his spying ring, knowing that she despised the British. According to an interview that Eppler gave to People Magazine in 1980, "Fahmy would ply British officers with liquor, invite them to her houseboat on the Nile, and then take them to bed. Meanwhile, Eppler went through their papers and wallets in another room."

Fahmy and Eppler had been childhood friends. He was the stepson of a wealthy Egyptian and had been raised in Alexandria and Cairo where he went by his stepfather's name, Hussein Gaffar.

Hekmet Fahmy

Movies Inspired by Hekmet Fahmy's Story

Several movies were inspired by the story of Hekmet Fahmy and Johannes (John) Eppler.

Foxhole in Cairo

A 1960 British film called Foxhole in Cairo Gloria Mestre, a Mexican actress in the role of the dancer / spy. A link to the film appears online, with the dance scene beginning at 28:35.

Foxhole in Cairo Movie Poster

The Key to Rebecca

This 1985 made-for-television mini-series starred Cliff Robertson and David Soul (of Starsky and Hutch fame). The belly dancer spy, Sonja el Aram, was played by Lina Raymond.

This link leads to a video clip of the movie. The dance scene begins at about 27:50.

Al Gasusah Hekmet Fahmy

Nadia el Guindy stars in a 1994 Egyptian film based on Hekmet Fahmy's exploits called Al-Gasusah Hekmet Fahmy (Hekmet Fahmy, the Spy). This image shows the poster for the movie.

Hekmet Fahmy the Spy



Layla el-Chakraa
(also known as Layla el-3amriya)

Layla el-Chakraa was the stage name of Badia Masabni's adoptive daughter Juliette. It means "the blonde Layla". She also sometimes used the name Layla Al 3amriya.

This photo of Taheya Carioca and Layla el-Chakraa appeared as part of a 1939 ad for Casino Badia when Badia's club was functioning at the Majestic Theater. It was a year before Badia opened the Casino Opera.

Taheya Carioca and Layla el-Chakraa



Mary Yousef

This photo of Mary Yousef was taken in 1937. She was a dancer at Badia Masabni's club.

Mary Yousef



Nabaweya Moustafa

This photo of Nabaweya Moustafa and her new husband Mokhtar Hussein appeared in the magazine Al Aroussa. The text congratulates the newlyweds on their wedding and notes that it was a large event.

The couple went on to have three children, one of them a journalist.

Nabaweya was born in 1919, and died in 2001.

Nabaweya Moustafa and Mokhtar Hussein



Oum Kalthoum

This photo of Oum Kalthoum is from 1925.

Oum Kalthoum's birth name was Fatma Ibrahim El Beltagi. Her father used to call her Oum Kalthoum as a nickname, in reference to the Prophet Mohamed's daughter Oum Kalthoum, through his wife Khadijah.

In old Arabic the name Oum Kalthoum means "one with full cheeks", and in this context does not mean the mother of anybody. There are many Arab women with Oum Kalthoum as their first name — it's not an uncommon name, and it would not be shortened to just "Oum". Her last name is not "Kalthoum", it's "El Beltagi".

Oum Kalthoum
This childhood photo of Oum Kalthoum with her brother is displayed at the Oum Kalthoum Museum on Rhoda Island in Cairo, Egypt. Oum Kalthoum and Brother

Why did Oum Kulthoum always wear dark glasses? These diamond studded glasses that belonged to the legendary singer can be seen on display at the Oum Kulthoum museum in Cairo.

Oum Kulthoum always wore dark glasses because she had a thyroid condition that caused her to develop exophthalmus, which is a bulging of the eyes. It's not uncommon for thyroid patients to suffer from exophthalmus. This in turn may also cause dryness of the cornea and sensitivity to light.

When Oum Kulthoum developed the condition in the 1940's, surgery on the thyroid was very risky because it could have damaged her vocal cords, with the possibility that she could completely lose her voice. She underwent treatment for her thyroid condition both in Egypt and in the United States over the span of several years.

According to an Egyptian friend of Priscilla's, the effect on Oum Kulthoum's eyes caused by the thyroid disease was also the primary reason that she ended her career in cinema. Her final film was in 1948. When she sang concerts in theaters, the television camera operators were instructed to not focus on her face or zoom in for close-ups of her.

This photo of Oum Kalthoum as a young woman is displayed in the Oum Kalthoum Museum on Rhoda Island at Cairo, Egypt. Oum Kalthoum

Oum Kalthoum (in the dark glasses) and Badia Masabni enjoy a moment together as old friends reunited. This photo is the center of a collage displayed at the Oum Kalthoum Museum on Rhoda Island at Cairo, Egypt.

News of Oum Kalthoum's death on February 3, 1975 was announced to the Egyptian people by the Egyptian Minister of Culture himself. President Anwar el Sadat sent a representative to the funeral. It is estimated that millions of people turned out to bid her farewell. Time Magazine lists Oum Kulthoum's funeral as one of the ten largest celebrity funerals in history.

Oum Kalthoum and Badia Masabni




This photo shows the Lebanese singer and actress Sabah with her groom, famous actor Rushdie Abaza, on their wedding day. They married in Lebanon while he was there filming a movie.

Unfortunately, at the time Rushdie Abaza was still married to Samia Gamal, who awaited him patiently in Egypt. Until the day she died, Sabah maintained that he lied to her and told her that he had already divorced Samia. Sabah divorced him less than a week after the wedding because, as she said in an interview, he thought much too highly of himself and figured that he was the greatest star on earth — something that irked her to no end.

After the divorce, Abaza returned to Egypt and to his wife Samia Gamal, who had heard about the marriage on the news. She never reproached him, not even when he insisted on listening to Sabah's records for hours on end.

Years earlier Rushdie Abaza had been married to Taheya Carioca as well.

Sabah and Rushdie Abaza



Samia Gamal

This photo shows the wedding of Samia Gamal and Texas oil heir Sheppard King III on November 29, 1951. He converted to Islam for her, and took on the name Abdullah Bey.

In this photo, Samia is wearing a simple white gown and small hat. Sheppard King is facing her. This is the katb el ketab (wedding ceremony). Their hands are united under the white mandil (handkerchief) according to Islamic tradition.

Samia Gamal was nicknamed "the barefoot dancer". I'm guessing she's trying to make a point here, posing for a photo as she shines her shoes. Samia Gamal

These two photos of Samia Gamal with Angelo Boyadjian were taken in 1950. Angelo was the brother and business parter of famed Armenian/Egyptian photographer Levon Boyadjian, also known as "Van Leo".

Many of the most well known celebrity photographs of that time period were taken by one of the two brothers at Studio Angelo in Cairo. They were renowned for their photographs of Omar Sharif, Samia Gamal, Farid al-Atrache, and other celebrities. Eventually, they split up and each one opened his own studio.

Angelo left Egypt in 1960 and lived out the rest of his days in Paris.

Van Leo, on the other hand, remained in Cairo. However, as the years passed, he was forgotten and most of the customers who came to his studio only wanted passport photos. Nobody dreamed that he had once hobnobbed with the stars of the Golden Era.

Van Leo's legacy was forgotten until he received a visit in the 1990s by a professor from the American University in Cairo. He introduced the professor to a treasure trove of photographs that were worth much more than a thousand words.

Samia Gamal and Angela Boyadjian

Samia Gamal and Angelo Boyadjian

This photo shows a close up of Samia Gamal wearing a stunning costume.

She wore this costume in the 1944 film Man Al Jani (Who's The Criminal?) In this movie, she danced barefoot, something that was unusual at the time. This clip shows Samia performing her dance scene in the movie. The stars of that movie were Anwar Wagdy, Amina Rizk, and Ismael Yassin. This is one of Samia's earliest films when she was only about 19 or 20 years old. She doesn't have an acting part in it, and only appears in one dancing scene which is the engagement party for a couple who is going to be married. The guests are laughing because they are thoroughly enjoying the dancer's performance. An elderly couple is particularly tickled about it because they are from a village and rarely have the chance to see a belly dancer like Samia's character.

After doing a barefoot performance, Samia was eventually given the nickname "the barefoot dancer" and rumors began to circulate that she couldn't afford shoes. Samia confronted these rumors in a later interview in Kawakeb magazine, saying that at the time of the rumors she could easily afford to buy every single shoe in the Bata Shoe store window.

At that time period most dancers wore shoes. If you look at all the pictures of Badia Masabni's dancers at her clubs, you'll see them wearing shoes pretty much all the time.

Samia Gamal
in this photo, Samia Gamal wears religious attire as she heads for the airport to begin the hajj (pilgrimage to Mecca). Samia Gamal
This closeup shows more detail of Samia's face. Samia Gamal



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About the Collector

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. 




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