Cairo: Tributes have poured for legendary Egyptian actress Faten Hamama, who died in Cairo on Saturday at the age of 83.
Hamama, who started her acting career when she was just seven years old, appeared in 103 films. Several of her works are regarded among the best in the history of the Egyptian film industry, the region’s oldest.
Due to her variety of roles, Hamama has long been nicknamed the “Lady of Arabic Screen.” She was a former wife of celebrated Egyptian actor Omar Sharif, with whom she co-starred in several films.
There was no immediate comment from Sharif on Hamama’s death.
“Faten Hamama stands out as the symbol of the Egyptian cinema,” said Ashraf Abdul Ghafur, the head of the Egyptian Actors’ Union. “She takes a lot of credit for the glory achieved by the Egyptian cinema in the Arab region and in the rest of the world.”
Hamama died Saturday in her home in the Egyptian capital after suffering a sudden health problem, according to her family.
In recent years, she had heart problems, which prompted her to travel to Britain for medical treatment, media said.
The news of her death sent shock waves across Egypt.
Her fans mourned her in online condolences. Different local TV stations devoted much of their airtime to special programmes and showed parts of Hamama’s films.
Some actors, like veteran actress Nadia Lutfi, burst into tears as they paid tribute to her on TV.
“Faten Hamama is not only the “Lady of the Arabic Screen’, but the lady of hearts and big love,” a tearful Lutfi told private TV station CBC late on Saturday. “She was an example of simplicity and refined performance. She was a true example of the Egyptian woman.”
Her last public appearance was in 2014 when she attended, along with other actors and singers, a meeting with former army chief Abdul Fattah Al Sissi during his presidential campaign. Hamama expressed backing for Al Sissi in a rare media interview last year.
The office of Al Sissi, Egypt’s incumbent president, described Hamama as a “high creative value”. “She has enriched the Egyptian art with her refined works,” a presidential statement said late Saturday. “She will remain a symbol of the genuine Egyptian art and commitment to its ethics.”
Egyptian newspapers Sunday gave front-page prominence to Hamama’s departure. “Farewell to the Lady of the Arabic Screen,” state-run newspaper Al Akhbar headlined in black.
“The river of love has dried up,” proclaimed independent newspaper Al Tahrir, playing on the name of a well-known film co-starring Hamama and Sharif.
Hamama received the Dubai International Film Festival (Diff) Lifetime Achievement award in 2009. “We are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of the iconic and beloved Egyptian film star Faten Hamama. She graced our screens in over 100 films and her pioneering work will remain an inspiration to generations of cineastes, actors and audiences in the Middle East and beyond for years to come,” said Diff chairman Abdul Hamid Juma. “It was our absolute privilege to honour such a distinguished artist and human being at DIFF in 2009 with a Lifetime Achievement Award and we will always cherish her performances in many of the all-time great movies in Arab cinema. Our thoughts are with Faten’s family at this sad time.”
Hamama married three times. She married Egyptian film director Ezz Eddin Zulfakar in 1947 for s seven years. In 1955, she wed Sharif, a Christian who converted to Islam to marry her. Their marriage lasted until 1974. Her last husband was Mohammad Abdul Wahab, a medical professional.
She is survived by a daughter and a son.
Hamama’s funeral was to be held in Cairo Sunday noon.