Dubai: The outspoken, irreverent and controversial Uncle Ahmad, as poet Ahmad Fouad Najm is known in Egypt, died on Tuesday in Cairo, his friends said.
The wiry poet has shot verbal daggers at every Egyptian president he has lived under - resulting in him spending 18 years of his life in prison.
The poet was famous for his carefree lifestyle and quick wit.
At 83, last year he told a news channel: “I still write like I’m 25, eat like I’m 25, and please a woman like I’m 25.”
Nicknamed the “ambassador of the poor” and the “poet of the revolution”, Najm soared to prominence in the aftermath of Egypt’s military defeat by Israel in 1967 when he teamed up with the revolutionary singer Shaikah Imam to release rebellious songs.
Ever since his lyrical poems have catalysed protests in Egypt.
Najm’s famed lyrics was chanted by young protesters who took to Tahrir Square in Cairo in early 2011 pushing the then president Hosni Mubarak to step down.
An outspoken critic of Egypt’s different presidents, Najm was jailed several times, including 11 years for mocking a TV interview by president Anwar Sadat who ruled Egypt from 1970 to 1981.
Najm was rarely seen in public without being clad in jallabiya (a flowing dress), which became his trademark outfit.
Born to a poor family in the Nile Delta province of Sharqia in May 1929, Najm showed an early passion for social justice. He married several times, with his wives including Egyptian writer Safinaz Kadhm and singer Azza Balba.
Despite his age, he was keen to actively participate in public life until his death.
Last week, he attended a forum in Jordan where he said that the military’s July overthrow of Islamist president Mohammad Mursi following enormous street protests against his rule was a “sign that Egypt has not died”.
Najm, a staunch leftist, was a vocal critic of Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood.