Faten Hamama

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Faten Hamama
فاتن حمامة
Faten Hamama.jpg
Hamama in 1950s
Born Faten Ahmed Hamama
(1931-05-27) 27 May 1931 (age 83)
Al Mansurah, Egypt
Occupation actress, producer, production manager, screenwriter
Years active 1947–present
Spouse(s) Ezzel Dine Zulficar
(1947–54; divorced)
Omar Sharif
(1955–74; divorced)
Mohamed Abdel Wahab Mahmoud[when?]
Children 2

Faten Hamama (Arabic: فاتن حمامة‎, Fāten Ḥamāmah About this sound listen , born 27 May 1931)[1] is an Egyptian producer and an acclaimed actress of film, and television[2]

She made her screen debut in 1939, when she was only seven years old. Her earliest roles were minor, but her activity and gradual success helped to establish her as a distinguished Egyptian actress. Eventually, and after many successful performances, she was able to achieve stardom. Revered as an icon in Egyptian and Middle Eastern cinema, Hamama has substantially helped in improving the cinema industry in Egypt and emphasizing the importance of women in cinema and Egyptian society.[3]

After a seven-year hiatus from acting, Hamama returned in 2000 in what was a much anticipated television miniseries, Wajh al-Qamar (وجه القمر, Face of the Moon). She has not acted since then. In 2000, she was selected as Star of the Century by the Egyptian Writers and Critics organization. In 2007, eight of the films she starred in were included in the top 100 films in the history of Egyptian cinema by the cinema committee of the Supreme Council of Culture in Cairo.[4]

Early life and career[edit]

Faten Hamama was born to a Muslim lower middle class family in Mansoura, Egypt (according to her birth certificate), but she claims to have been born in the Abdeen quarter of Cairo.[5] Her father, Ahmed Hamama, worked as a clerk in the Egyptian Ministry of Education and her mother was a housewife. She has an older brother, Muneer, a younger sister, Layla, and a younger brother, Mazhar.[6] Her aspiration for acting arose at an early age. Hamama says she was influenced by Assia Dagher as a child. When she was six years old, her father took her to the theater to see an Assia Dagher film; when the audience clapped for Assia, she told her father she felt they were clapping for her.[5]

When she won a children's beauty pageant in Egypt, her father sent her picture to the director Mohammed Karim who was looking for a young female child to play the role of a small girl with the famous actor and musician Mohamed Abdel Wahab in the film Yawm Said (يوم سعيد, Happy Day, 1939). After an audition, Abdel Wahab decided she was the one he was looking for. After her role in the film, people called her "Egypt's own Shirley Temple".[7][8] The director liked her acting and was impressed with her so much that he signed a contract with her father. Four years later, she was chosen by Kareem for another role with Abdel Wahab in the film Rossassa Fel Qalb (رصاصة في القلب, Bullet in the Heart, 1944) and in another film two years later, Dunya (دنيا, Universe, 1946). After her success, Hamama moved with her parents to Cairo and started her study in the High Institute of Acting in 1946.[9]


Youssef Wahbi, an Egyptian actor and director, recognised the young actress's talent so he offered her a lead role in the 1946 film Malak al-Rahma (ملاك الرحمة, Angel of Mercy). The film attracted widespread media attention, and Hamama, who was only 15 at the time, became famous for her melodramatic role. In 1949, Hamama had roles in three films with Wahbi: Kursi Al-I'etraf (كرسي الاعتراف, Chair of Confession), Al-Yateematain (اليتيمتين, The Two Orphans), and Sït Al-Bayt (ست البيت, Lady of the House). All were successful films.[10]

The 1950s were the beginning of the golden age of the Egyptian cinema industry and Hamama was a big part of it.[10] In 1952 she starred in the film Lak Yawm Ya Zalem (لك يوم يا ظالم, Your Day will Come) which was nominated in the Cannes Film Festival for the Prix International award. She also played lead roles in Yousef Shaheen's Baba Ameen (بابا أمين, Ameen, my Father, 1950) and Sira' Fi Al-Wadi (صراع في الوادي, Struggle in the Valley, 1954) which was a strong nominee in the 1954 Cannes Film Festival for the Prix International award. Hamama is also known for playing the lead role in the first Egyptian mystery film Manzel Raqam 13 (منزل رقم 13, House Number 13). In 1963, she received an award for her role in the political film La Waqt Lel Hob (لا وقت للحب, No Time for Love).[11] Hamama was also able to make it to Hollywood; in 1963 she had a role in the crime film, Cairo.[12]

In 1947, Hamama married actor/director Ezzel Dine Zulficar while filming the Abu Zayd al-Hilali (أبو زيد الهلالي) film. They started a production company which produced the film Maw'ed Ma' Al-Hayat (موعد مع الحياة, Date with Life) in which she starred. This particular film earned her the title of the "lady of the Arabic screen". She divorced al-Faqqar in 1954. One year later, she married Egyptian film star Omar Sharif. Hamama continued to act in films directed by her first husband.[6]

In 1954, while filming a Youssef Chahine film, Struggle in the Valley, Hamama refused to have the Egyptian actor Shukry Sarhan as a co-star, and Chahine offered Omar Sharif the role. Omar had just graduated from college then and was working for his father; Hamama accepted him as her co-star. Hamama had never agreed to act any scene involving a kiss in her career, but she shockingly accepted to do so in this film. The two fell in love, and Sharif converted to Islam and married her. This marriage started a new era of Hamama's career as the couple made many films together.[10] Sharif and Hamama were the romantic leads of Ayyamna Al-Holwa (أيامنا الحلوة, Our Sweet Days), Ardh Al-Salam (أرض السلام, Land of Peace), La Anam (لا أنام, Sleepless), and Sayyidat Al-Qasr (سيدة القصر, The Lady of the Palace). Their last film together, before their divorce, was Nahr Al-Hob (نهر الحب, The River of Love) in 1960.[13]

Controversy in the late 1960s[edit]

Hamama left Egypt from 1966 to 1971 due to purported harassment by Egyptian Intelligence. She had been a supporter of the 1952 Revolution, but later became an opponent of the Free Officers and their oppressive regime.[5] She said they were "asking her to cooperate" but she apologized and refused. In consequence, she was forbidden to travel or participate in film festivals. She was only able to leave Egypt after many controversial disputes. She lived in Beirut and London during this period.[citation needed]

While she was away, then President Gamal Abdel Nasser asked famous writers, journalists and friends to try to convince her to return to Egypt. He called her a "national treasure"[14] and had even awarded her an honorary decoration in 1965. However, she would not return until 1971, after Nasser's death. She played roles conveying messages of democracy. She often criticized the laws in Egypt in her films. In the 1972 film Imbarotiriyat Meem (إمبراطورية ميم, The Empire of M), Hamama presented a prodemocratic point of view and received an award from the Soviet Union of Women in the Moscow International Festival. Her most significant film was Oridu Hallan (أريد حلاً, I Want a Solution). In this film, she criticized laws governing marriage and divorce in Egypt.[15] After the film, the Egyptian government abrogated a law that forbade wives from divorcing their husbands, therefore allowing khul'.[16][17]

Late career[edit]

As Hamama became older, her acting roles declined and she made fewer films compared to earlier in her career, but nevertheless her films were successful.[18] She made her first television appearances in her late career. She starred in the TV mini-series Dameer Ablah Hikmat (ضمير أبلة حكمت, Mrs. Hikmat's Conscience).[19]

After 1993, her career came to a halt. It was not until 2000 that she returned in the successful TV mini-series Wajh ِِal-Qamar which was broadcast on 23 TV channels in the Middle East. In this mini-series, Hamama portrayed and criticized many problems in Egyptian and Middle Eastern society.[20] Despite some criticisms, the mini-series received much praise and acclaim. Hamama was awarded the Egyptian Best TV Actor of the Year and the mini-series won the Best TV Series Award in the Egyptian Radio and Television Festival.[21] She entered history as the highest paid actress in an Egyptian television miniseries until 2006, when another actress was paid more.[22]

Hamama, with Rushdy Abaza, in I Want a Solution (1974)

Before the 1950s, Hamama had leading roles in 30 films, in which she often played the role of a weak, empathetic, poor girl. After the 1950s, Hamama was in search of her real identity and was trying to establish herself as a distinct figure. During this period, her choice of material and roles was somewhat limited. However, film producers soon capitalised on her popularity with audiences in local and Middle Eastern markets and she began to play realistic, strong women, such as in Sira' Fi Al-Wadi (صراع في الوادي, Struggle in the Valley, 1954) where she portrayed a rich man's daughter who, contrary to stereotype, was a realistic woman who helped and supported the poor. In the 1952 film Miss Fatmah (الأستاذة فاطمة), Hamama starred as a law student who believed women were as important as men in society.[23]

In Imbratoriyat Meem (امبراطورية ميم, The Empire of M), she played the role of a widow who takes care of her large family and suffers hardship.[19] Her most influential film was Oridu Hallan (أريد حلا, I Want a Solution) which criticized the laws of marriage and divorce in Egypt.[15][17] A law in Egypt that forbade Khul' ( خلع ) – a divorce initiated by the wife – was annulled immediately afterwards.[16]

Most critics agree that Hamama's most challenging role was in the 1959 film Dua'e Al-Karawan (دعاء الكروان, The Nightingale's Prayer), which was chosen as one of the best Egyptian film productions. It is based on the novel by the same name by the prominent Egyptian writer Taha Hussein. In this film, Hamama played the role of Amnah, a young woman who seeks revenge from her uncle for the honor killing of her sister.[24] After this film, Hamama carefully picked her roles. In 1960, she starred in the film Nahr Hob (نهر حب, Love River) which was based on Leo Tolstoy's well known novel Anna Karenina and in 1961, she played the lead role in the film La Tutf'e Al-Shams (لا تطفئ الشمس, Don't Turn Off the Sun) based on the novel by Ihsan Abdel Quddous.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

She and director Ezzel Dine Zulficar, while filming Abu Zayd al-Hilali (أبو زيد الهلالى) in 1947, fell in love and got married. The marriage lasted for seven years. They divorced in 1954. Hamama has said that her love for Zulficar was little more than a student's admiration and love for a teacher.[5] The two remained friends, and Hamama even starred in his films after the divorce. They have one daughter, Nadia Zulficar. In 1954, Hamama chose Omar Sharif to co-star with her in a film. In this film, she uncharacteristically agreed to a romantic scene involving a kiss. During the filming, they fell in love. Sharif converted to Islam and married her. The couple co-starred in many films, their romantic relationship clearly evident on screen. However, after almost 20 years, they divorced in 1974; they had one son, Tarek Sharif.[5]

Hamama later married Dr. Mohamed Abdel Wahab Mahmoud, an Egyptian physician.[25] They currently reside in Cairo.

Awards and honors[edit]


Throughout Hamama's career, she has won many awards for her acting roles:[26]

  • First Prize of Acting in Beirut for Irham Dmoo'i (Have Mercy) (1954)
  • Prize of Acting from the Egyptian Ministry of Guidance for her role in Irham Dmoo'i (1955)
  • Prizes of Acting from the Egyptian Catholic Center for Cinema for her role in Al-Tareeq al-Masdood (The Barred Road) and Hatta Naltaqi (Until We Meet) (1958)
  • Prize of Acting from the Egyptian Ministry of Guidance for her role in Doaa al-Karawan (The Nightingale's Prayer) (1961)
  • First Prize of Acting from the National State Award for the film Al Leila Al Akhira (The Last Night) (1965)
  • Special Award for her role in the film Al-Kheit al-Rafee (The Thin Thread) in the first Tehran International Film Festival (1972)
  • Special Award from the Soviet Union of Women for the film Empire M in the Moscow International Film Festival (1973)
  • A Diploma of Honor and the Diploma of Recognition for her role and the idea for Oridu Hallan (I Want a Solution) in the third Tehran International Film Festival (1974)
  • The Organization of Film Critics and Writers' Prize of Recognition for her role in Oridu Hallan (1975)
  • The Prize of Excellence in the Festival of Egyptian Films for her role in Oridu Hallan (1976)
  • Best Actress Award from the Tehran International Film festival for her role in Afwah Wa Araneb (Mouths and Rabbits) (1977)
  • Golden Nefertiti Award from the Second Cairo International Film Festival for her role in Afwah Wa Araneb (1977)
  • Lebanese Golden Order of Merit for her role in the film Leilet Al Qabd Ala Fatma (The Night of Fatma's Arrest) (1984)
  • Prize of Recognition and Life Achievement Award from the Organization of Cinematic Art for her role in the film Leilet Al Qabd Ala Fatma(1984)
  • Best Actress Award in the Carthage International Film Festival in Tunisia for her role in Yawm Mur Yawm Hilw (Bitter Days.. Nice Days) (1988)
  • Best Artistic Achievement Award in the Cairo International Festival (1991)
  • Lifetime Achievement Award in the Montpelier Mediterranean Film Festival (1993)
  • Best Actress award in the Cairo International Festival for her contributions to the Egyptian Cinema where 18 of her films were selected amongst the best 150 films ever made until 1996 during the celebration of 100 years of cinema (1996)
  • Award from The Radio and Television Festival for her role in Wajh al-Qamar (2001)


Hamama was also honored on several occasions:[27]

  • Decoration of Creativity of first degree from the Lebanese prime minister Prince Khaled Shehab (1953)
  • Decoration of Republic of first degree for Art from president Gamal Abdel Nasser (1965)
  • Decoration of State of the first order from President Mohamed Anwar Sadat during first Art festival (1976)
  • Honorary award from the Egyptian National Festival for Cinema for her long distinguished cinematic career (1995)
  • PhD from the American University in Cairo (1999)
  • Lifetime achievement award as the Star of the Century in Egyptian cinema at the Alexandria International Film Festival (2001)
  • Decoration of "Al-Arz" (Lebanon Cedar) from Lebanese President Émile Lahoud (2001)
  • Decoration of Competence and Creation from King Mohamed El Hassan the Sixth of Morocco (2001)
  • Honorary Doctorate from the American University of Beirut (2013)

Selected filmography[edit]

Year International Title Arabic Title Role
1939 Happy Day Yawm Said, يوم سعيد Aneesa
1944 Bullet in the Heart Rossassa Fel Qalb, رصاصة في القلب Najwah
1946 Angel of Mercy Malak al-Rahma, ملاك الرحمة Thoraya
1947 Abu Zayd al-Hilali Abu Zayd al-Hilali, أبو زيد الهلالي Caliph's daughter
1948 The Small Millionaire Al-Millionairah al-Saghirah, المليونيرة الصغيرة Pilot's girlfriend
Immortality Khulood, خلود Laila / Amal
The Two Orphans Al-Yateematain, اليتيمتين Ne'mat
Towards Glory Nahwa al-Majd, نحو المجد Suhair
1949 Chair of Confession Kursi al-I'tiraf, كرسي الاعتراف Phileberta
Lady of the House Sitt al-Bayt, ست البيت Elham
Every House Has a Man Kul Bayt Lahu Rajel, كلّ بيت له راجل Faten
1951 Son of the Nile Ibn al-Nile, ابن النيل Zebaida
Your Day Will Come Lak Yawm Ya Zalem, لك يوم يا ظالم Ne'mat
I'm The Past Ana al-Madi, أنا الماضي Elham's daughter
1952 House Number 13 Al-Manzel Raqam 13, المنزل رقم 13 Nadia
Immortal Song Lahn al-Kholood, لحن الخلود Wafa'
Miss Fatimah Al-Ustazah Fatimah, الأستاذة فاطمة Fatimah
1953 A'isha A'isha, عائشة A'isha
Date with Life Maw'ed Ma' al-Hayat, موعد مع الحياة Amal
1954 Pity My Tears Irham Dmoo'i, ارحم دموعي Amal
Traces in the Sand Athar Fi al-Rimal, أثار في الرمال Ragia
The Unjust Angel Al-Malak al-Zalem, الملاك الظالم Nadia
Always with You Dayman Ma'ak, دائما معاك Tefeeda
Date with Happiness Maw'ed Ma' al-Sa'adah, موعد مع السعادة Ehsan / Amal
Struggle in the Valley Sira' Fi al-Wadi, صراع في الوادي Amal
1955 Our Beautiful Days Ayyamna al-Holwa, أيامنا الحلوة Hoda
Love and Tears Hob Wa Dumoo'', حب و دموع Fatimah
1956 Love Date Maw'ed Gharam, موعد غرام Nawal
Struggle in the Pier Sira' Fi al-Mina, صراع في الميناء Hameedah
1957 Road of Hope Tareeq al-Amal, طريق الأمل Faten
Land of Peace Ard al-Salam, أرض السلام Salma
Sleepless La Anam, لا أنام Nadia Lotfy
1958 The Barred Road Al-Tareeq al-Masdood, الطريق المسدود Fayza
The Virgin Wife Al-Zawjah al-Azra', الزوجة العذراء Mona
Lady of the Castle Sayyidat al-Qasr, سيدة القصر Sawsan
1959 Among the Ruins Bayn al-Atlal, بين الأطلال Mona
The Nightingale's Prayer Doaa al-Karawan, دعاء الكروان Amnah
1960 River of Love Nahr al-Hob, نهر الحب Nawal
1961 I Will Not Confess Lan A'tref, لن أعترف Amal
Don't Set the Sun Off La Tutf'e al-Shams, لا تطفئ الشمس Layla
1962 The Miracle Al-Mu'jiza, المعجزة Layla
1963 Cairo (USA)[28] Cairo Amina
No Time For Love La Waqt Lil Hob, لا وقت للحُب Fawziyah
The Open Door Al-Bab al-Maftooh, الباب المفتوح Laila
The Last Night Al-Laylah al-Akheera, الليلة الأخيرة Nadia / Fawziyah
1965 The Sin Al-Haram, الحرام Azizah
Story of a Lifetime Hikayet al-'Omr Kolloh, حكاية العمر كلّه Nadia
The Confession Al-'Itriaf, الاعتراف Nawal
1966 Something in My Life Shai' Fi Hayati, شيء في حياتي A'ida
1970 The Great Love Al-Hob al-Kabeer, الحب الكبير Hanan
1971 Thin Thread Al-Khayt al-Rfee, الخيط الرفيع Mona
1972 M Empire Imbratoriyat Meem, امبراطورية ميم Mona
1974 My Love Habibati, حبيبتي Samia
I Need a Solution Oridu Hallan, أريدُ حلاً Fawziyah
1977 Mouths and Rabbits Afwah wa Araneb, أفواه و أرانب Ne'mat
1979 No Condolences for Ladies Wa La 'Aza'a Lil Sayyidat, ولا عزاء للسيدات Rawya
1985 The Night of Fatima's Arrest Laylat al-Qabd 'Ala Fatimah, ليلة القبض على فاطمة Fatimah
1988 Sweet Days.. Bitter Days Yawm Mur Yawm Hilw, يوم مر.. يوم حلو Aisha
1993 Land of Dreams Ard al-Ahlam, أرض الأحلام Nargis
Unknown year I Will Never Cry لن أبكي أبدا بطولة Hoda


Year Title Arabic Role
1991 Miss Hikmat's Conscience (mini-series) Dameer Ablah Hikmat, ضمير أبلة حكمت Hikmat
2000 Face of the Moon (mini-series) Wajh al-Qamar, وجه القمر Ibtisam al-Bostany
2007 A Retired Minister (TBA) Wazeerah 'ala al-Ma'ash, وزيرة على المعاش

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Sharif, Omar (1977), The Eternal Male: My Own Story, Doubleday: New York, 1st edition, p. 69.
  2. ^ "Filmography". IMDb. Retrieved 23 November 2006. 
  3. ^ Abd al Min'em, Ghada. "Hamama, a revolution!" (in Arabic). Palestinian Cinema Group. Retrieved 20 November 2006. 
  4. ^ Farid, Samir. "Top 100". Al-Ahram. Retrieved 31 March 2007. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Fouad, Khalid. "Hamama interview" (in Arabic). Al-Jazirah news. Retrieved 12 November 2006. 
  6. ^ a b "Hamama's biodata". IMDb. Retrieved 12 November 2006. 
  7. ^ "Yom Said". IMDb. Retrieved 21 November 2006. 
  8. ^ Karim, Mohammed. "Hamama, Egypt's own Shirley Temple". Official website. Retrieved 21 November 2006. 
  9. ^ "Faten Hamama's biography". Egypt State Information Service. Retrieved 20 November 2006. 
  10. ^ a b c Darwish (1998) pp. 30–31
  11. ^ Al-Khodari, Khalid. "Hamama receives award" (in Arabic). Alalam. Archived from the original on 28 September 2007. Retrieved 12 November 2006. 
  12. ^ Mannikka, Eleanor. "Cairo". New York Times. Retrieved 21 November 2006. 
  13. ^ "Omar Sharif filmography". IMDb. Retrieved 20 November 2006. 
  14. ^ "Gamal wants "national treasure" back". Biography by Al-Husseini. Retrieved 13 November 2006. 
  15. ^ a b Fountain, Clarke. "Orid Hallan". New York Times. Retrieved 24 November 2006. 
  16. ^ a b El-Assyouti, Mohamed. "Orid Hallan". Al-Ahram. Retrieved 23 November 2006. 
  17. ^ a b "Orid Hallan". fatenhamama.com. Retrieved 23 November 2006. 
  18. ^ Mannikka, Eleanor. "Leilet al Qabd ala Fatma". New York Times. Retrieved 24 November 2006. 
  19. ^ a b El Sirgany, Sarah. "M Empire movie". Carnival Arabia. Archived from the original on 11 October 2006. Retrieved 24 November 2006. 
  20. ^ "Wajh al-Qamar details". Cairo Live. Archived from the original on 27 August 2006. Retrieved 24 November 2006. 
  21. ^ Al-Shanduweily, Ayman. "Wajh al-Qamar and Hamama receive awards" (in Arabic). Suhuf.net. Retrieved 12 November 2006. 
  22. ^ "2006 breaks wages' records" (in Arabic). Al Arabiya. Archived from the original on 4 October 2006. Retrieved 30 November 2006. 
  23. ^ "Miss Fatima movie". Arab Celebs. Archived from the original on 29 August 2006. Retrieved 24 November 2006. 
  24. ^ "Nightinagale's Prayer movie". fatenhamama.com. Retrieved 24 November 2006. 
  25. ^ "Faten Hamama biography". MSN Arabia Entertainment. Archived from the original on 23 November 2006. Retrieved 24 November 2006. 
  26. ^ "Hamama's awards". fatenhamama.com. Retrieved 15 November 2006. 
  27. ^ "Hamama's honors". Official site. Retrieved 2006-11-15. 
  28. ^ "Cairo". IMDb. Retrieved 2006-11-21. 

Published sources[edit]

  • Ayoub-Geday, Paul (2002). Egypt Almanac 2002–2003: The Encyclopedia of Modern Egypt. American University in Cairo Press. ISBN 977-5893-02-X. 
  • Darwish, Mustafa (1998). Dream Makers on the Nile: A Portrait of Egyptian Cinema. Columbia University Press. ISBN 977-424-429-X. 
  • Farid, Samir (1995). Faten Hamama. Egyptian Cultural Development Fund. ISBN 977-235-329-6. 
  • Karnouk, Liliane (June 2005) [2003]. Modern Egyptian Art:1910–2003. American University in Cairo Press. ISBN 977-424-859-7. 

Other sources[edit]