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Samia Gamal in Iraq

We bring you a translation of an article written by Samia Gamal herself! This article was published in El- Kawakeb Magazine, on March 3rd, 1959. The translation was provided by Karim.

Notice what Samia says when she talks about Egyptian movies being shown in Iraqi cinemas - it seems that Western movies were shown in cinemas that had better technical equipment than the cinemas that featured Egyptian movies. Enjoy the rest of the reading and Samia's stories!

Between Al-Qashmrah and Babel’s Lion

Written by Samia Gamal

Samia dances in the nightclub where she worked in Baghdad.

I visited Iraq for the first time in my life, despite the fact that I wanted this visit ten years ago, and despite the invitations that I received many times from Iraqi families’ and despite the job offers that tempted me to work in Baghdad’s nightclubs. I visited Iraq only two weeks ago and when I arrived at the airport I was surprised by many people I don’t know who greeted me and welcomed my arrival’ and told me that dozens of people were waiting for me, but the plane was delayed and the wait was long, so they left with regret, thinking that I had postponed my flight to Iraq.

On my first visit to Iraq, several laughable situations occurred to me, which I would like to mention here because of their humour.

The day after my arrival, I went to one of the photographers to take several pictures of me in natural colours, and after he finished photographing me, I asked him about the time when he would deliver the pictures to me, and he replied, “When I wash it”… I couldn’t help myself from laughing and said: “How do you wash it?!” Did it die?! (Note: There is a custom in Egypt that if someone dies, his/her body is washed.) And the man simply answered me: "Never. I wash it so that I can print the pictures." And then I understood that this "wash it" means "to develop the film".

And it was not the only funny incident caused by the difference in dialect. I wanted to buy some necessities from a commercial store, and I realized that the seller overestimated the price, and when I mentioned to him the price I wanted to buy for, he laughed and said: “You are going to crust me (toqshmoriny)?” I didn’t understand what “Qashmara” is until after a long explanation from the seller, he meant that I was trying to deceive him or trick him, that is the meaning of "Qashmara".

Samia smiles at a photographer’s lens on the balcony of the hotel she stayed.

The wife of the owner of the nightclub where I worked invited me to visit some of the monuments of Baghdad. And we rode the car and travelled in the desert for about three hours, then we reached a deserted place to find a great surprise waiting for me, there was nothing in the place but a statue of a lion in a position representing strength with a surrendering village, and despite this, I liked the place very much, it was quiet in which a person could spend nice hours and take pictures around the only statue representing the monuments in this place.

Although I received dozens of invitations from Iraqi families in Baghdad, that I didn’t want to accept an invitation from any of them, for the fear of upsetting any family I did not respond to their invitation.

And the singer Farid al-Atrash occupies a large place in the hearts of the Iraqi public, and everywhere they ask me about him and the date of his visit to Iraq, and his songs have received a famous success there, and I even learned that one of the record sellers built a huge fortune out of his monopoly on Farid’s records by selling them.

The Iraqi audience is eager for Egyptian films, and I attended the movie “Street of Love” there, and the turnout was so great that it was fantastic, and I felt that it achieved very large revenues, but the thing that Egyptian producers should pay attention to is that they should stipulate that their films be shown in first-class theatres in the capital of Al-Rasheed, that most of our films are shown in theatres that are poor in its technical capabilities and equipment, which facilitates the superiority of the foreign film that is shown in a luxurious theatre over the Arab film.

I liked the hotel which I stayed at in Baghdad, which is one of the newest hotels there, and it was built in the style of our Shepheard Hotel, and I used to spend most of my spare time next to the radio, listening to musical programs, and I once listened to a live football match on the radio, and I couldn’t control myself from laughter and the announcer describing the match in the Iraqi dialect, with its wit, and I heard a singer from Iraq trying to imitate Abdel Wahab’s voice, he took one of his famous tunes and installed other words on it that overpower the Iraqi dialect, and when I discovered Abdel Wahab’s relationship with the melody, I realized the secret of people’s admiration for him.

Samia stands at the feet of the famous “Lion of Babylon”.

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