• Badriyah

Samia Gamal Interview - Nora, part 1

Here I present a translation of the first part of an extensive interview with Samia Gamal, from Nora Magazine, 26 Jan1995. The translation from Arabic to English was done by Karim El Wazeir (huge thanks!).


The Memories Bag

That’s my story with Rushdy Abaza:

  • My first meeting with him was in Rome, and our love story started in Beirut.

  • I used to address him (communicate with him) with flowers language, so he can know if I’m angry at him.

  • I asked for divorce after 17 years of marriage while my heart rapture.

Big artist Samia Gamal left our world at the beginning of December last year (1994) leaving behind a great artistic legacy consisting of tens of showcasing and musical films she did during the golden age of cinema. The one who used to be called barefoot left a lump (heartbreak) in each heart of her colleagues in the artistic community: because she has such a delicacy in character and transparency in feeling. It was a must to open the “magazine’s memories bag“ at some of its pages with Samia Gamal. And this interview that “Nora” publishes was made by Nada Mohamed Badie Sorbeih with the passed artist a few years back. She was back then away completely from fame, after passing the period of youth, beauty and being a star. But in this interview, she told with all simplicity and honesty all what her memory carried on her artistic and personal life that was full of a lot of events and surprises.


I say to Samia: You lived as Rushdy Abaza’s wife for 17 years. How did you meet and how was your divorce? And she with a likeable simplicity says:

I will tell you my story with him since the very beginning to the end. The first meeting between Rushdy Abaza and I was in 1949. I was in Rome on that day acting in a collaborated Egyptian-Italian film, and he was thereby coincidence for other businesses. I didn’t know Rushdy before but heard a lot about him. And like any two Egyptians who meet abroad, each one of us had a passion of welcoming each other.


I asked, you met only once?

Our first meeting was to get to know each other and then we started gathering at banquets that we used to get invited to by Egyptian friends. Rushdy and I used to always meet without any plans or times, in a specific street in Rome. Especially in front of a sidewalk coffee shop that I always loved to walk by it or sit at it to enjoy watching the green Egyptian flag between all the countries flags on each table of this coffee shop. After several times meeting with Rushdy Abaza at that coffee shop, he said that he also liked watching the green Egyptian flag between all the other flags.


The meeting was in Rome between you and Rushdy in 1949, and as I read, back then at that time you would still be the love of life of musician Farid El Atrash. She makes it clear and says:

That’s right, the meeting in Rome between Rushdy and I was spontaneous and was nothing but friendship. I went back to Egypt after working on the film, and 10 years passed without meeting him at all until we met to act together in “The Second Man” film that was directed by Ezz El-Din Zulficar. Rushdy was married to an American woman at that time.


Samia Gamal with Farid El Atrash

I ask her, did you both remember your meeting in Rome after 10 years?

Of course, we did remember that meeting, and what really interested me is that Rushdy mentioned to me the model and the colour of the clothes that I used to wear in Rome. And despite that, I didn’t take it as flirtation, because the relationship until even that time was a colleagues relation. Then, after we were done working for the film, we travelled to Beirut together along with other colleagues to attend the first premiers for his film at “Dunia” cinema. When we returned back to Egypt again, love started to penetrate inside of us, each two of us had emotions towards each other. But this emotions and feelings were shaping or embodying in the happiness we feel when we meet or in my defence for Rushdy Abaza if I hear someone criticizing him, and in his initiative to answer or comment on any oppressing word that been said about me. And from that day there was the best image of a friendship between me and him that can’t be deformed for any purpose.


And I ask her again: How did you reach the love point?

The dispute exploded between Rushdy and his American wife until it reached a divorce. And I stood by his side as a friend to lighten up his shock. With days passing by, our feelings started to get out of ourselves towards each other, none of us finds it embarrassing anymore to confess the love to one another. Back then I wasn’t engaged to any relationship or a love affair with any human. He was in relationships and affairs with so many women. But his heart settled on me, and my heart was open and ready for him; we got married after 5 years since our love started.


I asked in shock: After 5 years? She said: What pushed us to marriage is “Bobby”, Rushdy’s American ex-wife, she fell in love with a young American man and insisted to get married to him and travel back to the States. And she had one condition in order to get married and travel: her daughter Kesmat Rushdy to be in my care, or she would change her mind about marriage and stay in Egypt beside her daughter. I said to her “get married and travel while you rest assured that I will treat Kesmat with tenderness and sincerity exactly as if she’s my daughter”. After she travelled, Rushdy and I had an agreement to get officially married so I can have legal status to prevent his daughter from being taken from my care.


Did the nature of your lives change after marriage? And she drifts away with memories, with tenderness voice:

Days have passed by, while Rushdy and I sharing life with its sweetness and bitterness. Some disagreements would happen every now and then, that would make Rushdy get mad and go stay in “Omar Khayam” hotel, not abide to come back and solve the disagreement.


Samia Gamal and Rushdy Abaza when they were married.

I ask her: Didn’t you have the ability to solve the disagreements with him before he gets angry and go stay at a hotel? With the same tenderness she says:

He is a very shy person, like too much shy! A lot of time he would get angry at me for something simple or small, get his clothes on, gets out of the house, face the hustle till he arrives at his office to call me on the telephone and tell me: he’s upset because of this and that. And I tell him: Ok, why didn’t you tell me this while you were still here at the house instead of consuming energy and go to your office? Then he says: I get shy to tell you! And it’s true, the telephone was the only way for Rushdy to talk with me or blame me for very small or simple things in my opinion, but important for him. For example, Rushdy is a very organized person about his private matters, if I forget once to put the cigarettes ashtray in the place he is used to finding it, he gets really angry. Maybe the reason for that was because I used to spoil him too much and I loved him so much. But despite him getting very angry so fast, a beautiful smile or a tender word from me was enough to calm his anger down and satisfy him. Which made me assured that he had a good kind heart.


Despite all the clashes and disagreements happening between both of you, you had a happy life.

That’s true! We healed our clashes with love and passionate conversations. For example, I like listening to vinyl records in all languages. And I once found a vinyl called “Mimi’s telephone” and it’s about a conversation between a man and a woman, and the man says to his lover: Don’t leave me, wait...Talk to me so I can feel comfortable. And when Rushdy used to stay out late, I would put this vinyl on the “pick-up” and keep playing it till I sleep. When Rushdy used to get back home late in the evening, he would immediately head to the “Pick-up” and if he sees “Mimi’s telephone” vinyl put on the “pick-up” he would get it that I’m mad at him and work on to satisfy me. So that’s how we used to communicate with vinyl records that we loved listening to.

The flower language Samia Gamal invented to communicate with Rushdy Abaza.

I ask her: Was this way of communication from your invention?

Yes, and then I invented a way to communicate with flowers!


And the curiosity drives me to ask her, how? She smiles with happiness and says:

The thing is, Rushdy and I love natural roses in an indescribable way. The best gift each of us can give to each other is a bouquet of flowers. I put in our bedroom a bowl for flowers and he would understand even without asking if I’m upset or not when he comes back home late evening. If he finds three flowers in the bowl it means “I love you”, if he finds five flowers then it means “I love you very much” and if he finds seven flowers it means that love is full, and when I’m upset from him then Rushdy won’t find nothing but just two flowers that have no meaning. And if I’m too upset, he finds one flower. But if I’m really mad, I get the flowers bowl outside of the bedroom.


If you ask me why I would do all of this, I say that when a woman is a home, she must think about her husband and the troubles he encounters outside home, and not wait for him to get back home and start to accumulate with reproach, blame and discussions on him.


So the idea of the flowers was stemmed from your constant thinking of Rushdy Abaza?

Of course, because he would know if I’m satisfied or mad through flowers and by that we would save energy of discussion and anger. I advise all married women to communicate with their husbands by the language of the flowers to keep depression and bad luck (misfortune) away from their home.


But you reached a divorce point with Rushdy after all that! And as a sad cloud flew over her face, she says:

The first and final reason for separation and collapse of our marriage life is Rushdy’s alcohol addiction. I got tired from it and my life became harder seeing the man that I loved and gave him my best years of life, getting sick, his health becoming delayed, and his personality changing because of that.

Samia Gamal preparing tea in her kitchen.

And were you the ones who asked for a divorce? She answers my question with pain:

I did not have the ability to do anything but that. Yes, I asked for a divorce while my heart is aching. And here I open my heart and say with all honesty: I’m still in love with Rushdy Abaza as I always loved him, and he knows it. He also knows that I wish him to be the most shining person in the artistic world. I even consider him on a top of an artistic pyramid, and few who are talented as him. I don’t have anything now but to pray to Allah to heal him, to love me and love his fans as we all do.


Then, she keeps silent while she beat her tears and say:

This is my story with Rushdy Abaza from its sweet beginning to its painful ending. What I request for after telling it with all honesty, that press pens stay away from telling my story with Rushdy in wrong details.


…..

Then Samia Gamal finishes telling her story. And I leave her to rest and wipe her tears that fell her face with every line she was telling me about by shaking lips, with a mature heart with honesty and loyalty.


Nada Mohamed Badie Sorbeih





Photography: Isabelle Hanneuse

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