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  • Writer's pictureBadriyah

Save Naima Akef's Life

Dear readers of the Raqs Sharqi Museum, as the sad anniversary of the death of the fabulous Naima Akef approaches, we bring you a translation of the article from1965 'Save Naima Akef's Life', written for El-Kawakeb Magazine, issued on 16th of November 1965. Big thanks to our translator Karim for both the translation and explanation of some of the terms. You can find the scans of the original article in Arabic below, together with the English translation.

Unfortunately, Naima Akef died on 23 April 1966, five months after the publication of this article.

Save Naima Akef's Life

Since I wrote in the last issue about the crisis in the life of the artist Naima Akef, I have received dozens of phone calls and letters from people I know and people I do not know; all of them are inquiring about her latest news, and among the messages, I received from Cairo and the various governorates of the country, three messages caught my eye. One of them is from a woman whose name is symbolized by two letters, and the second and the third are from citizens who mentioned their full names...

Naima Akef's life is still in danger... Naima must be treated abroad and presented to some international doctors... This is the way that can save the artist's life... and save her from the torment she suffers... and give her reassurance and hope for a better life.

The First Letter - S.A.

The writer of the first letter, whose name was symbolized by the letters S.A., said:

"I cried when I read that Naima Akef was in danger. However, I could not bear to go to the hospital to see her, for Naima, if she was in a condition to receive visitors, undoubtedly would not remember me. Not only do I remember her, but I owe her my life...

The story goes back more than fifteen years…

Naima was still very young. She had recently married the director Hussein Fawzy. She succeeded and starred as an actress, dancer, singer, monologist and circus performer in the movie "El-Aish Wel- Malh", which achieved a success that no other film had preceded. And I was working with her on her second film, which was called Lahalibo, and most of the movie scenes were filmed in the circus. But, of course, this required that the entire circus moves to Misr Studio to shoot scenes inside the studio.

And I am nothing but an aerialist in the circus; an aerialist is jumping from a trapeze to trapeze at a great height inside the circus tent. And as extras in the film, or among the extras, we would not meet the heroine or talk to her except occasionally. But Naima always yearned for the people of the circus. She insisted every three or four days that she sends her driver to "Al-Hati"(1) to buy several pounds of kebabs and kofta. We would sit on the ground under the tent of the circus inside the studio. She would happily sit between us and say her word, which is still echoing in my ears, "The kind bite is enough for a 100-person guy"(2).

Hussein Fawzi was looking at her, denouncing her merger with her old circus family after he raised her from the ranks of circus players to the ranks of first-class stars. But she stubbornly insisted and sat with us so that we could share the delicious bite and the sweet word.

And one day, my life changed...

The director said "camera", and he meant to start filming. The scene was supposed to take no more than half a minute on the screen. I had to jump from one trapeze to another at the height of ten meters. Unfortunately, I lost my balance and fell to the ground!

Hussein Fawzy ordered that the work must not stop, as the studio rent is high. And they carried me out of the tent and called an ambulance. And I did not feel anything that was going on around me; after that, they said that I had a broken leg and a concussion in the brain. And I remember that I woke up and found myself in Al-Mabarra Hospital(3), and next to me, I found Naima Akef herself, and she was in a state of great anxiety. And I still remember her words as it was yesterday; she patted me on the shoulder and said: "You are dear to all of us, Miss, and I bear all the expenses of treatment. After recovery, you will always be with me. After that, I stopped working and couldn't shoot a single scene, and I'm sad for you!

And I cried and kissed her hands. As I am without a father or a mother, my luck in marriage is short. I got married twice and failed as I moved a lot because of my work in the circus. And I had no one to sympathize with me in my ordeal... And Naima used to come to me every day before work. She put money under my pillow, recommended me to those in the hospital, and inquired from the doctor about the timing of removing the gypsum (plaster) herself. She reassured me, and I would cry out of gratitude every time she left my room. I left the hospital with a cracked leg and one hundred percent unsound head; I left with the truth and reality that confirms that I am not fit to work as an acrobat anymore… And I was terrified because working in the circus has been my profession since my early childhood. I do not know another profession. And people only accept a healthy person, and I was still ill and lame.

I did not hesitate. I went to Naima; she bought a large villa in Agouza. And when the doorman kept me outside until he told her about the person who wanted to meet her. She (in the robe) hurried outside, greeted me, and showered me with kisses...and I said nothing to her. She felt my crisis and decided, without speaking, to allocate a monthly salary to me, which I take from her own pocket. And it was quite a number, in addition to my summer and winter clothes. In addition, she allowed me to work as a dresser, that is, a worker who helps artists wear their clothes. And when I succeeded in my new job and began to get well paid, I refrained from taking the monthly salary from the artist Naima Akef.

This is my personal story with her. And, like many other stories of the same kind. Many homes are opened from Naima's private money, and hearts are devoted to her love and prayers for her speedy recovery."

The Second Letter - Teleo

And the second message from the citizen Ali Abdelaziz, who monitors irrigation in Gharbia Governorate:

"I read your article about Mrs Naima Akef and learned that she had suffered from stomach bleeding after the operation, which suggests that the talented artist may have had a stomach ulcer that resulted in this bleeding. With my love and respect for the artist Naima Akef, I inform you that I have a plant that a friend advised me to cultivate in the garden of my house. This plant is not very well known in the Republic; it is very similar to the 'teleo' plant and mint. This plant has benefited my mother in healing stomach ulcers after the operation. She drinks a hot cup of it after boiling it every morning, and she did not complain of any bleeding or stomach pain after the bleeding threatened her before the operation. If Mrs Naima is complaining about an ulcer, please send me a letter at the attached address so that I can come to Cairo. I have this healing medicine to present to the respected lady's husband."

The Third Letter - The Stingy

And the third message from Mr Hassan Salama, an employee of the real estate registry in Cairo:

"I read the El Kawakeb magazine article "Naima Akef is in danger". My whole family and I regretted and grieved for her. Naima was and still is one of our best dancers in terms of artistry and reputation. So please do a big campaign, appeal or whatever you like to save her. And suppose the medicine is not available in Cairo; in that case, I hope Dr Abdel Qader Hatem will help her travel abroad for treatment.

Because we, as audiences and admirers of Naima Akef's art, do not want to be deprived of her.

By the way, my children and I watched the operetta "The Stingy", in which Naima starred, danced, acted and sang for two hours. We watched it three times at the Balloon Theater last winter. We wish her recovery."

And after...

These are the three messages and dozens of others asking about her and her news. Naima's latest news is that she is still in danger, even though she got out of bed and walked into her room twice. The doctors allowed her to sit on the chair and move around inside the room, and she seemed to be making relative progress! And there is the thought of going abroad. And we call on the officials to agree to the travel of the artist, Naima Akef, if our doctors deem it necessary... Her travel abroad is to save her from a great danger threatening her life while she is still young.

(1) “Al-Hati”

Grillroom, a restaurant or dining room that serves grilled meat and fish.

(2) “The kind bite is enough for a 100 person”

Egyptian slang saying that means: If there is a blessing in the food, it can suffice for more than one person to eat, such as the food of one person is sufficient for two people and the food of two can suffice for four, and so the food that is blessed in it can suffice to feed many people.

(3) "Al-Mabarra Hospital"

One of the charitable hospitals was built by King Farouk of Egypt to treat people for free if they couldn’t afford the costs of treatment, surgery, etc.

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