en-us-Old is Gold - Naima Akef


Naima Akef has entered Egypt's dance history books as one of its most innovative and creative dancers. In the Golden Era, Naima was very famous for her friendship, sweetness and willingness to help her close friends and associates, as well as her entire film crew. Everyone in the artistic world was unanimous in saying that Naima was not influenced by the style of other dancers, but rather created her own style and had a very personal feeling when interpreting Egyptian music.

Naima Alef was born in 1932, in the city of Tanta, in the Nile River delta. Her grandfather, Ismail Akef, a gym teacher at the Umm Al Masryeen school in Giza and a trainer at the Egyptian Police Academy, once attended an Italian circus that came to Cairo and was fascinated by the spectacle. She decided to quit her job to create her own circus. The Akef Circus was known for its trained animals, as well as incredible dance performances and extravagant acrobatics. The entire Akef family participated in the work at the circus, both in shows and in the maintenance and care of the animals. Ismail took special care of Naima's preparation, recognizing her artistic talent from an early age.

When she was 4 years old, her father used all kinds of blackmail to motivate her to train, making constant comparisons with her older sister. Naima was jealous and trained hard to surpass her sister. She had a somewhat conflictive relationship with her father, even trying to escape the circus, but they took her back, and she decided to stay after agreeing on a salary with her father. Once, in Tanta, in one of the local festivities (El Muled) that were held to celebrate the birth of Sheikh ElSayed El Badawi, during the Akef circus performance, Naima received a beautiful music box from a spectator. Every day, when she was alone, she watched the dancer dancing and tried to imitate her movements, thus learning to dance. One day, her father surprised her, took out his gun and shot the music box, destroying it.

The Akef family lived in Cairo, in the Bab El Khalq district, however they traveled throughout the country and even the world with their tours.

In 1942, police surrounded the Akef family, saying that her father, who was a compulsive gambler, had lost everything and his circus and equipment would be confiscated. Her mother, after separating from her father, went to live in a small apartment with her four daughters, on Mohamed Ali Street, in Cairo. They performed acrobatic shows on the street to earn a few bucks and ensure their survival. Ali AlKassar, director of a theater company at the time, became aware of these girls working on the street and soon hired Naima and her sisters to make small appearances in their shows. That small salary helped the family not go hungry. It was in this company that Naima discovered Clacket (tap dancing), she adapted her own shoes and began training tirelessly.

At just 14 years old, she created a comedic and acrobatic show, with monologues and tap dancing that she performed in several clubs. She went to ask for a chance to show her number at the famous Badia Massabni Casino, which at first resisted a little, but in the end applauded her warmly. Naima was hired and shone like a star as she was one of the few girls to sing and dance.

She was one of Badia's favorites, which made the other dancers at the club very jealous, until one day when they got together and tried to hit her, but thanks to her strength and agility, she managed to defend herself and reverse the situation. To avoid further problems between his dancers, Badia decided to fire Naima from the Casino.

In 1949, she made her first film appearance as a dancer, in the film Sit el Beit, Housewife, by director Ahmed Kamel Morsi.

After leaving Badia Casino, Naima went to work at another famous nightclub, THE KIT KAT CLUB, where she met film director Abbes Kamel, who introduced her to her brother, director Hessein Fawzy. Hessein was famous for his musical films, and soon noticed Naima's natural talent for the screen, giving her the lead role in the film "El Eish Wel malh" (The Bread and the Salt - 1949). She debuted in this film alongside singer Saad Abd Elwahab, cousin of legendary singer-songwriter Mohammed Abdel Wahab. The film was a huge success and a brilliant start for young Naima, who was very careful with her performances, choreographing and rehearsing down to the smallest details.

After her first film, Naima had one success after another such as Lahalibo 1949, Baba 3aris (Daddy is the Groom) 1950, the latter made her enter the cinema history books as the first woman to star in Egypt's first entirely color film. . Fetet Esirk 1951, Ya Halawt El Hob 1952, where she performed alongside singer Mohamed Fawzy.

All the coexistence at work turned Naima and Hessein's relationship into a love story and they got married at 52. He was 25 years older than her. As she had prospered a lot and felt that she had not had a complete education, having always been involved with the circus since she was little, Naima sought help from teachers and took classes in classical Arabic, English and French.

It was in this same year that she joined Egypt's first professional folklore company, Leil ya Ain Group. This company was founded by the great writer Dr. Ali Alray. The company staged a lyrical operetta on the legend "Ya leil ya ain" written by Yahya Haqqi, directed by Zaki Tulaimat and its music was composed by Abd ElHalim Noera. The beautiful legend used to say that the phrase "Ya Leil, ya ain" that the Arabs sing in their Mawwal (lament) has a story:

The fisherman, Leil, threw the net into the sea, and caught the mermaid Ain, and they fell in love. The legend ends with his beloved taking him to the depths of the sea to live with her.

in your kingdom. And the fishermen run to the beaches in search of "Leil" and sing to the two lovers, shouting: "Ya leil, ya ain" And they keep calling them forever and ever.

The theaters met the star Mahmoud Reda, who drew attention for choreographing and playing the role of the fisherman "Leil" alongside Naima Akef, who played the role of the mermaid "Ain". The film Nur Ayouni 1954, came after this theatrical representation of Reda and Naima. In the film, the plot featured singer Karem Mahmoud.

Aziza was the film that featured on its soundtrack the beautiful song by Mohamed Abd Elwahab, of the same name.

One of the most famous films was Tamr Hena 1957, which was the story of a group of gypsies. Tamr Hena is the name of a flower and was the name of Naima's character in the film. She is torn between the love of the gypsy in her group, Rushdi Abbaza, and the heartthrob Ahmed Ramzy.

In 1957, when she was 25 years old, Naima performed her dance at an international youth festival in Russia where she won first prize for dancing. Dancers from more than 50 countries competed in this festival. A photo commemorating this victory is displayed on the wall of the Bolshoi Theater Hall of Fame.

In the 1958 film Ahebak Ya Hassan, she performed the same dance and costume that she used to win the Moscow festival in 57. And this was the last film directed by Hessein Fawzy that she starred in. That same year, Naima and Hessein, who were married for nine years, separated. They had no children.

Her last film was Amir Al Daha-a, Prince of Knowledge in 1964. Which is an adaptation of the French novel by Alexandre Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo, which was finished being written in 1846. In this film, she starred alongside the great actor Farid Shawqi.

A few years after the divorce, Naima married her accountant, Salah El Din Abd El Aleem. He was very jealous and did not allow Naima to wear dancing clothes. To avoid marital problems, she withdrew from her artistic life to dedicate herself to her son, whom she had shortly before her own death, in 1966, due to cancer, at the age of 37.

Her circus life served as a platform for her dancing, as she experimented with new ideas, choreography and music. She never spared efforts when it came to measuring expenses, training, making her own clothes or those of the other participants who accompanied her at the shows. Naima often choreographed her own sequences, but was known for being disciplined and obedient to her trainers, technicians, and choreographers. She was an inspiration not only to the next generation of dancers, but to this day.

Claudia Cenci