Legendary Egyptian actress Soheir Al Bably dies, aged 84

The actress was admitted to intensive care days ago and had fallen into a diabetic coma

Suhair Al-Babli. courtesy: @batoularafa twitter
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Egyptian actress Soheir Al Bably, revered for her theatrical and cinematic performances, died on Sunday. She was 84.

Al Bably’s son-in-law, Reda Taima, said the actress was admitted to an intensive care unit in Egypt days ago and had fallen into a diabetic coma.

Tributes to Al Bably from fans and peers began flooding social media soon after the actress’s death was confirmed.

In a Twitter post, Egyptian actor Mahmoud El-Bezzawy praised the actress’s contribution to Egyptian drama and comedy, saying she brought her "fingerprint" to every role.

“Goodbye to who made me fall in love with the theatre,” Egyptian filmmaker Batoul Arafa wrote in a Twitter post. “Goodbye to the queen of comedy.”

Born in 1937 in the Damietta Governorate of Egypt, Al Bably grew up in Mansoura, capital of the Dakahlia Governorate. Her talents for acting and music became evident at a young age and she was encouraged by her father to join the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts, as well as the Institute of Music.

This photo taken on September 2, 2005, shows Egyptian actress Suhair Al Bably in her garden in the northern Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria. AFP

Al Bably began her career at a young age and during the peak of Egypt’s golden age of cinema.

Her earliest film credits include the 1957 drama Ighra'E (Temptation) by celebrated Egyptian director Hassan El-Emam. She starred in the film alongside Lebanese singer Sabah and Egyptian actors Shukri Sarhan and Zaki Rostom. That same year, Al Bably starred in another, more somber film, Sara’ Ma’ Al Hayat (Struggle with Life). She released dozens of films for the next four decades. She retired from acting in 1997, but returned in 2006 with the series Qalb Habiba (A Lover’s Heart).

She was as accomplished in television, acting in several well-known Egyptian shows including the 2014 Ramadan series Suska’s Law. However, the role that she is likely most-known for is her turn as Bakiza in the critically acclaimed 1986 Egyptian series Bakiza Wa Zaghloul. Al Bably’s portrayal of the high-strung, upper brow Bakiza is seen as her crowning work as a comic artist.

The series was later adapted into the 1988 film The Night of Bakiza and Zaghloul’s Arrest with Al Bably reprising her opposite Esaab Younes’s Zaghloul, a daughter-in-law Bakiza meets only after her husband’s death. The series and the film are considered to be two of her most important works.

As prolific on stage as on screen, Al Bably's most known theatrical effort is the 1980 comedy Raya Wa Sekina. The play revolves around the Egyptian sisters, Raya and Sekina, who in the early 20th century murdered at least 17 women in Alexandria. They were tried and executed in December 1921.

Al Bably was married five times. She was first married to Mahmoud Al Naqouri, with whom she had her only daughter, Niveen. She was also married to singer Mounir Murad, businessmen Ashraf Al Sirjani and Mahmoud Ghoneim. Her last husband was the Egyptian actor Ahmed Khalil.

Al Bably’s contributions to Egyptian cinema, particularly during its most admired days, is undeniable. Her methodical approach to the craft and her fluid, unstrained performances cement her legacy as one of Egypt’s finest triple-threat actors, and a pillar of Egyptian cinema, television and theatre.

Updated: November 22, 2021, 2:30 PM