From ‘Zaair al-Fagr’ to ‘Isha’at hub’: Five films that prove why Ragaa Al Geddawy was such an emblem of Egyptian cinema

Al Geddawy acted in more than 100 films and television series

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - DECEMBER 11:  Actress Ragaa el Gedawy attends the "A Whole One" premiere during day five of the 8th Annual Dubai International Film Festival held at the Madinat Jumeriah Complex on December 11, 2011 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images for DIFF)
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Ragaa Al Geddawy was one of the most prolific actresses in Egyptian cinema.

The veteran star has been in the movie-making business for more than six decades, acting in more than 100 Arabic films and television shows.

Al Geddawy died on Sunday, aged 81, due to complications from Covid-19.

The news was confirmed on social media by her daughter, Amira Mokhtar, after the actress died in hospital in the Egyptian city of Ismailia.

The actress had recently finished filming her latest series, Le'bet El Nesyan, when she tested positive for Covid-19 on May 24. She was transferred to the ICU of Ismailia Hospital in Cairo last Tuesday, after her health deteriorated.

Al Geddawy acted in a range of films across genres, from slapstick comedies to psychological thrillers. Here are five of her most critically acclaimed works.

‘Dua Al Karawan’ (The Nightingale’s Prayer)

Based on the novel by Taha Hussein, this 1959 film adaptation was Egypt’s Academy Awards submission in the Best Foreign Language Film category in 1960. Though it did not go on to be nominated for an Oscar, it received an award of recognition from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. In 1996, it was selected as one of the best films in Egyptian cinema.

The film tells the story of Amna, a young woman who witnesses the murder of her older sister at the hands of her uncle. It was one of Al Geddawy’s earliest w orks and shows her starring alongside some titans of Egyptian cinema, including Faten Hamama and Ahmed Mazhar.

‘Isha’at hub’ (Rumour of Love)

This is another of Al Geddawy’s earlier films. The actress was in her early twenties in this 1960 movie, when she had the chance to act alongside some of Egypt’s most celebrated actors, including Omar Sharif and Soad Hosny.

Though her part is small in this heart-warming romcom, the film is a great throwback to Al Geddawy’s beginnings in the golden age of Egyptian cinema.

‘Hadduta Masriya’ (An Egyptian Story)

This movie by celebrated Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Chahine weaves the real with the surreal.

The 1982 film tells the story of highly strung chain-smoking filmmaker Yehia Choukry Mourad, who suffers a heart attack on set and travels to London for a heart bypass.

While under anaesthesia, Mourad imagines a court case being held within a courtroom in his chest, where his childlike self is on trial.

While most of the film is in colour, a number of segments feature archival footage, adding a documentary element to it.

‘Zaair al-Fagr’ (The Dawn Visitor)

As controversial as it is critically-acclaimed, the Dawn Visitor was banned in Egypt a week after its release in 1973.

As controversial as it is critically acclaimed, The Dawn Visitor was banned in Egypt by Anwar Sadat, president at the time, a week after its release in 1973.

The film’s producer and lead actress, Magda El-Khatib – who plays journalist and activist Nadia – tried to meet with Sadat to appeal the film’s ban, however, he rebuffed her attempts.

The movie begins at a crime scene, where Nadia is found dead in her apartment in Tahrir. Prosecutors then scramble to solve the murder. Al Geddawy plays Itimad, one of Nadia’s friends.

‘Mawid al a’shaa’ (A Date at Dinner)

Hosny and Al Geddawy share the silver screen once again in this 1982 romantic drama.

The film’s story revolves around Nawal, a woman who leaves her husband after he becomes emotionally distant. She soon falls for another man, who is murdered by her ex-husband in a fit of jealousy. Nawal then decides to seek revenge.