Friday, March 1, 2013

The Day When Egyptian Pop fiction Godfather died !!

Last week on February 24, 2013 many Egyptians as well Arabs from different generations were shocked to hear that famous and legendary pop fiction author Mahmoud Salem passed away. 3756696077_fda872a2a8_m
The man left in silence that did not suit his contribution to Children and mystery literature and Pop fiction in general in the Arab world.
I remember seeing Mahmoud Salem speaking on TV about how he started from young crime journalist in El Helal Press corporation before Nationalization and then moved to Children magazines like Mickey writing mystery stories and so before his saga with crime and mystery “The 5 adventurers” series would start.  That series was our original “Scooby Doo” series in the Arab world yet more serious with more crimes and cases from murder to forgery to even espionage.
Tewfik aka Fatty , Nossa, Loza, Mohab, Atef and their dog Zinger who live In Maadi were heroes for generations for real in the Arab world. When the man died , I found friends in Tunisia and Morocco from grown ups still have these books. I already have couple of these books yet I can not find them. Of course my mom and aunts also read them.
The Five with their famous faces
I wanted to be from that gang when I was a little and read their books. I want to have adventures like them. I believe millions of kids and teenagers in the Arab shared the same dream. I believe all those who read this series wished to live in Maadi area.
It began as recommendation by the amazing Nadia Nashat to have a series of books in Egypt based on the Five Find Outers series. Still it was not a matter of translation only. He produced more books than the British series and was more successful. Of course not richer I suppose as he got paid LE50 per issue in late 1960s !!
I think Salem would not be successful and produced all those books with original plots and riddles inspired from the Egyptian society if he only translated the British series. I believe he was indeed inspired but that was the beginning the rest was from his rich imagination. The success of the “5 adventurers” was beyond “The Five find outers” , already the Egyptian Five have become pop culture icons till this day while I do not think anyone remembers the British Five.
In 2007 Salem spoke about how the 5 adventurers were actually an attempt to restore his memories as lonely introvert boy who moved with his family in Northern governorates due to the work of his father as naval officer. That boy created his own world of imagination till the age of 14. That boy turned to be the God father of Arab pop fiction without doubt.
Here is online archive for 76 books from the 5 adventurers. Here is link with the whole series.
In late 1970s he presented another successful imagination of the Arab teenagers “The 13 devils”. A group of young Arabs working to save their nation in some clandestine organization. All the boys had a huge crush on Lebanese Elham as I can recall.

Here is online archive for the “The 13 devils” series.
In his rare TV appearance from couple of years ago I felt the pioneer author did not have positive opinions about the 23 July Coup despite he was considered a Nasserite who paid a price for his political views. When he was asked he said that El Helal Press corporation was better before Nationalization and did not praise the Nasser era as I have expected it. Of course personally I believe as a human being you should not stick on your views forever especially you earn experience and gain knowledge by age.
I wished that the Egyptian presidency would mourn the loss of that pioneer author but I do not think that they paid attention and even if they did , the presidency would not mourn him as his last Op-ed in Tahrir newspaper was criticizing Muslim brotherhood harshly.
Here is the archive of Salem in Tahrir newspaper.
Salem’s role and contribution in Arab Pop fiction was more than great. He was the god father of that genre in the Arab world. He was the man who paved the way for authors like Nabil Farouk and Ahmed Khaled Tawfik.
May Allah bless your soul Mr. Salem for your great work. Even if officials ignore you , we will always remember you more than you think.
I think our graffiti artists should paint some graffiti for the five in Maadi dedicated the late author. They are our cultural icons by the way.


  1. Just living in Egypt at the current time is an adventure.

  2. Nice article, though I think you are a little young to read the first prints of these issues. The othter part of the success of these series were the artists Mamoon and Samir Thabet, they made the characters and the places real. They were great.

    1. Well my mom read them. Thanks for telling me the name of the artists responsible for the illustrations in the books. I love their covers already.

  3. I wish Arabs and Middle Easterners would create something uniquely from their own culture. I don't understand this passion for copying everything from the West.
    From food to music to TV shows they copy so much and it shows how there is so little original thought when they have to imitate others concepts and ideas.
    These 5 books are not original. They are copied from the very famous Enid Blyton Famous Five and the Secret Seven series and the idea has been stolen and given an Arab twist.

    Mahmoud Salem obviously seen how hugely popular they were and copied them just with different names.

    I'm seriously wondering what Egyptian author is going to copy the Harry Potter series and take the credit for that too. :(

  4. the british famous 5 books were the most famous children series of books in the world and you can still buy them in stores today

    i never heard of these Egyptian ones and i dont think anyone outside Egypt knows about them either

  5. for those who think that arabs are only copying from western culture , I truly think that you don't know a thing about the arab culture in general and the Egyptian culture in particular ... the super hero genre and the great adventurer characters have been around for centuries before any of your so called western culture even exist ... you guys still until this moment steal our "Aladdin" and "Sinbad" for instance ... maybe we had some ups and downs that left us behind for a while , but no matter how you look at it, still the genre of super heroes were created in Egypt thousands of years ago and it has developed since then so deep into our pop culture ... by the way , all the Arab speaking countries know very well about the two series ... so please spare us your ignorant presumptions .

    1. >the arab culture in general and the Egyptian culture in particular ...

      I agree but also disagree. I suspect that Egyptians would read more "pulp fiction" and Egyptian literature if written in their own language Egyptian Arabic and not in this fake and contrived modern classical Arabic that they do not speak anyway

      This would only happen if Egyptians realize once and for all that they are Egyptians first and foremost and that as Milad Hanna has indicated this does not mean that one can negate the past and the connections of Egypt to the Middle East and Europe

  6. I grew up reading his adventure books along with a lot of my friends in Syria. They took me to a different world full of enjoyment and fantasy and I think helped making me the person I am right now. I remember how I used to sneak the books to read in no time despite my dad's objection, he wanted me to focus on my school. I certainly don't mind that he based his famous series on the British one, at least I had something in Arabic to read when I was growing up. May Allah bless his soul and have him in his paradise.

  7. Dear zeinobia thanks for your sweet words in that article which unfortunately I red it very late about my father I am adham salem the sun of Mahmoud salem and I would like to announce that this series will be introduced as a drama series in egypt to keep this legendary series always on our mind and heart and the coming generations


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