Wednesday, January 20, 2016

A Night at the Egyptian National Theatre

If you are following the Egyptian Chronicles blog carefully in the past few weeks, you will notice that I have been posting photos from the Egyptian National Theatre from time to time since December.

Tonight I decided instead of speaking about the Black comedy taking place in the Egyptian Parliament, I will speak about my night at the Egyptian National theatre and share the rest of the photos I took it there.

Last December, I went with my family to the Egyptian National Theatre to attend its successful production of Layla Min Alf Layla (One of a Thousand Nights) musical starring veteran Yahia El-Fakharany, Heba Magdi and Mohamed Mohsen.

The Musical production was a hit for the State-owned Egyptian National Theatre since its launch in August. In December, it smashed the box office records and achieved LE 2 million in time nobody goes to theatres in Egypt except very few.

This was the first time I had gone to Egypt's National Theatre and to know its history.
The Egyptian National theatre in Cairo
The entrance of the Egyptian National Theatre in Down Town Cairo
If what I read about it correct then it will be the oldest National Theatre building in Egypt and Middle East that is still in its place and operating since the 19th century.

Located in Al-Azbakeya area in Downtown Cairo, the National Theatre story started in 1869 when Khedive Ismail ordered its construction to host the
shows of 'Comedie-Franciase' in Cairo during the legendary inauguration of the Suez Canal.

The Egyptian National theatre in Cairo
The exterior of the Egyptian National Theatre building showing
the features of famous orientalist Moorish Heliopolis style 

Known during then as 'Al-Azbakeya Theatre', it hosted the first Egyptian-Syrian theatrical shows for Abu Khalil Qabbani theatre company in 1885.

The Egyptian National theatre in Cairo
The Egyptian National Theatre's classical hall

Sheikh Salama Hegazi and Syrian Iskander Farah used to present their musicals on the stage of Al-Azbakeya fro 1891 to 1905.
The Egyptian National theatre in Cairo
The magnificent dome of the Egyptian National Theatre

With the rise of Egyptian nationalism and calls of independence, calls for a National theatre company began.
In 1920, the Egyptian National theatre was founded by legendary Egyptian nationalist economist and industrialist Talaat Harb in that building.
From 1935 to 1941, a theatre company led by Lebanese poet Khalil Mutran used to present its shows. In 1941 that theatre company was banned from presenting its plays for inciting against the British occupation.
The Egyptian National theatre in Cairo
Talaat Harb who started his life as conservative and ended it as the Saint patron of
Egypt's liberal cultural life whether in theatre or cinema 

That's the year written on its Stage "1920".

The #Egyptian National #Theatre in #Downtown #Cairo #Cairowalk #ThisisEgypt #Citizenjournalism #blogger #Egypt #Discoveryourcity #downtownCairo
Written above the stage the famous poetry verses the date of inauguration the National Theatre
in 1920 as well that poetry verses of Ahmed Shawki "Nations live as long as their morals do,
when virtues die nations do"*

After the 1952 July coup aka 23 July Revolution, the National theatre was officially founded and became part of the Egyptian ministry of culture.
The Egyptian National theatre in Cairo
Another magnificent ceiling at the Egyptian National Theatre

In 2008, fire torched the old theatre but fortunately it did not join the old Khedival Opera that used to existed couple of blocks away.
It was saved and renovated. Already the main building kept its oriental style but there is new modern extension added to it
The Egyptian National theatre in Cairo
A modern painting by Egyptian painter Ahmed Sheiha 

Layla Min Alf Layla (One of a Thousand Nights) musical is based on the poetry of legendary Beyram Al-Tunsi and the music of legendary but underrated unfortunately Ahmed Sedki
By the way, the villain in that musical fantasy was the corrupted minister of interior in time of Calipah in Baghdad.
The Egyptian National theatre in Cairo
Yahia Al-Fakharany and the rest of the cast

Aside from its success, the musical play made headlines recently as its young leading actress Heba Magdy and singer Mohamed Mohsen declared their engagement on stage after from two weeks ago.

I like that nice couple, they are so cute. God bless them both and bless their voices too.
Now, here is the complete slideshow of photos I took at the Egyptian National theatre using my mobile phone.


  1. <> The most infamous quote,or a line that ever SAID in Arab Cine-Theatre world in the last 80 years or so,by The LAWRENCE OLIVIER of the Arab Stage/SilverScreen GIANT/GENIUS/PHENOMENON>>>Late Mr.YOUSSEF WAHBI or THE- AMEED AL MASSRAH AL ARABI ? In one of his great PLAYS..that shook the Arab Theatrical world with his Roles ,whatever he played ..he played it PERFECTLY,be it a Pauper or a Prince /A King/a A Father/UNCLE or a /TEACHER /or an Army General..with his great/renowned HUSKY if suitable for an Opera Tenor.. that vibrated in any venue he has been for , at least 4 decades or more..appeared in over 100 movies as a leading ,and other times ..just supporting actor,,but in both cases whatever he said ,every word entered audience s Ears>>Hearts+Minds & Echoed for months and possibly,more!..Maybe one thing in my whole life I done RIGHT is to buy 2 tickets for me and a friend to see one of his PLAYS..sometime in 1970s when he came with his *Masrah Y.Wahbi*to Lebanon, in Beirut he appeared on Cinema/Theatre >AL AMEER<,an underground venue ,next to Cinema CAPITOL ,both cinemas..gone long ago ,but Capitol/ASSAYLY Building ,thank GOD still stands as before opposite Immortal Leader RYAD EL SOLH s Giant statue/Ryad Solh Square-Downtown Beirut/...after this, that >>AL AMEER theatre converted into a vast BOOK s depot..large LIBRARY..THEN 1975 ..Lebanese civil war took everything in its stride?...One thing i still remember and feel guilty about is when i went to see the play ,i took my Instamatic Camera to take some photos,when quietly i approached the stage on my knees to take photos while they were acting, Mr. WAHBI..hand signaled to Lady Ameena Rizk<<(Great Actress too) to look at the camera as her back was to me,i guess Dear soul thought I was a journalist ,an the only one with camera in 100 or less attendants........ Sorry Mr. WAHBI for such unintentional..disappointment ,from my modest self to your undying memory & MISS A.RIZK too as well?!Long after this ,one day when i went to an office building to visit a friend ,his next door office (occupied by a Dentist s CLINIC),the female receptionist told us Look who was here for his Teeth..we looked and there stands that GIANT,with his fist on his cheek,a tooth taken out..i suppose??still his voice rings in my ears., after 45 years.believe me!! ..BUT HE broke my heart when in the 1970 & AS he appeared in low BUDGET/level movies..not to his acting caliber, maybe to cover his living expenses was really and to pay HIGH taxes?? ..It was heart breaking to see how materialism wins over talent/dignity/reputation..SAD ,to witness a CEDARS tree..crumbling just like that after decades s GREATNESS~!!But HE will be REMEMBERED with all his casts members ,most of them ,in eternity with Him i assume for His+Their Great contributions to ARAB THEATRE for long years of their lives!!..before i finish this--memory lane-- i like to remember seeing>>The queen of Theatres<< in Egypt, or MALEEKAT AL MASSAREH,back in the 1920/30/30s lADY Madam:BADIAA MASSABNI? at Lebanon s>AL SHTOURA< mountainous town while buying some dairy products,as if it was yesterday,,i still remember her standing near the door and telling us <>,Bless Her, SHE was very pleased when She knew that we drew all the way from Beirut to taste & purchase some of Her DELICIOUS dairy products,this was in early 1970s......IT is true, we all pass away Soon or Late , what we leave behind .. are such trivial memories..that make us & others,hearts>>SMILE now and then & WHENEVER REMEMBERED..THE DEAR ONES!!....GOD bless you all,regards from IS-HAK Barsoumian/London

  2. Part1-of>>> All about SHOU-SHOU(HASSAN AALA EDDIN)!!....November, or The (11)th month of every year,and like any other month of the year,..but in>>1975 it was a very very gloomy month??..where Lebanon was on fire,and burning due to political disputes & conflicts..began on one Sunday afternoon on 13th of April 1975 and lasted almost 15 long years..<>DID NOT!!)Also, when Happinness/smiles & LAUGHTER..seized when, on that November>>2 Sunday,The Lebanese of all backgrounds K, and our Palestinian brothers/sisters/Mothers & fathers weeping,crying,and flood of tears pouring all around.. as young/old/men/women/children dying everywhere on Beirut Streets.. and DAILY!! WE heard the sad news of passing away of SHOU-SHOU??..This>>
    GIANT talented<< individual,Mr.HASSAN AALA EDDIN,once, a Bank, Clerk that brought Smile & laughter to all Lebanese/Arab children all around & for over 11 years or MORE!!This very slim young Man at the age of 21/22 all of a sudden appeared on our Lebanese T.V. screens,wearing SHORT pants,and sucking on a lolly-pop..and blabbering and saying FUNNY things to HIS mentor and the man who created SHOU-SHOU ,The GREAT>> Theatre/Radio/Cinema/T.V. Script Writer Late-Great Mr.MOHAMMAD SHA-MEL..whom later became his Father-In-Law..too!! That Lebanese national Holi-day in 1962,when>> TELEVISION LOBNAN WAL MASHREQ Canal or Channel 11 was launching and introducing its Prog.s as Lebanon^s 2nd new T.V.station (T.L.O) or Tele Liban et du l^ORIENT??Where SHOU-SHOU was speaking with AMMO SHA-MEL or Uncle(Mohammad Sha-mel)?? introducing their, together, Kids Corner prog. for every THURSDAY afternoons...The reaction was Electrical and Mutual affection began,since, between his sad, like abandoned child character that Mr.AALA EDDIN took onk, as SHOU-SHOU ,..THAT semi-retarded boy that never grew up as he was in his teenage years, But later became the beloved comedian of every Lebanese and Arab household for many decades and still is and will always stay OUR BELOVED>>>SHOU-SHOU<<<....I promise to reveal more about this comedy PHENOMENON>>SHOU-SHOU or SHOOSHOO or CHOUCHOU or ChoCho however that name spelled, it ment one thing.. >>THE GREAT LEBANESE/ARAB IMMORTAL COMEDIAN<<...Yours truly:Is-Hak BARSOUMIAN/London.( Part2..SOON!! INSHA-ALLAH!!

  3. Part2:SHOU-SHOU/Mr.HASSAN AALA EDDIN :...(And as promised....,In the next few weeks & in 1962, this Child-like guy ,a PINOCCHIO look alike in HIS appearances and figure ,became Lebanese Kid^s Idole and much loved T.V. persona ever??Even their parents & most Grown ups in the country , showed interest in HIS jokes & innuendos,soon SHOU-SHOU became a giant household..NAME!! Film producers seeing this hurried to invest in his popularity and take adventage of his T.V. successes,he made over 7 movies in just 5 years..but HIS real talent felt more in Theatrical arena..which was also HIS real ambition as HE seperated from AMMO SHA-MEL/Great script writer of Lebanese Radio/Theatre/Cinema & T.V. Late&Great Mr.MOHAMMAD SHA-MEL,HIS mentor and discoverer as well as before the passing away of his ex, show- partner, Late/great Mr. Mohammad MER-EE./Due to some family misunderstandings that were in process then,as Mr.AALA EDDIN asked his daughter^s hand to become HIS spouse..but been rejected??..So ELOPING left the only alternative...with a little help from HIS good coffee shop owner friend, also>> My friend<< too,Mr.H. BAZAZOW..HE wedded Madam FATEEMA SHA-MEL, then>>(Aala Eddin)on 11th of June!!As SHE was trying to become a singer, SHE had GOD given sweet voice & sang few times on Radio/T.V.??,but Motherhood was her FATE..,after 10 monrhs SHE gave birth to a>>Baby-SHOU-SHOU<< they called HIM kho-der, as HIS father was called..,Now HE got 3 mouths to feed so his other Ambition was in process and planning in earnest, begin inaugurating a populist Theatre in BEIRUT City and LEBANON as whole??..HE was ...LUCKY????...THEN!!as,Cinema-Theatre SHEHRAZADE/on Rue Bechara el KHOURY Street,close to Martyrs Square(or>SA-HAT AL BOURJ) was going through difficulties..Financially! showing 2nd, even 3rd degree foreign movies,and most of its nearly 400 seats were unoccupied/empty most of the time,SHOU-SHOU considered IT>>A CATCH? and hired the place for a trial..Unaware HIMSELF,that this place was going to be HIS >>first<>>Last & for the next 10/11 most of those years he spent it there with his second family members>>THE CAST!!,..BUT he never neglected HIS real family and the 3 beautiful kids/2boys+1daughter/and wife Mrs.FATEEMA<>>>>>,SHOU -SHOU Part3. & more facts about this SLIM but GIANT individual that brought us JOY/HAPPINESS/LAUGHTER,but took ALL that with him when he LEFT US 41 years ago on Sunday 02/11/1975...Regards to you >all< faithful & loyal to his SWEET MEMORY
    SHOU-SHOU fans/ from London/IS-HAK BARSOUMIAN


  4. Part3:SHOU-SHOU/Mr.HASSAN AALA EDDIN(R.I.P)>>>HE never,EVEN once imagined that this home( Al Massrah al Watani Al Loubnani)..will cost Him His precious life ,after 10 years on it??Things looked Rosey & promising for Him...HE critisised >>Them<< ALL,local & foreign/Lebanese or Arab politics/po;iticians without FEAR,even those he joked on,they themselves used to attend His great stage plays and laugh with SHOU-SHOU and His audiences on themselves..Presidents/members of Lebanese parliament /other celebrities and Hob-Nobs all saw his 24 plays undoubtedly,and enjoyed it all,Even Late/Great Egyptian celebrity such as Madam BADEEAA MASSABNI appeared as a guest star in one of HIS plays??while SHE was living, also passed away in SHTOUWRA in mid 1970 s, his end days HE played in Jordan Kingdom>> Amman and had great success ,but HIS love for HIS Lebanon that was BURNING since 13 April 1975 broke HIS loving Heart& Soul constantly, also due to all that,HE was unable to open his Theatre ,located on BEIRUT s Green Line that seperates the 2 fighting forces and turned the city to East& West Beirut,,and HIM witnessing the window glasses /theatre seats in ruins and on Beshara EL Khoury Avenue made Him cry..shed floods of tears like a child ,fearing for His/His Family^s/His plays* CAST/His Audiences and public and most of all FOR HIS COUNTRY THAT HE WHOLE-HEARTEDLY...LOVED!!>>>and went back to heavy smoking habit ,over 50 Cigarettes and more + over 30 strong black Turkish/Arabic coffees...every day,which were banned by his doctor^s orders few years earlier when He suffered cardiac attack due to heavy load that he carried on His>>> bonny<<< shoulders...and responsibilities providing work for his cast members..and over a Million Lebanese LIRA money that was at least 600,000 and..MORE...SHOU-SHOU ,, & UNFOTRTUNATELYFINALLY>> COLLAPSE!, and it was CURTAINS for Him !! that never were to be raised as if all screaming ENCORE..ENCORE,this time sadly it was real farewell ,and never to be back Next usual??LEBANON was tearful all around for all the innocent + the Lebanese/Palestinian and many others too, martyrs..and for SHOU-SHOU aka Mr. HASSAN AALA EDDIN who captured and engaged our interests over 11 productive years..without taking a break ,but in the end and in a very tragic circumstances fate was ruthless and gave this GREAT GENIUS the final and eternal..BREAK precisely 41 YEARS AGO THIS MONTH OF NOVEMBER 02 Sunday 1975!! His 2nd family,the CAST farewelled HIM on 3rd of 11/> AL HERRESH>>(The woods)area cemetry nearby the Lebanese Inter, Aeroport among them were Madam FERYAL KAREEM/Mrs.HIND TAHER/Mr.SHAFIQ HASSAN/Mr.ALI DIAB/Mr.Mr.AHMAD ZEIN/Madam SOUAD KAREEM/Madam LAYLA KARAM
    Mr.EBRAHEEM MARAASHLI aka AZDI SHARIFF/Mr,SAMEER MAALOUF/The Fat LADY Comedian Mrs.EMILYA ABI SALEH/Madam MARCELLE MARINA ...some of those sadly passed away since and after 1980?? and many many other comedy stars and theatrical/T.V./Cinema celebs. also his MENTOR & FATHER-IN-LAW Mr.MOHAMMAD SHA-MEL ,AND HIS DAUGHTER ,NOW SHOU-SHOPU s WIDOW. AND HER 3 beautiful CHILDREN, ALSO FANS, as SHOU-SHOU was put to rest while bullets and explosives rockets flying above the place,,,A SAD DAY AS LAUGHTER IN LEBANON...WAS >>certainly,< OVER FOR 15 LONG/BAD-MAD-SAD YEARS!! GOD Bless HIS SWEET MEMORY...///Regards from LONDON/Is-Hak BARSOUMIAN.


  5. For anyone wants more details about this Great Theatrical Phenomenon SHOU-SHOU or Mr.HASSAN AALA EDDIN s biography ,please visit WIKIPEDIA or just print>> chocho /hassan aala edin , Or>> FANOOS<<< WEBSITE or by SHOU SHOU/ SHOO SHOO TRY any different spells til you get there if you were interested to know more about this comedy genius..SHOU-SHOU...GODbless/......from : I.Barsoumian/LONDON

  6. NUMBERS do not make Men/Men maketh other words,WE human beings are not numbers in any statistic..or census..We are EACH individuals,and as Grand French philosopher, once said: I THINK!~THEREFORE,I AM!!... But/but.., there are numbers in our lives that accompany us in our long/short journeys in life,some considered Lucky and others..bad omen..sometimes a number hels a person to decide on a date or day/month/year... to make decisions/conclusions, for instance, in our GREAT comedian SHOU-SHOUs case, N0>>11 was his Happy&sad figure, for instance HE launched HIS AL MASSRAH AL WATANY theatre plays on 11-11-1965 or 6+5=11?? His First encounter with the T.V. viewers was on Canat 11 Television Loubnan wal Mashreq(Tele Liban Et Du L^Orient canals/channel 11 in 1962...HIS 1st son KHODER born on 11-6-year?...HE wedded on 7-11-??
    HIS theatrical life lasted
    almost 11 years from 1965-1975 if we assume plus a year (at least) preparations in advance in 1964??....But then HIS departure from this>>cruel world<< indeed CRUEL in HIS sad case by 02 November(11th month of 1975,after witnessing the state of HIS> AL MASSRAH AL WATANI in ruins ,glasses shattered all around Beshara-El-Khoury Avenue in August 1975 + HIS office building opposite side of the Theatre ransacked and turned into a fortress for fighting militias ,smeared with large HOLES..BY Bullets/Rockets/R.B.Js S,from both sides...Broke>> MY..YES..MY HEART,and i was once a humble admirer of this GREAT MANs plays, So can you imagine what that view done to>>>HIS Large/LOVING heart HE carried in HIM for 36 years...and also the situation HIS beloved LEBANON was in since Sunday- April- 13-1975??.. as i ve interviewed, once HIS office secretary Mr.HUSSEIN AL LAZZ!! I would like to mention here HUMBLY, that i once drew a small painting of SHOU-SHOU,HE appreciated it ,as i^ve been told by Mr. H. BAZAZOW,whom passed on that modest drawing toSHOU-SHOU in 1972?? and i was flattered by it!! SHOU-SHOU once said in an Interview,HE knows HE^ll die in a young age,as HIS ancestors..DID!!his Late Father Mr,KHODER AALA EDDIN sadly passed away in 1947 When Mr.HASSAN (SHOU-SHOU) was just 8 years old? and when HE sadly passed away HIS son KHODER too must have been almost & most probably 11 y.old?...Once ,just once I was Fortunate enough to come face to face with SHOU-SHOU on a narrow street ,as he was on HIS way, i guess to meet one of HIS cast members Late Madam MELVINA AMEEM or the FAT lady, she used to live on Besharas-El-Khoury Avenue, as HE nicknamed her YAAAA GHAWAS-SA Or >Miss Submarine>>>ALLA yigazzik ya SHOU-SHOU wa yohsin ileika..feel al-khira<<> NOVEMBER<< THAT SNATCHED YOU AWAY FROM US ALL AND YOUR CLOSE ONES, 41>SHOU-SHOU-less, & very boring years ago? now that you are in your 77th year/according to mortals* calendar, as HE was born on 26th Feb.1939... P/C:i realized that N0:8 has some indication in SHOU-SHOU s numbers..don^t you???!.... Whatever, /RIP Dear Mr.HASSAN AALA EDDIN, YOU^LL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN,I PROMISE THAT MUCHh!!!//Regards from London/Is-Hak BARSOUMIAN



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