Samia Gamal – a famous Egyptian belly dancer and film actress in the 20th century

By Vintagemode - March 11, 2020

Over time, belly dancers have become omnipresent in movies; however, only a few have made their mark in the film industry. Notable among the few ones is Samia Gamal, who was once referred to as the Official Belly Dancer of Egypt.

The real, full name of Samia Gamal was Zeinab Khalil Ibrahim Mahfouz. In 1942, Samia was born in Wana Beni Suef governorate, Egypt. During the period, Bamba Kashar and Shafiqa Al-Qibitiyya were the belly dancing stars in the country. At the age of 12, the talent of Samia as a belly dancer began to manifest. After the death of her father, she realized that her dream lies in Cairo.

First off, she worked as a seamstress before performing as one of the extras in Badia Masabni dance troupe, who is the most famous artist during that time. Badia Masabni was well-known for promoting several reputable belly dancers to stardom – and Samia was no exception. He didn’t only motivate and teach Samia, but also gave her “Samia Gamal” as her stage name. Also, Badia recommended her to the famous Isaac Dickson, who was a dance instructor. Isaac trained Samia until she emerged as one of the top dancers during the period.

Before long, Samia Gamal became an official representative of Egypt in many international forums, such as the Red Cross charity conference held in Paris during the 1940s. Among other dignitaries in the conference was King Farouk of Egypt. 

It is worth mentioning that she wasn’t a traditional belly dancer as Samia Gamal distinguished herself through expressive body language and dancing. She skillfully combined the spirit of Western dancing techniques with Oriental dancing. At times, she would top them off with a few ballet movements. All of these special attributes made her performance unique among her contemporaries.

Aside from being a talented belly dancer, Samia Gamal left some remarkable legacy in the film industry. She performed the leading lady role in several Egyptian classic movies such as Red Lipstick alongside Naguib Al-Rihani (1946), Lady Ghost with Farid Al-Atrash (1949), the Hawk alongside Emad Hamdy (1950), the Count of Monte Cristo with Anwar Agdi (1950), the Monster with Anwar Wagdi (1956). Other movies where Samia performed include the Second Man (1959), Sukkar Hanem (1960), among others.

However, before Samia Gamal became a belly dance superstar and well-known name in the film industry, let’s consider her humble beginnings. Gamal worked as extras in the Determination (1939), a movie directed by Kamal Selim, before ever thinking of becoming an iconic actress. When she worked as extras, she would be paid only ten piastres per day. While nobody ever noticed her back then, she was using the opportunity to get familiar with the camera.

After several minor roles during the 1940S, she made the most of the opportunities that came her way as she featured in some movies such as the Triumph of Youth (1941), On the Stage of Life (1942), Love is Forbidden (1942), Les Miserables (1943), Bullet in the Heart (1944) and Who’s the Culprit (1944). By 1946, Samia Gamal has gained enough experience to act as the leading lady in movies. She performed her first leading role through an opportunity given by renowned Naguib Al-Rihani as she starred in Red Lipstick. Before long, she took another step forward when composer Farid Al-Atrash used her as the female star of Lifetime Sweetheart, a movie directed by Barakat. From there onward, Samia Gamal never stopped reaching new milestones and becoming famous both as a reputable belly dancer and a renowned actress.

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