Naima Akef

Born on the 7th of October 1932 in Tanta on the Nile Delta to the Akef family. A famous circus where the whole family participated whether in performance or preparation, young and old alike. The Akef Circus was famous with its animal training and taming of the wild ones and cunning tricks with the not so tame, as well as amazing dance performances and acrobatic extravaganza shows.

This is the family atmosphere in which Naima Akef was born and raised, indicating a unique star being developed in this appropriate and ideal surroundings to be brought up in.

The Akef family were based in Cairo in the Bab El Khalq district however they travelled across the whole country as well as most of the world on their tours especially Russia in 1957 where Naima presented her dancing in a and international youth festival there and won the first prize for best dancer in the whole festival in which dancers from over 50 countries performed. A photo commemorating that prize winning exists on the walls of the Bolshoi Theatre’s Hall Of Fame.
(click on the image to see a larger view)

Naima’s grandfather, Ismail Akef who was the gymnasium teacher and trainer in the Egyptian Police Academy created the Akef circus after his retirement. Ismail took Naima under his wings, having recognised her talent as a dancer and performer since a very young age and helped her shape her uniqueness into a historic artist who rose the heights of stardom within the Egyptian cinema. Naima was first discovered for the cinema by the director Abbas Fawzy who presented her to his brother the also director Hessein Fawzy who realised Naima’s natural talent for the screen and gave her a leading role the first time she ever appeared on the screen in the film “El Eish Wel Malh” (The Bread and Salt {{ in Egypt once people have broken bread together, i.e. eaten together it is considered sacrilege to digress against the unspoken oath of loyalty, El Eish Wel Malh, the bread and salt}} ). Naima starred in that film with the singer Saad Abdel Wahab, the cousin of the legendary singer and composer Mohammed Abdel Wahab. the film was a great hit and it was also a big success for Nahhas Film Studios where it was filmed as the very first production there. This was a brilliant start for the young Naima who had various dance routines in the film which she was very careful to present in all her future films side by side to her leading acting and singing role.

After her first film, Naima’s success in her films came one after the other like “Lahalibo” [how does one translate that] (The one who is so hot that he is the fiery equivalent of Speedy Gonzales), “Baladi We Kheffa” (Baladi and light-hearted), “Baba Aaris” (My dad is the Bride’s Groom), “Noor Oyouni” (The Light Of My Eyes). This one came after Naima presented a dance sketch with legendary Dr. Mahmoud Reda, creator and dancer of the Reda Troupe. The sketch was called “Leil We Ein” (Instead of saying Leil Ya Ein as they sing in the Egyptian Mawwals [Laments]. Leil, being the night, and Ein being the eyes that are spending the night without a wink, thinking of the beloved. The sketch was done or the Egyptian Arts Council.

Naima’s film credits extended further than that to appear in the following films “Forigat” (At last it eased off), “Fataah Wel Sirk” (A Girl and the Circus), “El Nemr” (The Tiger), “Halawet El Hob” (The sweetness of love), “Gannah We Nar” (A heaven and a hell), “Melyon Geneih” (A million pounds), “Arbaa Banat We Zabet” (4 girls and an officer), “Madraset El Banat” (The Girl’s School), “Tamr Henna” this is the name of an Egyptian flower, which was Naima’s name in the film, “Aziza” and “Ahebbak Ya Hassan” (I love you Hassan).

Egyptian dancing ran wild in the blood veins of Naima. It was her first love and best way of self-expression and she used her circus life and performance as a launching platform for her dancing as well as trying and presenting new ideas, choreographies and music. She never cut short any corners as far as expenses, training or costuming for herself or for her chorus dancers or singers and performers who accompanied her in her shows. She was very conscious about her weight and kept under strict control so that she maintained her young and supple figure and looks. Naima even sacrificed the motherly pleasures of having her own children until she gave birth just before her departure from our world.

The experts of Egyptian dance are certain that Naima was not affected by the styles of other dancers, but created her own unique style and had her personal feel of dance interpretation to Egyptian music to the point of creating THE NEW on stage and in rehearsals. Very often, Naima choreographed her own routines, but was very famous for being a very obedient to her trainers and technical advisers and choreographers.

In the world of art, of that era in Egypt, Naima was very famous for her friendliness, kindness and helpfulness to all her close friends and associates as well as her film crew and members of the same film set. Never selfish, and would always put others before herself. There is a famous story of one day on a film set, after a very exhausting morning of filming on a lunch and rest break, Naima noticed that a fellow dancer in the film was struggling with an acrobatic move that she had to make and was clearly having difficulty executing that move, which had to be filmed straight after the break. Instead of taking her lunch and her very needed rest, Naima went to the girl, showed her how the step should be really done with ease, and did it for her many times and trained and coached her until she did it successfully to the delight of the girl and the massive almost none stop applause of all the film crew, actors and director alike.

Naima rarely ever danced in nightclubs but more through her films and theatre dance tableaux’s which she regularly organised in Egypt as well as abroad. Those were not purely Egyptian dance performances, but more of a free expression and more of a music and dance extravaganza. She used movement to express emotion and feelings, gestures, direct or indirect, with bodily expression which was a witness of Naima’s wide range of artistic talent and body suppleness, agility and physique.

Naima was very proud of her success which she achieved on her own merit and without having to slug it in the nightclubs for a long time. She recalls how when her mother and father split up, she formed an acrobatic and clown act that performed in many clubs until she got the chance to work in Badeia Masabny’s famous nightclub, in which, the young Naima shined like a star and was one of the very few who danced and sang.

Naima also recalls how being favoured by Badeia caused major jealousy in the hearts of other chorus dancers in the club until one day they ganged up on her and beat her up but because of her strength and agility she managed to defend herself and beat them up instead. But as those dancers were the source of good income for Badeia, Naima was fired from the club and went to work in the other famous night spot, The KIT KAT Club, where she met the film director Abbas Kamel, who introduced her to his brother, who was also a film director, Hessein Fawzy, famous for his musicals show films.This partnership was a big success for them both and hey got married for nine years, but without any children. A few years after that divorce, Naima married her accountant to whom she gave a son who worked in the field of music.

This partnership was a big success for them both and hey got married for nine years, but without any children. A few years after that divorce, Naima married her accountant to whom she gave a son who worked in the field of music.

As Naima entered the history books of Egyptian dance as one of it’s innovative, creative and renewing dancers, she also entered the history book of Egyptian cinema as the first woman to star in the very first full colour film in Egypt “Baba Aaris” (My father is the bride’s groom) directed by her first husband Hessein Fawzy in 1951.