Every year, Egypt’s film industry sees a plethora of talented new faces emerging as it continues to grow, outdoing itself in the content and storytelling formats it brings its viewers within the Middle East. There are, however, a few iconic actors and actresses within the industry who have cemented their roles as bonafide superstars - one such actress is Ghada Abdel Razek, the queen of Ramadan dramas.
Anchoring her position amongst the industries’ titans, Abdel Razek has time and time again granted her viewers just the right amount of drama and excitement giving them an escape from the mundanity of real life. A chameleon when it comes to the roles she chooses, Abdel Razek is continuously portraying characters that are wildly different from one work to the next.
Having acted in films like the 2007 ‘Hena Maysar’a, which sparked debate among Egypt’s religious Azhar scholars concerning a scene between a same-sex couple, the Egyptian celebrity actually started her career in 1997, with series,’ Allasu Aldhy‘Ahabah’ (the thief whom I love). It was, however, her 1997 role in Hajj Metwali’s Family that put her on the map and kickstarted her ascent into fame.
This year, Abdel Razek takes on the role of ‘Sultanet El Moez’ where she plays the role of a woman who has inherited a chain of fried liver (kebda) shops from her father. The Sultana takes care of her siblings and spends her hard-earned money on their education and upbringing - things get complicated, though, when she falls in love - a tale as old as time. Girl inherits the Kebda store. Boy enters the girl’s life. Girl falls in love with a boy. Boy complicates everything and... queue dramatic climax. Haven’t we all been there? Minus the Kebda store.
While we’ve yet to witness Abdel Razek’s transformation into her character this Ramadan, we’ve got proof that over the years, she has delivered her audience a slew of memorable characters starting with Ne’ma Allah in Hajj Metwali’s Family.
Ne’mat Allah in Hajj Metwali’s Family (2001)
The 2001 series saw Abdel Razek morph into Ne’mat Allah, El-Hajj Metwali’s third wife - a feisty, animated, and outspoken character. Ne’ma Allah’s is the loudmouth who forms a bond with the Hajj’s other wives, at times plotting together against their least favorite wife which in turn drives them closer together. Always armed with an opinion and constellation of golden bangles on her wrist, Ne’ma Allah speaks her mind and pulls no punches.
Zohra in Zohra Wa Azwag’ha Al-Khamsa (2010)
This role, in particular, comes with a whole lot of drama. After all, Zohra, Abdel Razek’s character, ends up with five husbands (not at the same time though). In’ Zohra w Azwag’ha Al-Khamsa,’ the lead - played by Abdel Razek - flutters from one husband to the next, going through five different men. A resilient character who is constantly bouncing back - albeit after a five-second mourning period over each failed marriage - Zohra’s appearance and personality throughout the series is constantly morphing into images molded according to her husbands’ preferences and character.
It all starts when she divorces her incarcerated husband and ends up marrying the man she loves, Maged. Maged, however, gets into an accident and is presumed dead. Zohra then proceeds to marry his friend, Fareed and so continues to glide from husband to husband until she reaches husband number 5.
While she may come off as powerless and naïve at the beginning of her story, Zohra is not a helpless woman in need of rescuing. Her character transforms throughout the series and eventually ends up taking the reins and running her own business.
Hayah in Hekayet Hayah (2013)
In the 2013 series, Hekayet Hayah - which narrates the story of a woman wrongly admitted into a mental hospital by her family - Abdel Razek plays the role of Hayah, a bipolar woman hailing from Egypt’s upper class. Residing in the institute for 13 years, Haya’s story unfolds as she forms a bond with a doctor who deems her of good mental health and tries, in vain, to get her released from the establishment. Having left her to rot in a mental institute, Hayah decides to confront her family once released.
Throughout the series, the spirited hayah goes through a string of traumatic events, from being accused of killing her mother to being written off as insane, to being cheated on and electrocuted during her stay in the mental institute. And still, she does not break. Skillfully delivering the role of Hayah, this series once again affirms that Abdel Razek is in her element when it comes to dishing out the drama.
Mariam in Al-Sayyeda Al-Oula ( 2014)
Released in 2014 and adapted from a Columbian series, Al-Sayyeda Al-Oula revolves around a power-driven woman (Ghada Abdel Razek) who marries the president after divorcing his first wife and the mother of his children. Embodying the role of Mariam, Abdel Razek portrays a character that is ambitious, head strong and that will stop at nothing to achieve her goals, which seems to be taking over the presidential seat. While the series did not achieve the usual success synonymous with most of Abdel Razek’s work, her performance was still remarkable.
Selma - Ard Jaw (2017)
‘Ard Jaw’ sees air hostess, Selma fall into a serious problem after which she vows to take revenge. The series storyline sees Selma get accused of hijacking a plane. Played by Abdel Razek, Selma is a middle class Egyptian woman who exemplifies the majority of that segment. Abdel Razek brilliantly portrays Selma’s character who is a woman aspiring to reach independence and succeed in her life and, as per her usual M.O, does so with a whole lot of drama.
Nada in Ded Maghool (2018)
Ded Maghool, a series that was released in 2018, sees Abdel Razek in the role of Nada, a career woman who is faced with growing pressure from her husband to cut down on her working hours and spend more time at home. As the tension escalates, Nada’s husband demands her to make a choice between him or her job. Nada, ever the career-oriented woman, chooses her job. Throughout the series, the character is described as striving to perfect her work-life balance. But when her husband takes it a step too far, Nada stands up to him which results in him prohibiting her from seeing her daughter. It is when her daughter is raped and murdered that Nada decides to bravely go after her daughter’s murderer, with the help of a friend.
It is this dichotomy within her personality, between being passive and taking charge, that makes for an enthralling watch. Towards the end of the series, the only marking trait of nada’s that the viewer is left with is that of someone who, perhaps pacifist in nature at times, would go to any lengths to rectify an injustice.
Catch Ghada Abdel Razek’s latest series, Sultanat El Moez, during Ramadan by subscribing to Sling TV Arabic, sling.com/arabictv.