Naima Akef is probably my favourite dancer, when she dances I’m himotized I can’t put in words how much I enjoy it. She was born in Cairo on the 7th of October 1929 (some sources may tell you 1939, which is wrong). Her family owned the Akef circus. Straight away from childhood, Naima was exposed to acrobats, dance, music and live performances and would take part herself. She was trained by her grandfather, Ismail Akef, to perform at the circus. He realised that Naima had a particularly natural talent for dancing and helped her as much as he possibly could to develop it.


Naima was also lucky in the fact that she got to tour the world with the circus. Seeing other cultures and traditions and having a broad experience of the world helped make her as creative as she was.


Whilst her circus was on a tour in Moscow, Naima entered a youth dance competition at the Bolshoi Theatre; a theatre still around today and famous for its ballet. Naima came first in the competition beating ~100 dancers from 50 countries. Till this day, Naima's picture still hangs, alongside other great dancers in history, in the Theatre's Hall of Fame commemorating her win.


When her mother and father broke up, Naima became independent and left the circus. She did what comes naturally to her she made up a dancing, singing act, which she performed in clubs around Cairo, until she got a more permanent job performing in Badeia Masabny's famous nightclub. Badeia was a Lebanese woman who was also a famous dancer in her time. At the nightclub, Naima shone and was one of the rare dancers who could sing and dance, she was favoured by Badeia. This sparked jealousy among the other dancers and there is a famous story in which they planned to beat her up, but in a turn of events, Naima being strong and agile, due to her life of dance, managed to beat them up. Shortly after this event Naima was sacked, as the club couldn't afford to lose the majority of the dancers.


This event was a blessing in disguise for the dancer. Naima went on to perform in The Kit Kat club another one of Cairo's famous clubs. It was here that she was discovered by and introduced to Hessein Fawzy, a renowned film director.


Hessein knew he had hit gold with her and immediately put her as the leading role (even though she had never performed on screen before!), in the film "El Eish Wel Malh" -"The bread and Salt" the film came out on the17th of January 1949 (she was 20 years old). This led the way for a string of hits for the actress and dancer. Her films include:


1949    “El Eïsh Wal Malh” (bread and salt) Directed by Hussein Fawzi


1950    “Lahalibo” (the woman of fire) Directed  by Hussein Fawzi

1950    “Baladi Wa Keffa” (Balidi and the light hearted) Directed  by Hussein Fawzi


1951    “Ariss Baba” (Daddy's Bride) Directed  by Hussein Fawzi

1951    “Furijat” (at last it eased off) Directed  by Hussein Fawzi

1951    “Fatat El Cirque” (the girl of the circus) Directed  by Hussein Fawzi


1952    “Al Nimr” (the tiger) Directed  by Hussein Fawzi

1952    “Halawat Al Hob” (delicious loves) Directed  by Hussein Fawzi

1952    “Gana Wa Nar” (heaven and hell) Directed  by Hussein Fawzi


1953    “Milion Genih” (a million pounds) Directed  by Hussein Fawzi


1954    “Nour El Iyoun” (the light of my eyes) Directed  by Hussein Fawzi

1954    “Zabet Wa Arba Banat” (Four girls and an officer) Directed  by Hussein Fawzi

1954    “Aziza”  (Aziza) Directed  by Hussein Fawzi


1955    “Madrset El Banat” (the school of the girls) Directed by Kamel El Telmesany

1955    “Bahr El Gharam” (an ocean of love) Directed by Hussein Fawzi


1957     “Tamra Henna” (Flower of Henna ) Directed by Hussein Fawzi


1958     “Ahibak Ya Hassan” (I love you Hassan) Directed by Hussein Fawzi


1960     “Kholkhak Habibi” (the bracelet with the foot of my love) Directed by Hassan Reda


1963    “Baiat Al Jaraïd” (the commercial of newspapers) Directed by Hassan Al-Imam

1963    “El Hakiba El Sawdae” (the black bag) Directed by Hassan El Seifi

1963    “Amir El Dahae” (Prince of the trick) Directed by Henri Barakat


1964    “Min Ajli Hanafi” (For Hanafi) Directed by Hassan El Seifi

Wow! As you can see, she made an amazing number of films, sometimes more than 1 film was released per year. Tamra Henna being probably her most famous film and is certainly how I came to find out about her. In this film she performs a beautiful, memorising, faultless dance with fluid elegant movements. Click here to watch this dance. It is one of the best dances all time, and is definitely one of my favourites.


Naima's other great film was Aziza, where again she performs outstandingly. Click here to watch this dance. Also Naima appeared in the first ever Egyptian (and probably Arab) full colour film,  “Ariss Baba” (Daddy's Bride).


Shortly after meeting Hussein Fawzia and working together the two fell in love and married. They were married for 9 years and had no children. It is unknown as to whether they broke up as a result of Naima working with other directors or she began working with other directors as a result of them breaking up.


A few years after the divorce, Naima went on to marry an accountant and gave birth to a son, she then stopped producing films as often and raised her child ...... Unfortunately she also became ill with cancer. She died April 23rd 1966. She was only 37 years old.


Even though she married twice, Naima's only love was to dance, sing and perform. She is what Egyptian dancing is about: love of performing, sharing joy, a way of self expression, being a strong woman and wanting nothing but the best. Naima was always trying new ideas, choreographies and music. Naima was very disciplined, so that she maintained her young supple figure and looks.


Naima was a professional in her own right. Naima was hardly influenced by the styles of other dancers; instead she created her own unique style. This is maybe hard to realise now as so many people have been influenced and copied her style that it seems normal almost, but no one can perform as well as her.


What was special about her was that she had a personal interpretation to Egyptian music. Very often, Naima choreographed her own routines. However she was famous for being very obedient to her trainers, technical advisers and choreographers.

It was not by chance that Naima became a successful dancer, it was impossible for her to be anything but. 

A lot of dancers can only dream of dancing in her shadow.