Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Birthday Girl: Diva du Nil

Today we wish all happy returns to one of the most glamourous creatures in Egyptian film today, the bewitching leading lady known as Youssra.

Starting in the early 1980s as a rather gawky supporting actress with an arresting gaze and natural presence, she has blossomed into a genuine star, a performer who combines the earthiness of local favorites like Hind Rostom and Nabila Ebeid with an emerging, worldly elegance that recalls the likes of Dalida and Lollobrigida.

She has a flair for the art of Being a Star, appearing at film festivals, openings, and other paparazzi-baits, doing her bit to promote Egypt as a cultural center, travel destination, and generally Place That Matters.

While she specializes in the kind of fraught roles in the kinds of roiling dramas that Egyptian film and TV audiences like best, she's a lovely comedienne, hilarious as a tart with the usual heart of gold in Adel Emam's political comedy El Irhab wa El Kabab (Terrorism and Kebabs - it sounds a lot better in Arabic, more or less meaning "Bread and Circuses").

She's versatile as well, willing to do a little belly dance if the role calls for it and a few years ago releasing an album that showcased her breathy, little-girl voice in pop songs sunny and melancholy.

I think I like her best, though, as the world-weary chanteuse Christine in 2006's The Yacoubian Building, one of the best things out of Egypt in years. She recalls the fading sophistication of cosmopolitan Egypt as a nightclub singer hanging on by her music, a glass of wine, and a rueful friendship with another stranded surviror of better days (Adel Emam, again; he appears at the end of the clip):

On another thread, we mused recently about casting A Little Night Music. Should that magical work ever make its way to the Nile, I know someone who would be a knockout Desirée.

As we say in this part of the world: "kul el-sena wa inti tayibba, ya gameela!"


  1. Well the online language translators were no help so I've decided that it means, "Dogs dream while the beautiful walk into heaven."

    Over here, we usually just say "Domo arigoto, Mr. Roboto."

  2. It's a little less exotic than that, I'm afraid; basically just "May you be well all year long, darling!"