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Ahmed Zaki

Ahmed Zaki was born in 1949 in the Nile Delta city of Zaqazeeq, about 50 miles north of Cairo, Egypt. He graduated from Zagazig's Crafts School in 1967, and then traveled to Cairo to study cinema before he graduated from the Cairo Higher Institute for Drama Studies in 1974.

Zaki was one of Egypt's leading movie stars who broke the color barrier in Egyptian cinema by being the first Black actor to play leading roles usually reserved for light-skinned actors of that era.

Career Highlights

For 30 years, Zaki impressed his audiences by playing comic, romantic and tragic roles in theater, cinema and on TV. He was considered a super star among his generation. Zaki's had his first chance to professionaly act while he was still studying at the Theatre Institute in 1969: he was cast in a small part as a room service attendant in the comedy play Hello Shalabi; he managed to make an impressive comic sketch, notably impersonating the celebrated villain actor Mahmoud El-Meligui which managed to let everyone take note of his brilliant, natural performance. Such impersonation was Zaki's favourite hobby, and it was a skill he developed brilliantly over time..

His greatest successes were playing Egypt's presidents in two popular movies that became landmarks of Arab cinema. He played presidents Gamal Abdel Nasser in Nasser 56 1996, (a movie that centered on the fateful summer of 1956, when then-President Nasser nationalizing the Suez Canal), and Anwar Sadat in the movie The Days of Sadat 1999 with director Mohammed Khan which he also produced. The movie depicted 40 years of the late president's life. He also had plans to play president Hosni Mubarak in a third movie. He is also known for portaying prominent characters in Egyptian history like Taha Hussien.

People in the street often hailed him as Ahmad al-Shair, in reference to his role in the classic comedy play Madrasit Al- Mushaghibin (The School for Trouble Makers). His leap to stardom began when he got a leading role in the successful 1978 comedy play Al-Iyal Kibrit (The Children have Grown Up) then his television impersonation of the blind Egyptian litterateur Taha Hussein (the dean of Arabic literature) in the serial drama of the latter's eponymous autobiography Al-Ayyam (The Days).

He made his first film, Abnaa Elsamt (Children of Silence), in 1974. By 1980 he had made six films, including (Alexandria ... Why?) with Egypt's best known director, Yusuf Shahin. Zaki appeared in more than 60 films throughout his career.

Many of his films, were written by screenwriter Wahid Hamed, and had a strong political message that exposed governmental and police corruption.

Zaki died before accomplishing one of his dreams: Haleem a musical drama movie about the life of the celebrated Egyptian singer Abdel Halim Hafez that was planned for release in 2006, as it is 80% complete and directed by Sherif Arafa.

The End

He was a known heavy smoker, Zaki had been in intensive care at Dar al-Fuad Hospital in Sixth of October City, just outside Cairo, and died of lung cancer complications, after president Hosni Mubarak offered to send him to France for medical treatment at the government's expense and granting him the Merit of Arts award for his work in over 50 movies. He also stared in the famous 80s TV comedy musical series Howa we Heya with actress Souad Houssni.

A book about Zaki has been released under the title of Ahmad Zaki wa Symphoniet Ibda' (Ahmad Zaki: A Symphonic Innovation Masterpiece). The book features details of his acting career and includes a compilation of articles by different critics including Tareq Al Shinawi, Mohammad Al Shafe'ee, Waleed Saif.


His ex-wife, actress Hala Fouad, who also died in 1991 of cancer at the age of 34. They had one son, Haitham.

Note: This profile was written in or before 2005.

Ahmed Zaki Facts

Birth NameAhmed Abdullrahman Zaki
BirthdayNovember 18, 1949
BirthplaceZaqazeeq, Egypt
Date of deathMarch 27, 2005 (Cairo, Egypt, age 55)

Selected Filmography

The Addict
Alexandria Again and Forever
Madraset Elmoshaghebeen
Nasser 56
Silence... We're Rolling
Taimour & Shafiaa
Against The Government
Days of Sadat
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