Forgotten Siren: From Cairo Diva to Israeli Single Mother

This piece was first published in The Times of Israel.

A young Souad Zaki in the recording studio in Cairo. (Courtesy of Moshe Zaki)

A young Souad Zaki in the recording studio in Cairo. (Courtesy of Moshe Zaki)

TEL AVIV — Most people have heard of Egyptian sultry siren Umm Khultum, the greatest female Arabic singer in history who dominated Middle Eastern stages and airwaves from the 1930s to the 1970s and still enjoys widespread acclaim. However, though she too was a prominent singer of popular classical Egyptian music leading up to the 1952 Egyptian Revolution, the same cannot be said of Souad Zaki.

Had political realities been different, Zaki may have become an international singing sensation like Umm Khultum, who picked Zaki to co-star in the hit 1945 film “Salamah.” But as nationalism and anti-Semitism took hold in Egypt, Zaki, a proud Jew and Zionist, left her birthplace and privileged status behind for the life of a struggling immigrant in the young Jewish State.

Thus, just as Zaki’s star was rising in Egypt, she became a cleaning lady at a bank in Tel Aviv.

Click here to read more and watch a video.

© 2014 Renee Ghert-Zand. All rights reserved.

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