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In memoriam: the Arab stars we lost in 2016

From an architecture pioneer to legends of screens, music and stage , the Arab world has lost its share of icons and stars in 2016. Here are some of those who we bid farewell to.

Zaha Hadid

October 31 1950 – March 31 2016

Born in Baghdad, Iraq, the award winning Iraqi-British architect pushed architectural boundaries with her designs and broke new grounds for female architects in a male dominant field. Inspired by a visit to ancient Sumerian sites in southern Iraq, Hadid left her own mark in the articthotecural world, thus earning the title the ‘Queen of Curves.’ In 2004 She was the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize and in 2015 she became the first woman to be awarded a royal gold medal by the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba). She won numerous awards, and in 2012 she was made a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II of England for her services to architecture. Some of her famous work include China’s Guangzhou Opera House, Aquatic Center for the London 2012 Olympics. Her landmark designs in the Arab world include the completed Sheikh Zayed Bridge in Abu Dhabi, and the still in the works Abu Dhabi Performing Arts Centre and Dubai’s The Opus which will also house a permanent memorial to the late Hadid.

Melham Barakat

August 5 1945 – October 28 2016

A veteran Lebanese singer and composer, he was known for singing in colloquial Lebanese Arabic, a stylistic choice he defended throughout his career. He also appeared in several films throughout the 1980s and participated in musicals by the acclaimed Rahbani Brothers. Born in the Mount Lebanon town of Kfarshima, Barakat showed talent from an early age and was inspired by Egyptian legendary musician Mohammad Abdel Wahhab. When not performing, Barakat also composed for the likes of iconic Lebanese singers such Fairouz, Sabah (whose sister Souad was his first wife), Majida Al Roumi and Najwa Karam. Some of his most famous songs include Ala babi wa’ef amareen, Abouha radi and Habibi enta.

Mahmoud Abdel Aziz

June 4 1946 – November 12 2016

A veteran Egyptian actor and pioneer, known for his versatile style and prolific career of over 100 films. He is also known as “the Arab Al Pacino” and Al Saher (The Magician) after a role in the 2001 fantasy film with the same name. While he studied agriculture, he preferred to act, and starred in his first movie in 1974, ‘Al Hafeed’ (grandson) earning him critical acclaim. From romantic comedies to drama, he was renowned for his versatility. The characters he portrayed often reflected realities, social commentary and criticism of the Arab world, such as the famous role in 1991 film Al Kit-Kat as an eccentric blind religious cleric who dreams of riding a motorcycle. He became an icon across the Arab world for his portrayal of an Egyptian spy planted in Israel, the 1988 television series, Raafat El-Hagan inspired by the true story of the Egyptian spy Rafaat Al Gammal. He is survived by his wife, TV host Boussy Chalabi and two children, Mohammad, a producer, and Karim, an actor.

Zubaida Tharwat

June 14 1940 – December 13 2016

An Egyptian actress from the golden age of Egypt cinema, she also worked on stage and television. Known for her delicate beauty, she was dubbed the “kitten of Arab cinema,” and adored for having “the most beautiful eyes in classic Egyptian cinema.” Her nick names include “Magic eyes” and “Queen of Romance.” She recently made an appearance on social media as American actress Jennifer Lawrence’s doppelganger, and in 2015 gave an interview to journalist and TV personality Amr el-Leithy in which she confirmed rumours that she was indeed royalty. Her mother was Princess Zubaida Hussein Kamel, granddaughter of Sultan Hussein Kamel, son of Khedive Ismail. She was discovered by the film industry after winning a beauty pageant as a teen. She studied law before going into acting, appearing along side legends of the time, like Rushdy Abaza, Souad Hosny and Omar Sharif. The legendary singer Abdul Halim Hafez (with whom she collaborated with on screen) was said to have proposed only for it rejected by her family. Among her most famous films are Youm min Omry (A Day of My Life), Fi Baytina Ragol (A Man in Our House), and Zawga Ghayoora Giddan (A Very Jelous Wife). She retired from acting in the late 1980s. Zubaida had married five times, and had four daughters with her second husband, Syrian producer Soby Farahat. 

snailHassan Sharif. Satish Kumar / The National

Hassan Sharif

January 1 1951 – September 18 2016 

The influential Emirati artist from Dubai is one of the founding fathers of the UAE arts scene. His work is represented in major public collections, such as the Sharjah Art Foundation in UAE, Mathaf, the Arab Museum of Modern Art in Qatar and the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. His pieces was also exhibited several times in Whitechapel Gallery in London. In 2009, his works were shown in the UAE’s inaugural pavilion at the Venice Biennale. That same year, his installation, made of used slippers and wire, was displayed at the Sydney Biennale. Sharif’s career began in 1970s with caricatures printed in local newspapers. He was one of the founding members of the Emirates Fine Arts Society and staged the UAE’s first exhibitions of contemporary art.

Ahmed Rateb

January 23 1949 – December 14 2016

An Egyptian actor best known for his comical roles throughout a long career starring in over 60 films and many plays on stage. He is best known for his duet with veteran Egyptian actor Adel Imam, appearing in more than 10 films together, including the 2006 Yacoubian Building, and the famous 2005 comedy ‘El-sefara fi El-Omara’ (The Embassy in the Building) about coping with living in a building with an Israeli embassy. Rateb is also famous for his portrayal of an Israeli officer, Isaac Bin-Amitay in the popular 1988 Egyptian Spy-Drama series Raafat El-Haggan.   Rateb also acted in the 1981 America Horror film, Dawn of the Mummy. A day before his death, he was still working in Cairo and starring in the stage play “Balad Al Sultan” alongside renowned actor Mahmoud Al Jundi in Cairo. 

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