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History
GREAT LIVES
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SERIES 2
Friday 22 November 2002, 23:02 - 23:30





PROGRAMME 6: Adhaf Soueif on Um Kulthum

Picture of Egyptian popular singer Um Kulthum. Born in a village in the Nile Delta of Egypt Um Kulthum (1904-1975), became one of the most famous Arab singers of the 20th century. As a young girl, she was taught songs about religion from her father, an imam at the local mosque.

From a poor family, they made some extra money by singing at weddings and at other special occasions. Um Kulthum was allowed to take part in the performances, but had to be dressed up as a boy.

After gaining a local reputation as a singer, about 1923 her family decided to enter the business of commercial music in Cairo, and by 1928 she had become one of the most successful performers in the city. Kalthum promoted traditional Arab music and was known for her moving renditions of neoclassical poetry.

After the Egyptian coup of 1952, Um Kulthum recorded numerous songs in support of the new republic and became associated with President Gamal Abdel Nasser. After the Egyptian defeat in the Six-Day War (1967), she toured the Arab world on behalf of Egypt, donating the proceeds from her concerts to the Egyptian government.

After her death in 1975, Egypt and the entire Arab world was in mourning. Her funeral was attended by 4 million people, and was the second largest funeral in Egyptian history after that of President Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Novelist Ahdaf Soueif was born in Cairo and educated in Egypt and England, (she studied for a Ph.D. at the University of Lancaster).

She taught in Cairo University as well as the University of King Saud and worked as editing counsellor at Castle Publishing.

Soueif writes in both English and Arabic and has written various essays and reviews.

Picture of Egyptian writer and academic Adhaf Soueif.She is the author of two collections of short stories, Aisha (1983) and Sandpiper (1996), and two novels: In the Eye of the Sun (1992), and The Map of Love (1999). The Map of Love was short-listed for the Booker Prize for Fiction.

Ahdaf Soueif lives in London and Cairo.

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