Most of us have a favorite onscreen couple; we enjoy watching them together during films, how they fall in love and face different challenges. We empathize with their ups and downs and even get heartbroken when they break up, and eagerly wait for the last scene, which ends with a kiss or a proposal.
But when on-screen couples become real-life partners, that’s when the fans and media alike fall into a star-struck frenzy, following their every move, every fight and every trip. From comedy sweethearts Fouad El Mohandes and Shwikar and the power (not to mention gorgeous) couple Faten Hamama and Omar Sharif to the ultimate sex symbols Roshdy Abaza and Samia Gamal, Egyptian cinema is studded with celebrity couples we avidly followed. Modern cinema has also brought us many favorite couples; from Egyptian cinema sweetheart Mona Zaki and comedy superpower Ahmed Helmy to the couple whose wedding pictures took social media by a storm, Amr Youssef and Kinda Alloush.
1- Faten Hamama and Omar Sharif
The Lady of the Arab Screen Faten Hamama is a legend in her own right, who has wooed the Arab world with her charms since she was just 7. By the time she was 23 she had already been an established actress with more than 40 movies under her belt when Youssef Chahine picked her to star in the movie Seraa Fel Wady (Conflict in the Valley) in the 1950s. Chahine also recommended the handsome Omar Sharif, born Michel Demitri Shalhoub, who was still making a name for himself as an actor but was quickly gaining a following with his tanned skin, deep drown eyes and killer charisma. Hamama had been married to Ezz El Dine Zulficar for less than seven years and finalized her divorce in 1954; the year she met Sharif, who was then a Catholic and far less know than Hamama.
During the movie, Sharif gave Hamama her first on-screen kiss, one that apparently had a strong effect on the two stars. Sharif couldn’t wait till they finished the movie to confess his feelings; and a year later, in 1955, Sharif converted to Islam and the two were married and soon after had their son Tarek, who appeared in Doctor Zhivago as Yuri at the age of 8.
Their marriage lasted for 19 years, and together they carved some of Egyptian cinema’s most memorable movies; Ayyamina El-Helwa (Our Best Days) in 1955, Seraa Fel Mina (Conflict in the Port) in 1956, the war drama Ard El-Salam (Land of Peace), La Anam (I Don’t Sleep) in 1957, Sayedat El Kasr (Lady of the Castle) in 1958, and finally their last film together before their divorce, Nahr El Hob (River of Love) in 1961.
Sharif then directed his efforts to Hollywood, working with David Lean in Lawrence of Arabia, the film that went on to win the 1962 Oscar for Best Picture. Sharif got countless admirers for his role and his international career then took off, keeping him away from his family and home most of the time and eventually leading to the couple’s divorce in 1974.
While living abroad, Sharif was linked to many beauties and international stars, but would always talk about his true love and the one who got away, Hamama, whom he often called “the love of his life.”
2-Kinda Alloush and Amr Youssef
After a long friendship between the two, having worked together five times in as many years before getting married, the two announced their engagement in late November 2016 through a small family celebration. The two then got married in January 2017 in a much-photographed wedding in Luxor.
Youssef and Alloush worked together in Hepta in 2016, Aad Tanazoly (The Countdown) in 2014, Niran Sadika (Friendly Fire) in 2013, Bartita in 2012 and Wahed Sahih (A Whole One) in 2011.
The couple had two weddings, the first was in Cairo where only family members attended, and then a big, star-studded wedding at the Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan a week later.
3-Ahmed Helmy and Mona Zaki
One of the most adorable Arab celebrity couples, the duo has now been married for 16 years, and have three children; Lilly, born in 2004, Salim, born in 2014, and Younes, born in 2016.
The two worked together on Omar 2000 and Leeh Khaletny Ahebak (Why Did You Make Me Fall in Love with You?) in 2000, and that’s when they fell in love. When Zaki was away filming Africano in South Africa, Helmy confessed his love; and a year later, in 2002, they got married.
After marriage, the couple acted together in Sahar El-Layaly (Sleepless Nights) in 2003, and appeared as guests of honor in one scene in Adel Emam’s film El-Tagreba El-Denmarkya (The Danish Experiment).
4-Samir Ghanem and Dalal Abdel Aziz
Dalal Abdel Aziz was just starting out when actor George Sedhom recommended her to the king of comic theater Samir Ghanem to co-star in the play Ahlan Ya Doctor (Hello Doctor) in 1981. Abdel Aziz then landed her first major role and developed a crush on her co-star, who is 20 years older than she is.
Abdel Aziz recently appeared on several TV shows recalling how Ghanem would drive her to and from the theater every day, buying her flower garlands to show his love. Eventually, the couple got married after wrapping up the Ahlan Ya Doctor play, beginning what has now become one of the most famous families in Egyptian cinema and giving birth to Donia and Amal, known as Amy. The couple has been married since 1984, and are one of the most stable celebrity unions in the industry.
5- Roshdy Abaza and Samia Gamal
Marriage is like lottery tickets, and I believe that there is a soulmate for every person; it doesn’t matter whether they are celebrities or not, reasons for the success or failure of marriages are still the same,” Egyptian heartthrob Roshdy Abaza, speaking about artists’ marriage during a TV interview in the 1970s, told presenter and actress Mervat Amin.
Abaza was one of the most charming, charismatic actors on Egyptian screens, and quickly became a symbol of the mischievous yet charming playboy. Before he met Gamal, he had already been married and divorced three times; his first wife being the late actress and belly dancer Taheya Karioka and his second the American Barbara Abaza.
Actress and belly dancer Samia Gamal had been making waves in the art scene in Egypt, offering a new interpretation of belly dancing and attracting millions of fans with a mischievous smile, to-kill-for body and movements only she could perfect. She had married an American who converted to Islam while touring in the U.S., but two and a half years after, he stole all her money and she divorced him and came back to Egypt.
Abaza met his match when he and Gamal worked together on the movie Al Ragol Al Thani (The Second Man), where Gamal played the role of his secret wife in 1959. Their on-screen romance turned into a real-life marriage in 1962 that lasted for 18 years, and was the longest of Abaza’s five marriages.
Gamal said during the same “Cinema Al Kahera” show, which took place inside Abaza and Gamal’s house, that mutual confidence and understating are the main pillars for any successful marriage. She stayed away from the cinema for ten years, devoting her time to take care of her husband, but came back to the screen, starring alongside Abaza in the movie Al Shetan Wal Kharif (The Devil and the Autumn) in 1972. Abaza said that he was impressed by his wife’s dramatic performance. During those ten years, Gamal had said that she lived through her husband’s roles.
But then Abaza broke Gamal’s heart when he was in Lebanon and married the famous Lebanese actress and singer Sabah over a dare from the latter, a marriage that had only lasted 24 hours before he ended the marriage and apologized to Gamal. But the marriage had taken a hard hit; and a year later, in 1977, the two divorced, bringing to an end a passionate love story.
6-Hussein Fahmy and Mervat Amin
They met for the first time during their movie Raghabat Mamnoa (Forbidden Desires) in 1972. They then worked together again in El-Ekhwa El-A’adaa (Enemy Brothers) in 1974, and again in Nagham Hayaty (The Melody of My Life) in 1975. But at the time they met, Amin was married to guitarist Omar Khorshid and Hussein to Nadia Moharram.
They both divorced their spouses shortly after; and when they were shooting the movie Mokalma Baad Montassaf El-Leil (A Midnight Phone Call) in 1978, they announced their marriage and the wedding scene in the movie was shot with the pair wearing the same wedding gown and suit they wore for their real-life wedding. A year later, they had their daughter, Mennatullah, the same name as the daughter of her close friend Shwikar. Their marriage ended in divorce 14 years later in 1992.
7-Amy Ghanem and Hassan Al Raddad
Another love story from the comedian legend Samir Ghanem’ house, this one stars two young actors. Lots of rumors surrounded Amy and Raddad after starring together in the movies Zana’et Settat in 2015 and Elbes Ashan Khargeen (Get Dressed, We’re Going Out) in 2016. Soon after, the couple announced their engagement; and a year later, in November 2016, they got married in El Gouna in a star-studded event.
8-Fouad El Mohandes and Shwikar
A story of a lifetime love and friendship, the comic duo El Mohandes, better known as “El-Ostaz” (The Professor) and Shwikar, represented one of most sincere love stories born on stage.
In 1963 El Mohandes was already established as a comedian, starring in the play El-Secerter El-Fanny (The Technical Secretary)—when Abdel Moneim Madbouly recommended the fresh-faced Shwikar to star opposite him. At the time, she was only 25 and El-Mohandes was 14 years her senior. Shwikar was a widow at the time, having lost her first husband Hassan Nafei, and the father of her only daughter Menna, after two years of marriage.
The two then worked together again on the play Ana w Howa w Heya (Me, Him and Her) in 1964 and that was when El Mohandes proposed to her—on stage, while performing. “Tetgaweziny ya bascota? (Marry me, cookie?)” became one of the most iconic phrases depicting the golden cinema’s off-screen romance.
They were shooting the last scene of the movie Hareb Men El-Gawaz (Escaping Marriage), one where the two characters were getting married, when they headed to the maazoun (religious clerk) straight after wrapping up the scene and got married in the same outfits they wore during the scene.
Together, they performed a number of unforgettable works on stage and on screen for more than 20 years; Sayedaty El Gamila (My Fair Lady), Motarda Gharameya (A Romantic Chase), Mister X, and many more, the last of which was in 1990.
Their marriage was one of the most prominent unions in Egypt’s entertainment industry, and so their subsequent divorce came as quite a shock to the society and the industry 20 years later. They did, however, manage to turn their love into a faithful friendship that lasted until El-Mohandes died in 2006 at the age of 82.
El Mohandes called Shwikar “the first and last love” of his life after the divorce; and Shwikar stayed by his side during his last days. “I loved him and I still do, this man gave me love, affection, security and tenderness and I always remember our good days. He is the love of my life, my life started with him and I worked with him and everything I made was shared with him. We were never able to separate, until the very last moments and I was with him until the last day of his life,” she had told Egypt Today in 2016.