Accessibility links

Leading Egyptian Actor Ahmed Zaki Dies at 56

One of Egypt's leading movie stars, Ahmed Zaki, died of cancer complications Sunday. Mr. Zaki had been suffering from lung cancer since early last year and had been in a coma for two weeks.

Mr. Zaki was a heavy smoker. When doctors diagnosed him with lung cancer last year, President Hosni Mubarak offered to send him to France for medical treatment at the government's expense. But, last month Mr. Zaki's health deteriorated dramatically.

Mr. Zaki impressed audiences by playing comic, romantic and tragic roles for more than 30 years in theater, in movies and on television. Sunday Egyptian television played highlights of his career and showed rare pictures of him in a hospital bed.

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 and Anwar Sadat in The Days of Sadat. He also had plans to play President Hosni Mubarak.

After discovering his illness last year, he continued working on a movie in which he played Egypt's "nightingale" Abdel Halim Hafez, one of the country's most popular singers. Mr. Zaki only completed about 80 percent of the movie.

Ahmed Zaki was born in 1949 in the Nile Delta city of Zagazig, about 50 miles north of Cairo. He graduated from Zagazig's Crafts School in 1967, and then traveled to Cairo to study cinema.

Many of his films, which were written by screenwriter Wahid Hamed, had a political message - roles that exposed government and police corruption or favored the oppressed and the poor. The roles made him popular in the Arab world.

President Mubarak granted Mr. Zaki the Merit of Arts award for his work in over 50 movies.

Mr. Zaki's wife, actress Hala Fouad, also died of cancer at the age of 34. They are survived by their only son, 16-year-old Haitham.

Egyptian television announced that Mr. Zaki will be buried in Cairo Monday.