Monday, 9 April 2012

Monday Mind-Melt: Sherihan

A short while ago I posted about Florence Foster Jenkins, and put her forward as an unlikely dance inspiration. Then I got a clip on my Facebook wall from a reader of this blog who may or may not wish to remain anonymous, with the comment, “Do you know about this WONDER of the world? Sherihan is one of my top 10 inspirations, always!” 
This is the picture they use in the dictionary under '1980s glamour'
This lovely lady is Sherihan Ahmed Abdul Fattah Al Shalaqany (spelt any way you like, but generally as Sherihan). Obviously, she’s a vintage superstar and it shames me to the bow on my La Senza that I had never heard of her. But it’s like Perry Farrell said (and I paraphrase) – “Don't go around being all like, ‘I was into peace before you were.’ Just be glad other people are getting into peace.”
A star is born

As befits a mega diva, Sherihan’s autobiography is a litany of tragedies, scandals, dark rumours and family intrigues. I'm basing most of this potted bio on info from – if it’s a load of old cobbler’s, then it’s their fault.

Sherihan’s an actress, born 9 December 1964 to an unmarried mother, Awatef Hashem, who died in 1987. (As an adult, it would take Sherihan seven years to prove her paternity in court.) Her brother was renowned actor and guitarist Omar Khourshid (d. 1981), and she has two sisters – Hwaida, whose husband is film director Karim Diaa El Din, and Gihan.

At the ripe old age of 12, Sherihan made her first movie, 1977’s Ketta Ala Al-Nar (A Cat on Fire). She played the grand-daughter of Farid Shawky and the niece of Pousy and Nour El Sherif.

In addition to appearing in more movies and film roles than you can shake a sai’idi stick at, she was famous for her dynamic dance numbers aired during the Fawazeer shows of ramadan. These are the sources for the jaw-dropping extravaganzas that are the guts of today’s post.

Despite what you may think from the clips you’re about to enjoy, her life was not all cheap special effects and lavish khaleegi dresses. In 1989, she had a serious car accident and it was feared she’d be permanently paralysed. She spent three years in a Parisian hospital recovering.

Dark rumour number one
Here’s the first of two, very-dark-indeed rumours I uncovered in the shady backstreets of the internet: Sherihan’s car accident may not have been a car accident at all. She was thought to be romantically involved at the time with Alaa Mubarak – son of the recently ousted Egyptian dictator Hosni – and that the Mubarak family had her thrown from the seventh storey of an apartment building. For the record, Sherihan denies both the relationship and the allegation that she was the victim of attempted murder. On the other hand, if the Mubaraks had thrown you from a window and you’d survived, you wouldn't want to tempt fate again, would you?

Things get even stranger and darker in 1997, when Sherihan was accused of being the driver in a hit-and-run that killed young girl, Marina. Conveniently, however, Sherihan was able to provide a cast-iron alibi because she was in London for medical treatment at the time and all charges in relation to the case were dropped. [Reports that the whole awful affair, including Marinas death, was organised by the Mubarak family are products of The Raqasas fevered imagination and could not be confirmed at press time.]

A veiled threat to the Mubaraks
At some point (sorry, gang, I don’t know when), Sherihan was diagnosed with cancer after a tumour formed on her face, which was removed with 17 hours of surgery. Perhaps deciding that the Mubaraks/vehicle manufacturers and her own mutant cells were trying to tell her something, Sherihan turned her back on showbiz and adopted the hijab. (It’s happened before – remember Nadia Hamdi?)

She married a wealthy Jordanian businessman, Ala Al Khawaja, and they have two daughters, Loulwa and Taliya.

Appropriately enough, after a saga like that, her last movie was 2001’s Al-Eshk Wal-Damm (Love and Blood). To the great excitement of fans everywhere, however, in January this year reported that she will be returning to television in Cinderella's Tears, to air during ramadan.

This announcement coincided with a return to public life. She was seen protesting with anti-Government demonstrators in Tahrir Square, and apparently no longer wears the hijab [see pic below]. Here’s the second dark rumour: on 27 May 2011, she was “stalked and harassed in a disgusting way” by police in Tahrir Square. Kinda glad I don’t know any more on that one.

Anyway – onward! Or at least – backward, to the recent past!

This first clip is the one that started it all on my Facebook wall. I think that if Nina Hagen had been an Egyptian pop star with the sensibilities of early Madonna, her stuff would have looked a lot like this. There’s a delightful kitchen scene that appears to have nothing to do with anything and is over in the blink of an eye, more costume changes than you can count, lots and lots of neon, a reference to the legend of Cleopatra rolling herself in a rug to be delivered to Caesar, and, presumably because the director didn’t want anyone getting bored, some polka dots:

As for this second one ... the whole Disney-Princess shtick followed by the guru-like father figure who crushes the young lovers in his palm at 2.59 could provide fodder for psych students’ PhD dissertations for years to come (and has -- thanks to "Anonymous" for pointing out it's labelled "1001 Nights"):


  1. I am so glad I watched those videos :D the weekend has just been improved by 100%

  2. Well done--thank you for this informative blog about an Egyptian/Arabic star and what she had to endure and still does regardless of her fame simply because she is a woman! I have always loved Sherihan and admired her strength of caracter! Thank you again.

  3. The second clip is labeled "Alf Leila Wa Leila," or "1001 Nights."

  4. Please get your facts straight, Sherihan's mother was not an 'unwed mom', she was married to her father. In fact it is well known that the first heartache Sherihan had to deal with (before her accident, or cancer) was the fact that her very own uncle denied her paternity so that he can inherit his late brother; it took Sherihan and her mom 3 or 4 years in court, but eventually the mom furnished proof that she was married and that Sherihan is indeed the daughter of her father, per the birth certificate.

    Years would pass, the uncle would die, Sherihan would be the first one to mourn him and accept condolences for him.

  5. Oh, hi "Anonymous"! As just another asshole with a blog (or 'JAAB'), I'm always grateful when readers take the time to share their knowledge. If you re-read the post, you'll see that I do acknowledge that my source is not infallible (specifically this bit: "I'm basing most of this potted bio on info from – if it’s a load of old cobbler’s, then it’s their fault.") And I do also say that she proved her paternity after a long legal battle.
    So thank you again for sharing that info. It would have been nice if you could have cited your source, but I guess until I'm brave enough to just make shit up without attributing it to anyone (and thereby never having to prove a damn jot) I'll have to run the risk of strangers rudely telling me to get my facts straight and making me so upset that I forget to feed my cat for days, and only remember when I step on his starved, scraggy corpse*. Have a good one!

    *He's fine. And pudgy.

  6. Sherihan we love you and god bless you , you are a legend

  7. I grew up watching Sherihan during Ramadan and in various movie roles. Her talent always stuck with me. She was and still is beautiful. It's awful all of the challenges she has endured.

  8. Amazing! came into this by accident. This lady is survival. Indeed will pass all tests with the help of Al-Mighty Allah