Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat—Egypt’s postal service has issued stamps commemorating Egyptian actress Faten Hamama, one of the Arab world’s most celebrated screen actors, who died in January at the age of 84.
Known as the “Lady of the Arab Screen,” Hamama made her screen debut at the age of seven and appeared in over 100 movies, with her career peaking in the 1950s during the “golden age” of Egyptian cinema. She also worked alongside directors such as Youssef Chahine and actor Omar Sharif, whom she eventually married, though the couple later divorced in 1974.
The stamps will mark 40 days since her passing, a tradition “adhered to by the postal service for decades” when commemorating prominent Egyptian figures, Khaled Negm, the head of Egypt Post, told Asharq Al-Awsat on Monday. Egyptians traditionally mark the occasion of 40 days passing since a loved one or relative dies, an event known as the “Arba’een” (the forty).
“Issuing these stamps is the least the country can do to honor an artist of the Lady of the Arab Screen’s stature,” Negm said, using the common laudatory moniker used to refer to Hamama.
He said the stamps will be available for sale at the main postal office in the Attaba region in Downtown Cairo for 3 Egyptian pounds (39 cents) each, and will later also be included in the country’s Postal Museum.
Negm explained that the idea for the stamps came shortly after the actor’s death during one of Egypt Post’s high-level monthly meetings. He said the board had “voted unanimously to adopt the idea.”
Hamama is extremely popular in Egypt and the rest of the Middle East, where the Egyptian movie industry finds its main export market. On her death, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, known to be a big fan of Hamama’s, declared two official days of mourning, while Morocco’s King Mohammed VI, who had awarded her with an official state honor 14 years earlier, issued a statement mourning Hamama and sent an official delegation to her funeral in Cairo.
Hamama’s most famous movies include Struggle in the Valley (1954), Lady of the Castle (1959), The Nightingale’s Prayer (1959), River of Love (1961, based on Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina), and I want a Solution (1974). The latter, a film about a woman seeking a divorce from her husband, has been credited with influencing divorce law reforms in Egypt.
In 2000 Hamama was named “Star of the Century” by the Egyptian Writers’ and Critics’ Association for her work. Eight of her films were also among a list of 100 best Egyptian films compiled by Egypt’s Supreme Council of Culture.
She now joins other Egyptian cultural figures commemorated in stamps, including legendary Egyptian crooner Om Kalthoum, film directors Henry Barakat and Salah Abu Seif, and iconic silver-screen comedian Ismail Yassin.