The thousand faces of Ahmed Zaki

Five years has passed since the death of renowned Egyptian film actor Ahmed Zaki (1949-2005), yet his legacy lives on. This exceptional talent, a true star of the silver screen who excelled in all the roles he played, left an indeliable mark on Egyptian cinematic history.

Zaki was born on November 18, 1949–one year before the death of his father. Most of his childhood was spent at the home of his grandfather. He was stung by the acting bug in his late teens when he joined the Cairo Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts, from which he graduated with honors in 1973.

In the span of some 30 years, Zaki managed to achieve stardom in both cinema and television, in addition to a small number of radio broadcast debuts and memorable theater appearances. His first cinematic role was in the 1974 film Abnaa Al-Samt (Sons of Silence), but his big break came on stage when he played the goodhearted student in Madresset Al-Moshaghibeen (School of the Wicked, 1973).

Later in his career, Zaki distanced himself from the latter film, accusing director Galal el-Sherqawy of minimizing his role in the play in favor of comic golden boy Adel Emam. Zaki rejoined most of the cast of Al-Moshaghibeen in another hit play, Al-eial Kebrat (The Kids grew up, 1978), for which he received lavish praise from both audiences and critics alike.

He went on to play numerous roles, ranging from heads of state to street beggars, yet he always managed to convey their human sides, personalizing each one of them.

Even five years after his passing, it remains difficult to choose his all-time best role. Could it be that of the innocent-but-misled Ahmed Sab’ellil in Al-Baree (The Innocent, 1986)? Or that of Hisham, the police officer shocked by his own powerless in Zawgat Ragoul Mohem (The wife of an important man, 1987)? Or that of Yehia, the officer forced to live his life as a drug-dealer in an ill-fated sting operation in Ard El-Khof (Land of Fear, 1999)?

These represent only a handful of Zaki’s long resume of acclaimed films. Having starred in almost 60 different movies, Zaki was awarded numerous film awards throughout the course of his career, including Best Actor at the Cairo Film Festival for his roles in Taeer Ala Al-Tareeq (A Bird on its Road, 1981) and Maali Al-Wazeer (His Excellency the Minister, 2003).

Ahmed Zaki died of lung cancer complications on March 27, 2005 while shooting Halim, a movie that was to portray the life of celebrated Egyptian singer and actor Abdel-Halim Hafiz.

Complete Ahmed Zaki filmography:
Abnaa Al-Sammt (Sons of Silence, 1974)
Nozoor (Promises, 1974)
Sanie Al-Nogoom (Star Maker, 1977)
Al-Omr Lahza (Life is a Second, 1978)
Wara Al-Shams (Beyond the sun, 1978)
Eskandria… Lih? (Alexandria… Why? 1978)
Shafika wa Metwalli (Shafika and Metwalli, 1979)
Al-Batinya (1980)
Taer Ala El-Tariq (Bird on the Road, 1981)
Oyun La Tanam (Open Eyes, 1981)
Maowid Ala Ashaa (A Dinner Date, 1981)
Al-Aqdar Al-Damia (Bloody Destinies, 1982)
Al-Owama Raqam 70 (Raft No.70, 1982)
Al-Ehteyat Waghib (Better Safe than Sorry, 1983)
Darb Al-Houa (Love Road, 1983)
Al-Modmeen (The Addict, 1983)
Al-Layla Al-Mo’oda (The Promised Night, 1984)
Al-Raqessa W Al-Tabaal (The Bellydancer and the Drummer, 1984)
Al-Hoob Faoq Hadbet Al-Haram (Love on the Pyramids Plateau, 1984)
Al-Takhshiba (The Arrest, 1984)
Al-Prince (The Prince, 1985)
Al-Neemr Al-Asoad (The Black Jaguar, 1985)
Saad al-yatteem (Saad The Orphan, 1985)
Shader Al-Samak (The Fish Market, 1986)
Al-Bedaya (The Beginning, 1986)
Al-Baree (The Innocent, 1986)
Arba’a Fi Muhimma Rasmiya (Four on an Official Mission, 1987)
Al-Beeh Al-Bowab (The Bey Doorman, 1987)
Zawgat Ragol Mohim (The Wife of an Important Man, 1987)
Al-Daraga Al-Thalitha (The  ‘C’ Class, 1988)
Al-Horoob (Escape, 1988)
Ahlam Hend W Kamilia (The Dreams of Hend and Kamilia, 1989)
Al-Beda Wa Al-Hagar (The Egg and the Rock, 1990)
Al-Embrator (The Emperor, 1990)
Kaboria (Crab, 1990)
Emra’a Waheda La Tkfee (One Woman is not enough, 1990)
Al-Raiee W Al-Nessa (Shepherd and the Women, 1991)
Al-Makhtoffa (The Kidnapped, 1991)
Deed Al-hokoma (Against the Government, 1992)
Al-basha (The Master, 1993)
Mr. Karate (1993)
Sawaq Al-Haanem (Driver of the Lady, 1994)
Al-Ragol Al-Talet (The Third Man, 1994)
Naser 56 (1996)
Estakoza (Lobster, 1995)
Nazwa (The Fling, 1996)
Hassan Al-Lool  (1997)
Al-batal (The Hero, 1997)
Hysteria  (1996)
Ard al-Khof (Land of Fear, 1999)
Edhak el-Sora tetla Helwa (Smile, the Photo Will be Better, 1998)
Ayam el-Saddat (Days of Sadat, 2001)
Maali Al-Wazeer (His Excellency, the Minster, 2003)
Halim (2006)

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