Abdel Halim Hafez
عبد الحليم حافظ
Background information
Birth nameAbdel Halim Ali Shabana
عبد الحليم علي شبانة
Born(1929-06-21)June 21, 1929
El Sharqia, Egypt
DiedMarch 30, 1977(1977-03-30) (aged 47)
London, England
GenresEgyptian music, Opera
OccupationsSinger, actor, conductor, film producer
Years active1952–1977
Associated actsUmm Kulthum
Mohamed Abdel Wahab

Abdel Halim Ali Shabana (Arabic: عبد الحليم علي شبانة‎), commonly known as Abdel Halim Hafez (Arabic: عبد الحليم حافظ‎,Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [ʕæbd el ħæliːm ħɑːfɪzˤ]) (June 21, 1929 – March 30, 1977[citation needed]), was an Egyptian singer, actor, conductor, businessman, music teacher and film producer.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7] He is considered to be one of the greatest Egyptian musicians along with Umm Kulthum, Mohamed Abdel Wahab, Mohamed Fawzi, and Shadia.[1][4][8] As his popularity grew, he was given the nickname 'el-Andaleeb el-Asmar (Arabic: العندليب الأسمر), meaning The Dark-Skinned Nightingale.[7][9] To date, he has sold over 80 million records.[1][10]

Early lifeEdit

Born Abdel Halim Ali Shabanah in El-Halawat in El Sharqia, 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Cairo, he was the fourth child of Ali Ismail Shabanah. He had two brothers, Ismail and Mohamed, and one sister, Alyah. His mother died from labor complications three days after giving birth to him – something that made people around him believe that he brought bad luck. His father died five years later, leaving him and his siblings orphaned at a young age. He lived in a poor orphanage for a number of years.[2] He was later raised by his aunt and uncle in Cairo. During these years Abdel Halim was extremely poor.[11]

Abdel Halim's musical abilities first became apparent while he was in primary school and his older brother Ismail Shabanah was his first music teacher. At the age of 14 he joined the Arabic Music Institute in Cairo and became known for singing the songs of Mohammed Abdel Wahab. He dropped out from the Higher Theatrical Music Institute as an oboe player.[12][13]

Musical careerEdit

In the very beginning, Abdel Halim worked as a teacher of music at schools in Tanta and El-Mahalla El-Kubra. While singing in clubs in Cairo, Abdel Halim was drafted as a last-minute substitute when the singer Karem Mahmoud was unable to sing a scheduled live radio performance in 1953.[14] Abdel Halim's performance was heard by Hafez Abdel Wahab, the supervisor of musical programming for Egyptian national radio. Abdel Halim took 'Hafez', Abdel Wahab's first name, as his stage-surname in recognition of his patronage.[6]

In the early days of his career, Abdel Halim was rejected for his new style of singing. However he persisted and was able to gain accolades later on.[9] Eventually, he became a singer enjoyed by all generations.[15][16] He also became Egypt's first romantic singer.[16]

In collaboration with composer Mohammed Abdel Wahab, Abdel Halim went on to produce many popular love songs such as Ahwak ("I adore you"), Nebtedi Minen el Hekaya ("Where should we start the story"), and Fatet Ganbena( "She passed by us"). Hafez also worked with Egyptian poet Mohamed Hamza on songs including Zay el Hawa ("It feels like love"), Sawah ("Wanderer"), Hawel Teftekerni ("Try to remember me"), Aye Damiet Hozn ("Any tear of sadness"), and Mawood ("Destined").

During his career, he was very popular and always performed in sold-out arenas and stadiums.[17] Despite his popularity, he rarely released a studio album since he worked purely as a live singer.[8] He also played many different instruments, including the oboe, drums, piano, oud, clarinet and guitar.[2] He was involved in all aspects of the composition of his songs.[1] Halim introduced many new instruments to the Arab World.[6] He was known for his deep passion in his songs and his unique voice.[1][8] Halim performed in almost every country in the Arab World as well as outside the Arab World, including several concerts in Europe.[1] Moreover, he sang uplifting patriotic songs for not only his native Egypt whom he dedicated tens of patriotic songs, but also some songs dedicated to other countries in the Arab World such as Lebanon, Syria, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco during their revolutions and wars.[16] He used to encourage and help many young artists and actors to pursue successful careers.[18][19][20]


In Egypt, Halim is known as the "King of Music", "The Son of Nile", "The voice of the people", "The son of the revolution", and "King of emotions and feelings".[1][11][16][21][22] His patriotic songs were the most frequent songs sung by the crowds during the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.[1][3][15][16] One of the revolutionaries in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 quoted that "the nightingale's songs inspired us during the January 25 revolution", he added "Although, he died 35 years ago, his songs will surely continue to inspire his fellow Egyptians for many generations to come".[16] His albums and CDs have sold more copies since his death than any other Arabic artist ever.[23] His way of singing, the popularity of his songs and his behavior made him a role model for almost every modern singer in the entire region.[20][24][25][26] Egyptians and also Arab people of all ages are fans of Halim.[22] Halim is still remembered in the hearts of many people, even years after his death.[10]

Personal lifeEdit

Hafez shaking hands with President Gamal Abdel Nasser, with whom he was friends, 1958

At the age of 11, Abdel Halim contracted schistosomiasis[2]—a rare parasitic water-borne disease[9]—and was afflicted by it for most of his career. Despite this, he remained positive and continued composing and performing his songs.[21]

Although Abdel Halim never married, it was rumoured that he was secretly married to actress Soad Hosni for six years. This has never been proven to date. People who were close to both singers denied this rumor.[27][28]

In 1969 Halim built a hospital in Egypt. He treated the poor, the rich, and presidents equally in the Arab World.[21]

Abdel Halim established strong friendships with many contemporary presidents and kings of the Eastern world, including Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and King Hassan II of Morocco.[2][23] He also had very close friendships with most Egyptian poets.[1] He has been in close relation to the Nasser regime. He sang directly to the Egyptian president in several occasions.[citation needed] Consequently, he has been accused by many to be a "servant" of the regime.


Funeral of Abdel Halim Hafez

Abdel Halim died of liver failure as a complication from Schistosoma mansoni (reference St. George's University School of Medicine) on March 30, 1977 (a few months before his 48th birthday) while undergoing treatment for Bilharzia in King's College Hospital, London. His funeral in Cairo was attended by millions of people[9] – more than any funeral in the history of the Middle East, other than that of President Nasser.[29] He had many more dreams and goals that he wanted to achieve and surpass and could have, but his early death prevented him from doing so.[21] Some people committed suicide once they heard of Halim's passing. It has been reported that at least four women committed suicide by jumping off the balcony during his funeral march.[2][9] He was buried in Al Bassatin Cemetery in Cairo.


Abdel Halim Hafez's song "Khosara" (Arabic: خسارة‎) received notice in the Western world in 1999 when elements from it were used for Jay-Z's recording "Big Pimpin'." Two complete bars from "Khosara" were rerecorded, not sampled, and used without permission from the song's producer and copyright holder, Magdi el-Amroussi. Jay-Z's use of an interpolation, rather than an actual sample, allowed him to avoid paying royalties for the use of the song.[30]

Over 300 of Abdel Halim Hafez's songs were recorded and he starred in 16 classic and successful films, including Dalilah (دليله), which was the Middle East's first color motion picture.[11][16]

Along with Mohammed Abdel Wahab and Magdi el-Amroussi, Abdel Halim was one of the main founders of the Egyptian recording company Soutelphan,[2][12] which continues to operate to this day[when?] as a subsidiary of Mazzika

A feature film about his life, "Haleem", was released in 2006, starring Ahmad Zaki in the title role, produced by the Good News Group.[31] In the same year a soap opera "Al-andaleeb hikayt shaab"[32] was produced in Egypt with Shadi Shamel starring as Abdel Halim. Shamel won the lead role in a televised competition.[33]

On 19 April 2019, Labanese singer Carole Samaha performed alongside a hologram of Abdel Halim Hafez at the Manara Hall in New Cairo. The concert, titled "Helm" (dream), was Egypt's first hologram concert.[34]


Some of Halim's most popular songs are:

"Ahwak" (I adore you), "Ala Ad El Sho'" (As much as the longing), "Ala Hesb Wedad" (Wherever my heart leads me), "Betlomooni Leih" (Why do you blame me), "El Massih" (Christ), "Fatet Ganbena" (She passed by us), "Gabbar" (Arrogant), "Gana El Hawa" (The mood struck us), "Sawwah" (Wanderer), "Maw'ood" (Destined), "Zai El Hawa" (Like love), his last song "Qari'at Al Fingan" (The coffee fortune-teller), and the posthumously-released 'Habibati Man-Takoon" (My Beloved Who Is She).[35]


Title Release Date Role Co-stars Director Notes
Lahn El Wafa' (The Song of Faithfulness) March 1, 1955 Galal Shadia Ibrahim Amara Abdel Halim Hafez co-directed
Ayyamna al-Holwa (Our Beautiful Days) March 1, 1955 Ali Faten Hamama, Omar Sharif, Ahmed Ramzy Helmy Halim
Ayam We Layali (Days and Nights) September 8, 1955 Yehia Eman Henry Barakat
Mawed Gharam (Love Rendez-vous) January 3, 1956 Samir Faten Hamama Henry Barakat
Dalila October 20, 1956 Ahmed Shadia Mohamad Karim This was Egypt's first movie to be in Cinemascope
Layali el hub 1956 Abdel Halim Hafez Helmy Rafla
Banat El Yom (The Girls of Today) November 10, 1957 Khaled Magda, Amal Farid Henry Barakat Hafez performed the popular love song "Ahwak" for the first time in this film
Fata Ahlami (The Man of My Dreams) March 7, 1957 Adel Amal Farid Helmy Rafla
Alwisada El Khalia (The Empty Pillow) December 20, 1957 Salah Abdel Halim Hafez, Lubna Abed El Aziz Salah Abu Yousef The song Asmar Y'Asmarani was performed in this movie by Faeza Ahmed. Halim performed Awel Marra in this movie.
Share' El Hob (Love Street) March 5, 1958 Abd-El Moneim Sabah Ez El Deen Zol Faqar
Hekayit Hob (A Love Story) January 12, 1959 Ahmed Sami Mariam Fakher El Deen Helmy Halim
El Banat Wel Seif (Girls and Summer) September 5, 1960 Mohamed Suad Husni, Zizi El Badrawi Salah Abu Yousef, Ez El Deen Zol Faqar, Fateen Abed El Wahhab This movie consisted of 3 stories. Abdel Halim Hafez acted in one of these.
Yom Men Omri (A Day of My Life) February 8, 1961 Salah Zubaida Tharwat Atef Salem
El Khataya (The Sins) November 12, 1962 Hussien Madiha Yousri, Hasan Yousef, Nadia Lutfi Hassan El Imam Featured the songs Wehyat Alby, Maghroor, Last Adry, Olly Haga, and El Helwa
Maabodat El Gamahir (The Beloved Diva) January 13, 1963 Ibrahim Farid Shadia Helmy Halim Featured the songs Haga Ghareeba, Balash Etaab, Last Kalby, Gabbar, and Ahebek
Abi Foq El Shagara (My Father Atop a Tree) February 17, 1969 Adel Nadia Lutfi, Mervat Amin Hussein Kamal Featured the songs Ady El Belag, El Hawa Hawaya, Ahdan El Habayeb, Ya Khali El Alb, and Gana El Hawa. Hafez also produced this movie and was the last film in which he appeared. This movie is still the longest running motion picture in movie theaters in the Arab world to date., (Last appearance)


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External linksEdit

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