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Egypt’s Stars of the Past: Celebrating ‘The World Sings’ Host Hamdeya Hamdy

August 12, 2023
Photo Credit: Hamdeya Hamdy

From cinema to television, Egypt’s history is filled with recognizable celebrities. While some of these figures only enjoyed a few years in the limelight, others remained for a long time.

“It’s still in my memory; I can never get it out of my memory because it was a long era of my life,” Hamdeya Hamdy tells Egyptian Streets.

Such a comment is understandable from the former Egyptian television host, as her program ran every Sunday for about 27 years.

Hamdy was the face of the music program ‘El A’lam Yoghanni’ (‘The World Sings’), a popular show that began airing on Channel 2 back in 1973.

Although it ended in 1999, the show was a staple of entertainment for Egyptians, especially those who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s. As such, it is worth taking a look back at how it all came together in the beginning.

The Untapped Market

After graduating from the American University in Cairo (AUC) with a degree in English Literature, Hamdy secured a job as a radio host in the early 1960s and was transferred to Egyptian television soon after.

“I joined Channel 2 because it was specialized in foreign movies and foreign programs,” she says. “So I was chosen because of my background in English.”

Her work proceeded to take her on several international trips, one of which was to the United States in 1965. It was there that she noticed something Egyptian television was missing.

“I noticed that they have various programs — singing programs or song programs — from all over the world. So, [I thought] why don’t we have such a thing?”

Hamdy pitched to the chairman of the channel the idea for a music program that would introduce songs from all over the world. The chairman told her to get started right away under the title El A’lam Yoghanni (‘The World Sings’).

As a weekly show, it involved much work and preparation, and Hamdy still recalls the difficulty of it all.

“[We had] to find songs from cinema studios, from cultural centers, and the embassies. You had to gather these materials from all over the world, or all over Egypt,” Hamdy says, explaining that getting the music for her show was not the simple matter of looking it up online that it is today.

That being said, all her and her team’s hard work eventually reaped benefits.

Achieving Stardom

What began as a humble idea inspired by the desire to bring foreign songs to Egypt quickly became a national sensation.

“It became so famous in such a short time that even children and common people from the street — I mean, the grocers, the butchers, the porters — were interested to follow the program,” Hamdy shares.

She recalls how she was always receiving requests for songs to play on her show, or getting positive feedback from fans she ran into on the street. Her name soon became inseparable from the program she hosted.

“It came to a point that they called me Miss El A’lam Yoghanni, or Madame El A’lam Yoghanni,” Hamdy recalls with a laugh.

Such nicknames were only the beginning, though — as the show gained popularity, Hamdy went on to interview some of the international stars of the time.

“I was very interested to host Julio Iglesias, Dalida, Demis Roussos,” Hamdy says. “This was a dream for me because I never thought I would have this chance.”

The program host’s work led her to engage with the aforementioned celebrities as well as other singers and musicians and granted her many opportunities to interview them about their work in a way that appealed to audiences. As such, she became a household name in Egypt.

Ending an Era of Entertainment

El A’lam Yoghanni finally came to a close after nearly thirty years on air. And, for as much as it had grown, the program ended almost as simply as it began.

“It ended with my end at the television because I was on pension,” Hamdy explains, adding that it would have been tough for anyone to inherit such a difficult job after her retirement.

Even so, Hamdy remains happy with how the show reached its conclusion and remains involved with the media even today.

“I’m now a member of the Media and Cultural Commission at the parliament,” Hamdy says. “I attend the meetings, and I’m a member of the Lions International Club (a social welfare club) […] So, I’m a bit busy but not as much as during my work at the television.”

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