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The Life of Badia Masabni
Part 7: Beloved of the Public


Starmaker in the Embrace of Happiness & Pain


Written by Tarek Hashem for Al Jareeda,

Translated By Priscilla Adum


This series of articles by Tarek Hashem appeared in Al Jareeda online in August of 2010. It's a long, but fascinating story. This page contains part 7, out of a total of 14 parts. See the bottom of this page for links to the other parts.

The original Arabic version can be found at It appeared online on Al Jareeda on August 18, 2010.


Table of Contents



Café El Marsad

Tawfik's ghost haunted Badia after the big fight that took place between them. He had ruined her life before, but now she was Badia Masabni the artist. She had fame and beautiful clothes and gold jewelry. Nevertheless, she decided to leave Damascus and return to Beirut.

Once Badia had returned to Beirut, the news of her arrival spread among the nightclub owners as they were aware of how successful she had made Star of the East. So she signed a contract with the owner of El Marsad Café in Martyr's Square in Beirut and she began to light up its nights with dancing and tarab. She attracted thousands of fans.

As Badia achieved unprecedented success, her competitors were bursting with rage. One of them, by the name of 3adla began to scheme [plot] against her. One night Badia agreed with some of the audience members that they would ask 3adla to sing a song. As soon as she began to sing, the audience began to heckle her because of her lousy voice. They booed and hissed so that the song was lost amidst the noisy objections to 3adla's voice. As a result, 3adla came down off the stage in a rage and she unexpectedly attacked Badia, pulling her hair quite violently. Badia was unable to defend herself. 3adla succeeded in ripping her dress and breaking the genuine diamond necklace that adorned her neck. The audience members in the casino saved Badia from 3adla and when Badia extricated herself from her, she found her necklace scattered like grain under her feet. She was quite upset and sad and sorry that 3adla should deprive her of the first expensive piece [of jewelry] in her life so she left Café el Marsad and stopped going to work. She remained at home away from the jealousy and the hate and envy.

The owner of Café El Marsad tried to appease her in every way possible but she stood firm, so he brought 3adla to Badia's house to apologize for what she had done. As a result Badia returned to the café and continued to work, dancing and singing in glowing radiance.




In Luna Park

One day, both Zaki Daher and Bashir el Kasser from Aleppo arrived in Beirut. They were famous casino owners in Aleppo and together they managed the famous Café Luna Park. They had made an agreement with the acclaimed actor George Abaid to come to Aleppo with his troupe as well as with a famous foreign orchestra. They needed an artist who was skilled in singing and dancing. They chose Badia, who agreed to work with them for a salary of 75 gold lira which was the highest wage at the time.

The war situation affected Beirut so severely that disease spread, crops dried up, there were shortages of grains and vegetables, and famine was rampant. The specter of death threatened the population and claimed dozens of them daily.

Amid these circumstances Badia remembered her Turkish officer friend Salah El Din who was her means of sending food to Nazla's home in the village of Sheikhan. Badia thought about bringing her sister and her sister's children to Beirut. The officer indeed obtained approval for Badia so that her sister could come to Beirut. Badia rented a suitable house for her and her three children, Mary, Emile and Antoine.




The Death of Badia's Mother

Badia then began to think about her mother. How was she faring? She thought that she could bring her mother to live with Nazla in Beirut so she left work and went to Damascus where her mother lived. Badia anguished at the sad image she saw of her mother. She was bedridden, lying alone in the lonely darkness like the dead. The mother had all along continued to believe that something bad had happened to Badia since the day she had run away off the train and as a result she'd screamed and cried for her during the entire journey. Until her son Tawfik told her that she was singing and dancing at Café el Koutli. Badia put show business related concerns out of her mind and stayed with her mother for more than two weeks, caring for her until she was well. Then she sent for Salah el Din asking him to come and help her move her mother to Beirut. And that was indeed what occurred.

At that time, Badia began to suffer from a high fever, and red spots appeared on her face. With Salah el Din's help she went to a doctor who diagnosed her with smallpox. He requested that she be transferred to a hospital immediately. The hospital beds were full of people injured in the war, but with Salah El Din's presence they overcame that obstacle.

Badia was very afraid that after having been severely infected with smallpox, her beauty would be destroyed. It was her calling card in life and it was what had enabled her to rid herself of poverty, starvation, and humiliation and had contributed to transforming the poverty-stricken Badia into the Badia with fame and prestige.

Without beauty, she could not captivate hearts or make so many fall in love with her, including the Turkish officer Salah El Din. This beauty was the reason that her brother Tawfik had been brought down several notches and caused his humiliation when he tried to hit her after seeing her sing and dance and so many [people] came to her defense. Because of this, Badia decided to commit suicide. But weakness in the face of death prevented her from doing it. However, things turned out differently from what Badia had expected — she recovered from the smallpox without any scars on her face and she left the hospital after a two-week stay. She spent the rest of her recovery period at her family home in Damascus accompanied by her mother and Salah El Din. He did not leave her side, and visited her daily until she had fully recovered from her ordeal.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Badia is wearing a Tunisian style of dress.



After things had stabilized, Badia asked her mother to go with her to Beirut to live with Nazla. But the mother went into a fit of crying, saying, "I cry over you my daughter and I weep for you, how do you expect me to go live with you if you are leading such a life? How can I stand imagining you standing on a stage, shaking and dancing for drunkards and outlaws of society? How can I forget that I was weary of raising you and keeping you safe regardless of the circumstances? I know that surely pain and despair are what have pushed you to lead this life and I also know that if I lived with you it would raise the wrath of my relatives. You know quite well that most of them are priests and devout clerics. The news of your death was easier on me than when I found out that you were working as a dancer and singer in a theater. I know that we have become the talk of the town because of your work. Ever since you were a child you were the cause of our humiliation and shame. You are the image of dishonor. Your birth was the harbinger of doom on this family and if I had known that this would be your destiny I would have suffocated you with these two hands while you were still in the cradle."

But after much urging on Badia's part, her mother finally agreed to accompany her to Beirut. While they were on the train, she lost consciousness and when she came to again she looked at Badia sadly and said to her "Don't leave me Badia. I will not tire you again. I feel that death looms near. I am alone and nobody remains near me but you. Everyone has left me. I have lived preoccupied by you, and God knows that I love you more than anyone else loves you. I realize that I have been violent towards you."

Badia anguished until she and her mother were able to reach Nazla's house in Beirut, and her strength was completely sapped. She called the doctor, who was unable to do anything for her mother because the end had come. Shortly after, the mother died.

Badia Masabni



In Tripoli

Badia returned to Syria and with the news of her return, nightclub owners inundated her with lucrative offers of work.

In addition, Hasan Bek El Angi who was from among the high class people of Tripoli and Northern Lebanon and was also one of the wealthiest senior locals, sent her two [of his] men to invite her to work in Tripoli. However, she apologized and declined because she'd made an agreement with the owner of Luna Park in Aleppo. They then informed her that this café [Luna Park] was not functioning at present due to maintenance work that was being done on it. They asked her if she could come with them, even if only for just a month.

Hasan Bek El Angi was considerably influential in Tripoli. He had established a large theater, which he ran in a very organized manner. He personally supervised its arrangement and the equipment. It was strictly a theater, not a café where Tawleh and Dominos were played or where fights and skirmishes occurred. It was well known that El Angi cared about the artists that worked for him, and he built private accommodations for them behind the theater building itself. He also provided a deaf-mute servant for them and he didn't let any of them want for anything, from food to clothing to a decent life, all at his expense.

Badia was pleased with this situation and the band members felt very comfortable in these surroundings. One of the members of the band was the very famous oud player Mohi el Din Be3aysoun. Since they were connoisseurs of music and melodies, the people of Tripoli received Badia with a standing ovation and much encouragement. The gifts just kept pouring in, as it was a custom in those days to shower gold and silver over the dancer on the stage. Badia worked in Tripoli accompanied by her friend and colleague Mary Bar for the month that she'd agreed upon with El Angi, and he wanted them to stay there longer. He didn't want to let them go to Aleppo, if not for the fact that Bashir el Kasir the owner of Luna Park came himself to fetch them and take them to Aleppo.




Return to Aleppo

Badia and Mary arrived in Aleppo. They visited Luna Park after its renovations, finding it impressive and wonderfully coordinated. At the club, Badia ran into the group of Austrian artists who had worked with her at Planet of the East and she reached an agreement with them to work together in Aleppo. They accepted immediately because of the appreciation for art and the passion for music that the people of Aleppo had. In addition, the theater didn't have any games such as Dominos, Tawleh or Tric Trac. It was due to these games that fights and skirmishes broke out and this provoked fear in the hearts of the artists.

ABOUT THE PHOTO: Badia Masabni is wearing a Syrian dress.

At the time Luna Park regularly presented two performances, the first one called 3asrayia was presented in the afternoon and the second one called Meswayia was presented at night. Aleppo audiences loved spending the evenings at this café. The turnout was unparalleled, prompting Badia to work with quite a bit of enthusiasm. She wore fancy clothes and when she got up on stage the audience would welcome her with a wave of applause. She would always sing "You are Syria O My Country" proudly wearing the traditional dress of an Arab girl. She would also sing "Zourouni Kil Sana Mara" ("Visit me Once a Year") and "Tal3et Ya Ma7la Nourha" ("It Appeared, and How Beautiful Its Light"). Badia would change her dresses many times every night. Thus the theater became a source of joy in the hands of Badia and her fellow performers and her popularity increased to the point that audiences would even grab orchestra seats. Her songs spread all over Aleppo and were on everyone's lips.

In the meantime, the actor George Abaid came to Aleppo with his entire troupe. Preparations were made for his arrival at one of the finest of the halls. Abaid had brought with him from Cairo wonderful curtains of the most beautiful colors as well as many props for the plays and a number of boxes of costumes, enough for a large theater. The troupe was made up of the brightest artists in Arab theater. Abaid also brought with him one of the most famous singers of the time by the name of Hamed Morsi.




Badia Steals the Limelight

When news of the arrival of George Abaid reached the people of Aleppo, they scrambled to reserve front row seats several days before the show. At the time Badia had achieved such fame that she drew the audiences of George Abaid and they would get up and leave the Abaid show during the performance and go to where Badia was dancing and singing. This prompted George Abaid and his troupe to return to Egypt in defeat.

Badia began to add variety to her shows. With the increasing fame and the popularity that Badia had achieved, she and her colleague Mary demanded that the owner of the café increase their salary; otherwise, they'd quit. In the face of their insistence, he increased Badia's salary from 75 gold liras to 150 gold liras, and he increased her friend Mary Bar's salary to 90 gold liras.

At that time, many troupes arrived in Aleppo who had signed contracts beforehand with the owners of numerous nightclubs all over the city. Among them was the troupe of Hadia and her sister Waheba. It was common knowledge that Waheba had a sharp rude tongue and she hated people. She loved to pick fights, and she was constantly gossiping. The first thing she did when she arrived in Aleppo was to inquire about Badia Masabni in a snide and provoking manner, "What's up with Badia and her friend Mary?" And the answer was "Badia has swallowed the market ya Waheba." And Waheba immediately responded in a puzzled tone, "Even though she can't sing or dance?" She began to talk hatefully about Badia saying, "Tomorrow the ice will melt and the meadow will appear". Meaning that once she began to work she'd overthrow Badia and whomever was with her. But the fact was that Badia had become one of the icons of Aleppo, a force to be reckoned with, and Waheba would have to really come up with something in order to knock out Badia.

Badia soon discovered that Waheba and her friends were plotting to do something to hurt or embarrass her, so she was filled with worry and dread and began to wonder "What does Waheba want from me? And what can she do?"




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About the Translator

Priscilla is a dancer of Lebanese heritage who enjoys researching the Golden Era of Egyptian dance. She owns a collection of more than one hundred classic black and white Egyptian films which is continually expanding.

Priscilla has also gathered a large library of dance related articles and clippings from Middle Eastern magazines and newspapers, many of which she has translated from the original Arabic to both English and Spanish.

Priscilla currently resides in Central America where she is a dance instructor. 




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