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PHOTO CREDIT: Above photo by John Rickman Photography, San Jose, California.

Spencer Tracy and Rhonda Fleming at the Iftar Table


Translated By Priscilla Adum





Translator's note: This article written by Samia Gamal appeared in the May 4, 1954 issure of Kawakeb Magazine during Ramadan. It was in a section of the magazine where celebrities shared their Ramadan memories.

During the month of Ramadan, it is customary for Muslims to fast during daylight hours, then break the fast after sundown. This evening meal is called the Iftar.

Click on the image to see more detail.

The translation appears below.

Ramadan Article



Spencer Tracy and Rhonda Fleming at the Iftar Table, by Samia Gamal

When I traveled to America, I spent more than 8 months in New York working in theaters there until my husband (Abdullah King) told me that we would travel to Hollywood to spend a few weeks there. I was very happy with this news. I longed to visit Hollywood ,and see the studios, and meet some of the stars there. 

While in New York, I had met some Egyptians who lived there. One of them was aware that I was planning to travel to Hollywood. One day I received a telegram from him that said Kol sana wi enti tayeba [roughly: Season's Greetings]. I didn't know what the event was, nor why he was wishing me happy holidays, so i sent him a telegram to thank him and to ask him what the good wishes were for. He said to me, "It's because of Ramadan, which began a week ago in Egypt!" and I felt tears in my eyes. It was my first Ramadan away from my family, and I recalled my memories of Ramadan during my childhood and adolescence, and of how I used to celebrate this month in Cairo. 

ABOUT THE PHOTO: The photo shows Samia Gamal's wedding to Abdullah King.

My husband and I had rented an apartment in Hollywood to spend our vacation in. Since I knew that Hollywood loved surprises, I decided to throw an Iftar party for friends that I'd met in Hollywood, and I also decided that the food was to be our favorite Ramadan dishes from Egypt. So I sent someone out to buy some Ramadan ingredients for me, and he came back with everything I had asked for except for amr el din [similar to an apricot paste] because it's unknown there.

Samia and Abdullah

I cooked the meal myself, and my husband had invitations made which said that the party would be in honor of Ramadan. The word Ramadan caused a big stir in Hollywood, and everyone who received an invitation tried to figure out what that word meant, but they couldn't. Hollywood studios and clubs were all talking about the party that the Egyptian dancer was going to throw in honor of Ramadan.

I was careful to plan the party for a week-end and at sunset time. The guests began arriving at our apartment. The first one to arrive was Spencer Tracy, who is a friend of my ex-husband's family. Then Rhonda Fleming whose friendship with Shirley Temple was well known in Hollywood. Then Robert Taylor and Jane Powell, as well as Arlene Orcia the news correspondent who was in contact with all the newspapers in the world, and George Marshall the talent agent.

After all the guests had arrived, Spencer Tracy asked me about the meaning of the word Ramadan. I began telling all the guests about the month of fasting, and it suprised them to learn that we fast during the whole day and then eat at night. The guests began to eat the Iftar meal. I don't want to say that they liked my food so as not to sound as if I'm complimenting myself, but they all agreed that Middle Eastern food is delicious. After we ate the Iftar meal we continued our conversation about Ramadan. George Marshall advised the actress Gloria Grahame to try fasting and maybe she'd lose the extra kilo of weight that directors complained about! We spent a nice evening.

Samia Gamal

During the party, someone happened to ask for champagne. My ex-husband said he was sorry, but it was forbidden during Ramadan. They laughed at that excuse and insisted on drinking champagne, so in the face of their insistence my husband brought them champagne.

Everyone got up and tried to imitate me in raqs sharqi, but no one was able to imitate me except the news correspondent Arlene Orcia who recieved much admiration [from the other guests]. I gave her a raqs bedlah [bellydance costume] to show how much I liked her. I received a message from her about three months ago, after the court ruled on my divorce from my ex-husband. Her message said that she still kept the raqs bedlah in memory of our friendship from when I lived in America.

The guests left late, and this party caused a big stir. I got some complaints from a handful of Egyptians who lived in Hollywood because I had not invited them to the party. So, I threw a party for them as well, during which we recalled the beautiful things about Ramadan in Cairo.

Samia Gamal



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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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