In Pictures: A 1952 Edition of LIFE Magazine Captures the Stunning Samia Gamal Performing in Miami
Samia Gamal is perhaps one of the most iconic belly dancers of all time; her stunning beauty, both inside and out, cast a spell on all who were lucky enough to see or meet her. Her performances lifted the art of belly dancing to new heights, bringing glamour and sophistication to the stage in such an honest and humble way, something only she could do.
The beautiful dancer came from modest beginnings; Zaynab Mahfuz, as she was once known, was born in a small village outside Beni Suef in the early 1920’s, and moved to Cairo just a few months later with her parents. It was here that she met Badi’a Masabni.
Masabni, an impressive woman of Lebanese-Syrian descent, was also an entertainer and owned several of Cairo’s biggest nightclubs; she is often credited with launching the careers of Gamal and other iconic dancers, and is seen by many as the mother of modern belly dance. It was Masabni that taught Samia how to dance and gave her her stage name.
Gamal quickly rose to stardom after that. With a unique style and influential fans supporting her, including King Fouad, who named her “The National Dancer of Egypt”, she took over both stage and screen.
Despite her fame and stunning beauty, the legendary dancer was extremely unlucky in love, with two marriages that ended in divorce. Her first marriage was to Texan millionaire, Shepherd King III, who turned out not to be a millionaire at all, and the second to Egyptian heartthrob, Rushdy Abaza. Gamal also had a passionate affair with Farid El Attrach early on in her career. Attrach, a Druze prince, was wildly in love with her and one of her biggest supporters. However, rumor has it that he refused to marry her for fear of losing his social status.
But Gamal didn’t let her love life deter her; she continued to dance until the early 1980s, and eventually passed away in 1994. It was Samia Gamal who brought the traditional oriental dance to the world stage and created a legacy that will forever live on.
Keep scrolling to see these beautiful and incredibly intimate photos featured in LIFE Magazine of her on a 1952 trip to Miami.