Remembering Galal El-Sharkawy: Director of “Madrast Al-Mushaghebeen,” Dies at 87

Once again, this pandemic saddens us by taking yet another great name from Egyptian cinema and theatre. On Feb. 4, the entertainment industry mourned the death of Galal El-Sharkawy, the renowned movie and play director who died of complications from Covid-19. His name is set in stone not just for the industry but for all Egyptians, cause who didn’t grow up watching his crown jewel of a play “Madrast Al-Mushaghebeen.” Here’s a look back at his best work in addition to his wonderful personality.

The Man

Galal El-Sharkawy was born in Cairo on July 14, 1934. Exceeded in education, getting his first of many Bachelor’s degrees in Science in 1954, a Diploma in Education and Psychology in 1955, and a Bachelor’s degree in Theater Art in 1958. All this academic excellence led him to go study in France. Getting his Bachelor’s degree in Cinema Directing in 1962. On top of that, he was trilingual, speaking English, French, and of course Arabic, his mother tongue. 

He had many academic titles and occupations. Like teacher of acting and direction in the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts, then a Professor and finally Head of The Department in The Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts. He was also the manager of Tawfiq al-Hakim Theater. 

The Message 

Upon his return to Egypt, he directed many films like “El-Eeib”, “Armala we 3 Banat”, and “Ma’oed Ma El-Qadar” just to name a few. He also appeared in TV shows and movies as an actor. But, the theater was his one true obsession, directing over 70 plays in the span of his decades-long career. 

However, his most famous play “Madrast Al-Mushaghebeen” or “The School of Mischief” originally premiered in 1973, stood the test of time, ingrained in our collective consciousness as a staple for Holidays and family gatherings. The sarcastic play as suggested by its title depicts a school where the students are mischievous and unbothered by learning. The play is famous not only for its lineup of actors and sense of humor but also because of the critiques it garnered when people thought it was mocking teachers and the noble profession of teaching. On the contrary, the play criticized many aspects of the Egyptian society back then, shedding light on the materialistic mentality that was new to the community at the time, the relationship between the teachers and their students, and how the whole educational system can be better. Making El-Sharkawy a man with talent and a critical message indeed.    

The Memory 

Sad but true, every artist no matter the medium will always wish that his legacy will keep his memory alive long after he passes away. And El-Sharkawy did just that. A career left behind that shines just as bright as the star he was in his life and hopefully as the star he is up in heaven. 

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