Taheyya Kariokka: The Woman Who Did It All

Iconic Egyptian belly dancer and actress Badaweya Mohamed Kareem Ali Elnedany famously known as Taheyya Kariokka was born on February 22nd in 1915. Taheyya Kariokka grew to become a symbol of femininity, power and a life richly lived. In honor of her death anniversary, we take a look at the icon’s personal life, dancing style and the timeless roles she played.

As a child, Kariokka’s parents separated, and she went on to live with her father who she was quite fond of, to the extent that when he passed away she couldn’t speak for a while. Following her father’s passing, she lived with her brother who was constantly abusive and aimed to prevent her from pursuing anything related to the entertainment industry which she had an affinity for; he even went as far as shaving her head.

Due to the suffering that Kariokka endured, she eventually fled her brother’s house and moved to Cairo where she joined Badia Masabni, a dancing company that helped start her dancing journey. The joining of Badia Masabni’s dance group was the first step in having Kariokka become noticed, leading her to later have a dance movement named after her, “The Kariokka“; a unique blend of a Brazilian dance of Carmen Miranda called the Carioca. However, when Kariokka took the dance and made it her own, her name became associated with it.

Though as a child Kariokka had practiced ballet, her dancing technique was never overpowered by it. Her dancing performance was more precise and unique, to say the least. Egyptian renowned singer, Mohamed Abdel Waheb had once described her as being able to dance in any setting; no matter how tight the location was, “Taheyia was able to show a great deal of movement in such a very little space.” Her style was considered to be an authentic, traditional style with her signature move hip shimmies.

Though the belly dancer had left quite the mark on stage with her dancing and she did it with an utter passion to the extent that she felt that she was one with the movement; she still felt like something was missing in her life. And she was correct, as Kariokka was skilled in not just dancing but she also shone in acting.

“When I danced, I felt I was entering the temple of art.”

– Taheyaa Kariokka in a interview with Edward Said

In the mid-50s, she broke into the world of acting with the 1935 film, “Dr. Farhat.” Though Kariokka was quite passionate about dancing she eventually quit to fully focus on becoming an actress. She went on to do several roles; such as her character in “The Lady’s Game” with Nagib El-Rihani where she played a hopeful actress. It is interesting to note that unlike belly dancers at the time that have gone on to simultaneously act and perform, Kariokka had chosen to almost keep the two separate.

However, in one of her most memorable roles in the film “Take Care of Zozo” where she played Egyptian actress, Soad Hosny’s mother, she actually was a performer, a role she perfected.

There are countless other roles where Kariokka shone such as the film “Mother of the Bride” which was considered a precursor to the story of “The Grand Child.” In this film, Kariokka plays, well, a mother of a bride and she has some unforgettable witty one-liners that have definitely stood the test of time.

Kariokka was absolutely a star that had limitless range whether it is through the roles she selected or how she hypnotized the audience once she took center stage.

Before she passed away at the age of 84, she married 14 times, one of her husbands included Egyptian actor, Roshdy Abaza. However, her true love and ongoing romance were with her craft. Kariokka left the world having done a total of 200 films, shows, and theatre; truly cementing her name.

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