Laila Mourad: The Aggrieved Cinderella

Most people are unaware that the Egyptian artist, Laila Mourad, is a Moroccan Jew whose origins go back to Meknes. Her father, Zaki Mourad emigrated early from Morocco to Egypt. He lived for years in Alexandria, the birthplace of his daughter Liliane, who later became Laila, before the family moved to Cairo.

Laila Mourad’s date of birth is not clear.1921 is what is noted in her marriage contract, while her passport indicates that she was born in 1919, contrary to her death certificate where 1916 is the date mentioned. But as far as her talent, her captivating voice and her grace are concerned, there is no question of a disagreement.

Laila Mourad, whose full name is Liliane Zaki Mourad Mordechai, was born into a Jewish family who managed to integrate into the Egyptian society of the time, where there was no sensitivity to other religions. Being Jewish did not prevent her from entering the school of Christian nuns when she was a child, just as it did not prevent her from declaring her conversion to Islam in 1946 before the Sheikh of Al-Azhar.

Laila Mourad had lived in an artistic environment since her childhood. Her father was a composer and was close friends with great Egyptian artists, writers and intellectuals, including the musician Sayed Darwish, with whom he cooperated in the composition of the opera “Al Ichra Attayyiba” (The Good Company) and the musician Mohamed Abdelwahhab, who was a close friend of the family and was instrumental in Laila Mourad’s artistic breakthrough. It was he who encouraged her to sing and to give her the line in her first film “Yahya al houb” (Long live love) which was a great success, thus opening the way for her second film “Layla moumtira” (a rainy night) in 1939.

Laila Mourad’s musical and cinematographic successes followed one after the other, especially following her collaboration with the actor and producer Anwar Wajdi, an Egyptian film star of the time, whom she married just after their film “Laïla bint al foukara” (Laila, child of a poor family), but their married life faced many problems, due to her husband’s intense jealousy towards Mohammed Abdelwahhab whom Laila loved before her marriage.

Laila Mourad’s musical career, nicknamed “Sawt Al houb” (the voice of love) by the public, is rich with about 1200 songs. She retired from the artistic scene after a 20-year career. Her age was 37.

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