During the height of the Arab world’s musical renaissance of the mid-to-late 20th century, few figures were as influential as Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdi, and Algerian artist and singer Warda Al Jazairia.
During his prolific career, Hamdi had collaborated with some of Egypt’s biggest stars, including Abdel Halim Hafez, Umm Kulthum, Hani Shaker and Mayada Al-Hinnawi, whereas Warda El Jazairia’s powerful voice and iconic songs such as ‘Batwannes Beik’ are still heard in the region to this day.
The two musicians had fostered strong feelings for one another during their time together, which began when Warda heard the song ‘Tekhonoh’ by Abdel Halim Hafez from the movie ‘El Wesada El Khalia’ while she was in a cinema in France. She was immediately intrigued by the composer, Hamdi, without seeing him, and decided to go to Egypt to get to know him.
Their first meeting was at the house of late musician Mohamed Fawzi in the 1960s, where Hamdi agreed to compose the song ‘Ya Nakhlatin fi al-Alali’ for Warda to sing in the movie ‘Almaz and Abdou al-Hamouli’. Al-Hakim would say that this meeting was the spark of love between them.
When Hamdi went to ask Warda’s father for her hand in marriage, he was refused, but the couple continued their meetings in secret, so her family decided to take their daughter away to Algeria, and Warda married the officer Jamal Qusri there.
After a year and a half, Warda separated from her husband and returned to Egypt where she married Baligh Hamdi. They tied the knot at artist Najwa Fouad’s home, with Abdel Halim Hafez singing ‘Mabrouk Aleik’ at their marriage - which lasted for six years before their divorce.
Despite their divorce, their love remained until the death of Baligh Hamdi, who wrote her the song ‘Bawadaak’ before his death at the age of 62 after a long struggle with liver disease. Hamdi died on September 12th, 1993, and the Arab world had lost one of its most prominent composers.