CAIRO: Egypt on Sunday mourned film star Mahmoud Abdel Aziz who died aged 70 after a prolific career that included more than 90 feature films, many with searing social messages.
Culture Minister Helmy el-Nemnem described Abdel Aziz as a “magician”, using the title of one of the actor´s box office hits, and said the country had lost a “great artist”.
His death on Saturday was announced by Sameh al-Sirity from the Egyptian Actors´ Syndicate.
Abdel Aziz died on Saturday evening “in hospital in Cairo, at the end of his fight against illness”, he said.
On Sunday a star-studded funeral was held for the actor in a Cairo suburb before his body was flown to his home town in the coastal city of Alexandria for burial.
Mourners including film stars Ezzat al-Alayli and Elham Chahine surrounded his wife, popular television host Poussy Chalabi, and his sons, producer Mohamed and actor Karim for the final farewell.
Abdel Aziz was born in June 1946 in Alexandria, where he graduated from university with a degree in agronomy.
He cut his teeth in a string of television series before making the leap to the big screen, and went on to work under some of Egypt´s most celebrated directors.
One of them, realist filmmaker Daoud Abdel Sayed, gave him perhaps one of his greatest roles.
In the 1991 film “Al Kit-Kat”, Abdel Aziz played an eccentric blind religious cleric who dreams of riding a motorcycle.
Although a comedy, the work was critically acclaimed for its searing social commentary.
“Egyptian cinema has lost a great actor,” Abdel Sayed told AFP.
“When he was given the opportunity, Abdel Aziz could show the great talent he had.”
In 2001, the actor proved his skills with “The Magician”, a film rich in fantastic adventures.
In it he plays Mansour, a single father who falls in love with his next door neighbour who was abandoned by her husband and left to fend for herself and her son. The magician steps in to help.
In the 1980s, Abdel Aziz, who was admired for his ability to reinvent himself throughout his career, played the lead role in the television series “Raafat El-Hagan” — as an Egyptian spy planted in Israel.
The series, coming as tensions were high between Israel and its Arab neighbours, helped boost his career and the role won him more fans in Egypt and across the Arab world.
During his career, Abdel Aziz won several prizes at Arab film festivals, including in Dubai and in Damascus, and a life achievement award in Lebanon last year.