Top 10 Upper Egyptian Women in TV, Film, and Literature

Upper Egyptian Women

Cinema, as entertainment, or as a force, is something that is crucial when it comes to representation. Representation is not limited to one group of people, nor is it trivial in certain situations. It matters, no matter how loud or quiet it is. An integral part of the upper Egyptian society is made up of women. They’re women that drive and inspire, that are strong and wise and funny. They are women of culture and heritage that pass down to generations ahead. In this article, we aim to shed light on some works where the Upper Egyptian woman’s identity shines, where she is represented in different lights and stories. 

Here are 10 Upper Egyptian Women in TV, Film, and Literature!

Amna, Douaa El Karawan

Faten Hamama

Amna is quite frankly the first character we thought of when coming up with this list. Being the lead character and narrator of Taha Hussein’s celebrated novel Douaa Al Karawan—The Nightingale’s Prayer, Amna is a prime example of what this article is talking about. She’s a strong, clever, resilient Upper Egyptian woman who does not give in to the customs and traditions that killed her sister. As a result, She is adamant about avenging her. What also made Amna the iconic character she is was Faten Hamama’s brilliant portrayal of her in Henri Barakat’s 1959 acclaimed film adaptation.

Aisha, Yom Gha’em Fil Barr El Gharbi

Youm Gha’em Fil Barr Al Gharbi – Cloudy Day in The Western Mainland is centered around yet another strong Upper Egyptian female character. Aisha is a young woman from Qena in the first quarter of the twentieth century. She flees a sexually abusive uncle and seeks recluse in a monastery under a pseudonym. After that, she goes on to achieve so much. What’s special about this novel by author Mohamed El Mansi Qandil is that it blends history with fiction. We see that in all of Aisha’s endeavors; from working as an interpreter for Lord Cromer, then at a newspaper with Al Rafei; to falling in love with Mahmoud Mokhtar. After that, we finally see her ending up with Howard Carter in Thebes. She truly does it all.

Hazeena, El Touq Wel Esswera


Another shining example of a strong Upper Egyptian woman is Hazeena from Yahia El Taher Abdullah’s acclaimed novel El Touq Wel Esswera – The Collar and the Bracelet. This novel highlights the strength of Hazeena as a matriarch of an Upper Egyptian household. The wife of a handicapped man and a son who traveled and abandoned them. After that, she takes on the responsibility of a woman taking care of her daughter, and later, her granddaughter after her daughter passes. This novel was also adapted into a critically acclaimed film by Khairy Beshara in 1986. Fardous Abdelhamid gave a splendid performance in the role of Hazeena.

Safiyya, Khalti Safiyya Wel Deir

Khalti Safiyya Wel Deir – Aunt Safiyya and the Monastery by renowned author Bahaa Taher tells the story of the Upper Egyptian Safiyya, whose strength lies in her vengeance. After her love –Harbi—decides to arrange her marriage to his own uncle. She becomes full of resentment towards him and plots to turn her husband against him. Until Harbi actually kills him and goes to prison. This shows Safiyya’s strength –albeit in a negative manner. Safiyya was portrayed by Poussy in Ismail Abdelhafez’s 1996 TV adaptation of the novel.

Assaker, Oghneyat El Mawt

Faten Hamama - Upper egyptian cinema

Yet another strong Upper Egyptian character popularized by Faten Hamama is Assaker from the short film adaptation of Tawfik El Hakim’s play Oghneyet al Mawt – The Song of Death (1973). Assaker is another example of a woman fueled by vengeance. Consequently, that vengeance leads her to drive men of her town to commit the most heinous of crimes. This is again to show that not all portrayals of power are positive. They all show the strong position of women in Upper Egypt. Assaker is quite the opposite of Amna. She is driven by traditions and customs to the point that she’d rather her son die than not avenge his father.

Wanissa, El Dou’ El Sharid

الضوء الشارد Upper Egyptian women

Moving from literature to television, one of the most famous TV shows that take place in Upper Egypt is definitely El Dou’ El Sharid (1998). While generally centered around Mamdouh Abdelalim’s Rafie beih; a character with a very strong presence is Rafie and Faris’s mother Wanissa played by the acting tycoon Samiha Ayoub. Reinforcing the idea of the strong matriarch of the Upper Egyptian family, Wanissa is the only woman whose say can trump Rafie’s. She’s also the voice of reason and wisdom for everyone in her family.

Nassra, Selsal El Damm


Another iconic TV show set in Upper Egypt is the ever-popular, 5-season long Selsal El Damm (2013-2018). Starring the legendary Abla Kamel as the matriarch Nassra. It is clear from the start the power of Upper Egyptian women on this show. Nassra is the pillar of her large family. After her husband’s murder, she sets out to avenge him in every way.  People fear Nassra, they respect her word, and her presence is anticipated by all. Despite being driven by revenge, she has a very strong moral compass. She refuses to accept injustice and ill-treatment of the weak or innocent.

Warda, Ze’ab El Gabal

ذئاب الجبل

Ze’ab El Gabal (1992) is also an icon when it comes to TV shows that tell Upper Egyptian stories, however, what’s very special about it is its portrayal of women. Warda –played by Samah Anwar— is the main female protagonist of the series. She’s well-educated, opinionated, and independent. Additionally, she’s fully supported by her father when she decides to go against tradition and marry a man who’s not Upper Egyptian. This show not only portrays a great example of a contemporary woman from Upper Egypt, but also a great Upper Egyptian father-daughter relationship, something rarely seen in mainstream media.

The Matriarch “Sayyidat El Dar”, El Momyaa’

سيدة الدار Upper egyptian women

Al Momyaa’ (1969), directed by renowned filmmaker Shady Abdelsalam was groundbreaking in many ways. One special way in which that shows is its portrayal of the Upper Egyptian woman. Referred to by all characters only as “Sayyidat El Dar”, which translates to “The Woman of the House”, it’s clear the power this character has. This matriarch has very few lines –as do the rest of the characters—but her strong, ominous presence radiates power and strength.

Nagwa, “Fi Sha’et Masr El Gedida”

في شقة مصر الجديدة Upper egyptian

We wanted to end this article by a personal favorite. Nagwa in Fi Sha’et Masr El Gedida (2007), directed by the great Mohamed Khan and written by the wonderful Wessam Soliman. Nagwa –played by Ghada Adel in one of her best roles to date—is different from all the characters we previously mentioned. She’s as strong and rebellious as she is subtle and gentle. She shows us something about the Upper Egyptian woman we rarely see; relatability. Not only does she break so many stereotypes about our Girls of the South, she does it so effortlessly and gently that every viewer relates to her in some way. She truly represents the contemporary Upper Egyptian girl.

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