In 2000 the Egyptian film Short W Fanila W Cap (Shorts, a Shirt & a Cap) became a blockbuster and is part of pop culture to this day. The film, which included a slew of established stars, is considered the big break for the at-the-time new Lebanese actress who was making her acting debut in it. That actress was none other than the gorgeous Nour; a newcomer to the Egyptian movie industry at the time, who is recognised today as a talented actress to be reckoned with.
Fast forward to more than 20 years later, Nour is now a movie and television star with a huge fan base. She is also a devoted mother of two beautiful children, who prefers to keep her family away from the limelight. She is indeed a role model who has successfully achieved the elusive work/family balance that so many working women strive to achieve, which makes her a wonderful cover star for this mother’s and women’s issue. Nour posed for our cameras in 80s-inspired glam and later sat down with eniGma’s Ezz Al-Turkey for a chat about her career and the importance of her role as a mother.
When I met Nour on the day of our cover shoot, it was surreal. Growing up, I had watched and admired her in hit films like Short W Fanila W Cap, Malaky Iskendereya (Private Alexandria), Friends or Business and Al Rahina (The Hostage), so I was both nervous and excited about getting to meet her. However, as soon as she arrived, (she was punctual to the minute) I was relieved at how friendly and modest she was. There was not an inkling of arrogance, sometimes associated with stars of her calibre.
Nour was all smiles and giggles behind the scenes while she was glamming up. It wasn’t until she stood in front of the camera that she suddenly got very serious, turning into whichever character she was channelling through her look. She was a professional through and through. When the camera was flashing, her attention was directed to the photographer and the photographer only – like nobody else was in the room.
After a photoshoot that took over six hours, Nour finally changed back into her comfy sweater and let her hair down for our interview. Even after this hectic day, she was completely present and chatty. “I felt like I was a woman from the 80s in these looks. I just kept imagining myself playing a character from that era,” she exclaims as soon as she sat down. She adds that she actually has never played a character from that era or with that style before, but would really love to.
Nour has played a wide range of characters portraying different types of women throughout her career. From the beautiful girl next door in Short W Fanila W Cap to the back-stabbing homewrecker in Malaky Iskenderya to a Ukrainian terrorist in Al Rahina – she has done it all. “I love it when I land roles that are unique and different from what I’m usually offered. I find roles like the one in Al Rahina, where I was a psychotic villain, exceptionally challenging and very intriguing. But they must be written well,” she explains.
While she loves to play the villain occasionally, Nour is usually the lovable hero in her films, the female character we can depend on for whit, class and brains; like her role in last year’s Ramadan series, Del Ragel (A Man’s Shadow) where she plays Malak, a doctor treating a teenage female victim of a violent assault. In the series, Malak becomes attached to the victim’s family and helps them cope with their trauma when secrets about their daughter are revealed. The role was very important to Nour because it wasn’t just dealing with the troubles that young girls go through in Egypt, but also with how most families react to very tough situations their daughters can find themselves in. “I really loved Del Ragel because it conveyed a very important message, that defending your daughter and teaching her a lesson are two separate things. You can’t teach your children lessons by allowing unjust things to happen to them. You have to stand up for your children, especially your daughters because every girl needs to know that she has a support system,” she emphatically remarks.
That’s exactly the kind of lesson Nour wants her children to understand and internalise. As the mother of a boy and a girl, she is adamant about educating her daughter on her rights as a girl and teaching her son how to respect girls and grow to be a sensitive young man. Most importantly, she wants them both to learn how to love and care for one another unconditionally. “My sister and I were super close growing up and we cared for each other deeply. I want my children to have that same relationship, even if they’re a boy and a girl. Our society needs firm education and people with platforms to raise awareness on important topics like female empowerment and women’s rights. This education shouldn’t apply exclusively to girls; it should also be taught to boys as well because we cannot progress without mutual respect and understanding!” she exclaims.
Over the past two decades and especially since having children, Nour has managed to keep her private life away from the public eye. She likes to protect her family’s privacy and to shield her children from public scrutiny so that they can lead a normal life like other kids their age. “It’s not hard to be a famous parent. Fame isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it’s a good thing. You just have to know how to navigate it. When it comes to my family, I’ve managed to lead a very normal life with my children and to be a part of their day-to-day activities. I just don’t like posting pictures of them on social media. They’re starting to be more aware of what fame is and what I do for a living, and while it took some explaining, they’re starting to understand why we never post our special moments publicly,” she explains.
Despite the measures she takes to ensure her children’s privacy, she is willing to completely support them and encourage them if they decide to pursue an acting career or to take a different route. She is very appreciative of the fact that as a young woman starting out in the competitive movie business, she was lucky to have the complete support of her parents. She doesn’t want any less for her own children.
As Nour progressed in her career, she has matured right in front of our eyes. She grew from the acting novice, new to Egypt and the entertainment industry, to the accomplished professional actress and devoted mother she has become. Nour has matured as an actress with every role she has taken on and has become a bona fide bigtime star. And while it’s usually a challenge for actors to find suitable roles and remain busy for over two decades, Nour has done it, and she’s done it well. “When it comes to longevity in this business, I think that you need to be confident but also very critical of yourself. These two traits may sound contradictory, but they must go hand-in-hand if you are to thrive in this career. When you look at big stars that have stood the test of time and are still going strong, you realise that it is possible. I think the key is to be thoughtful and humble. This business is tricky and nothing is guaranteed, so never take anything for granted,” she advises.
Nour’s fans will be happy to learn that she will be back to the small screen next month, joining the Ramadan series race with a starring role in Rag’een Ya Hawa (We’re Returning) alongside the star, Khaled El Nabawy. She reveals that she will be playing a quirky therapist who, “needs a therapist herself.” As to her other plans moving forward, she concludes, “You start to think a bit out-of-the-box this far along in your career. I want to take on roles that are nothing like what I’ve ever done before. At the same time, I also want to be able to take more breaks to really know what I want to do exactly moving forward.”
Can you describe yourself as a mother?
I’m a balanced blend of strict and cool.
What’s one thing you would change about parenting generally?
I wish parents would be more patient with their children.
Can you describe motherhood in three words?
Love, sacrifice and friendship.
What’s a lesson your mom taught you that you want to pass on to your children?
For my kids to love each other unconditionally, like she taught me and my sister to.
What’s your favourite present you’ve received for Mother’s Day?
My son and my daughter created this massive card made out of cardboard. I was really touched by how creative they got with it and how much time it took them to create it from scratch.
What keeps you up at night?
Sometimes it’s a very important thing that I can’t stop thinking about and sometimes it’s a bit more trivial. Once something is locked in my brain, it’s hard for me to stop thinking about it. Sometimes I lose sleep over not being able to stop overthinking. I worry very easily. And as a mother, I obviously worry and overthink about my children. Especially if my son has a test, I get super anxious (laughs).
What’s the last movie you watched and enjoyed?
House of Gucci. It was really interesting because I didn’t know anything about the Gucci family history.
What’s your ideal day-off?
On a beach under the sun. Somewhere really quiet.
Who are your five dream celebrity dinner guests? (dead or alive)
Al Pacino, Hend Rostom, Gibran Khalil Gibran, Nizar Qabbani and Meryl Streep.
Who do you want to share the screen with?
Yehia El Fakharany.
Which director do you want to work with?
Photography: Emad Kassem
Styling: Yasmine Eissa
Makeup by Shariff Tanyous
Hair by Ahmed Mounir
Fashion Assistant: Mohamed Ashraf