– March 2023

After the success of the 2001 television series Hadith Al Sabah Wal Masaa’ (Dialogues of Morning & Night), Egyptians and Arabs alike began to witness Riham Abdel Ghafour’s path to stardom, who at the time was still at the very beginning of her acting career. She has since then become an icon of the silver screen blowing audiences away with role after role. Now, Abdel Ghafour is the talk of the town starring in not one, but five hit TV series that have everyone admiring her talent. She took time off of her busy schedule to pose for our cover shoot, and sit down with eniGma’s CEO & Founder, Yasmine Shihata, for a chat about her career and her two sons’ support.

Riham Abdel Ghafour is so much more than what you expect. We all admire her as a spectacular actress, but I never got to appreciate her as a person until I actually met her. Witty, funny, and incredibly kind are the words that come to mind when thinking of the kind of person she is, and speaking with her about her trajectory and hard work made me love and respect her all the more.

Dress by Sara Onsi

Once we got down to business and began our interview, I couldn’t help but ask her how she felt about the amount of attention she’s gotten over the past year. With five of her series having come out over the past year including Muneataf Khatar (The Killing) and Al Asli, her name has been on everyone’s mind. “I’m extremely happy and grateful to God that all this work came out the way it did, although I was initially worried that people would get tired because of the fact that they all came out one after the other,” she says. But she stressed the fact that because of the way these series came out, being available primarily on streaming services made it easier for audiences to watch them in their own time and truly appreciate her work.

Among her most loved and successful series of the year was Ghorfa 207 (Room 207), and considering the fact that it was also a personal favourite of mine, I was extremely curious to know more about the making of the series. Abdel Ghafour mentioned her admiration for the late author Dr. Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, who had written the novel the series was based on. A horror-thriller set in a gloomy coastal hotel in Marsa Matrouh, Abdel Ghafour couldn’t help but say that both the place and atmosphere while shooting were strange and creepy. “The whole time, not just while we were shooting, you felt as though something bizarre was happening… The energy was completely different from anything I’ve experienced,” she says. She noted that while the general feel on set was extremely weird and gloomy, they still kept going as they truly believed in the show. Everyone knew that this was going to turn out to be worthwhile, and this kept them going.

Set by Balmain, Hat by Regalia

When we began to speak about the start of her career and how she got into acting, Abdel Ghafour says that it happened out of coincidence. “I never thought about acting, I was very shy at the time,” she says. When she met the late icon Nour El-Sherif at a wedding during a time when she felt lost, not quite knowing what path she wanted to take in life, he asked her whether she had any desire to try acting, to which she thought, “why not try it out?” So, she auditioned for a role in Al Aa’ela Wal Nas (Family & Friends). After the series’ success back in 2000, she decided to try another part for Zizinia, after which she decided that acting was what she loved and wanted to pursue. “I still struggled at the time given how shy I was, but I decided to put in all of my effort and passion into acting, until I found that acting was my form of therapy. I got more and more confident, and found myself expressing myself, so it all worked great.”

Abdel Ghafour went on to star in Hadith Al Sabah Wal Masaa’ (Dialogues of Morning and Night), which was definitely a breakthrough role for her. Being one of her earlier works, it was definitely a challenge for her, as she had to prove herself in the midst of iconic actors of the time including the late Dalal Abdel Aziz, Laila Eloui, and Abla Kamel. At the same time, she was incredibly happy to find herself in their midst, learning from the absolute best, and it was overall a wonderful experience for her. It’s also worth noting that for a very long time, Abdel Ghafour primarily took on stereotypical roles, playing the sweet and innocent girl. With the release of the TV series Al-Rayyan in 2011 however, people began to see just how versatile an actor she was, having taken the role of a conniving woman. “It was the first time for people to realise that I was able to take on different kinds of roles, as opposed to the stereotype that they were used to seeing me perform, so it was definitely a huge turning point for me,” she says.

Blazer Dress by Moschino, available at Le Collezioni

When she began to take on more controversial and morally challenged roles, she found herself enjoying them immensely as they are a lot more challenging than the ones she tended to take on before. “If I’m going to play someone, I cannot judge them. I have to bear in mind the fact that we all have our faults and not forget their humanity. I highly doubt that there was ever a role I’ve played where you’d finish the series or film hating the character, regardless of her actions.” She stresses that she wants her audience to see the humanity in all of the characters she has portrayed, to see them as flesh and blood. They will always have some redeeming quality, even if it is as simple as enjoying her humour.

As a mother, Abdel Ghafour tries to balance work and home as best as she can, to spend time with her sons. “Until last year, I would only take one acting job every year to make sure that I’m spending enough time with my kids,” she says. This year, however, she took on a greater amount of work taking part in five TV series. But she still put her kids as her first priority, and stresses how supportive and considerate they are. Her eldest is currently studying Cinema at the Vancouver Film School, so cinema and television is something that they bond over a great deal. Even her youngest, despite his young age, feels proud of his mother, seeing the admiration that people have for her.

Set by Balmain, Hat by Regalia

Her experience in her recent series Azmat Montasaf Al Omr (Midlife Crisis) was definitely an enjoyable one. “For most of us it was the first time working together, and we all came out of it as very close friends,” she says, stressing how terrific a director Karim El Adl is, and how considerate and respectful he was on set. She admits to how bold the series was, knowing full well from the start that it would be very controversial, however she does believe that this was nonetheless very important to put out there as people are not used to facing the very real moral ambiguities presented in the show head-on. “Our goal through Azmat Montasaf Al Omr was not to support these moral ambiguities, rather to say that one single mistake could cost you a great deal; that you can’t simply apologise and expect it all to turn out okay,” she says. She stressed the fact that art has to be bold. As long as it’s not corrupting people’s thoughts, presenting the immoral in a positive light, there is a need for art to be bold. It’s perfectly reasonable for art in our region to be seen as versatile in her eyes, so long as it isn’t offensive.

With all the work she has put in during the past year, fans were very excited to see her in Muneataf Khatar and Wish Wa Dahr (Front & Back). These were her earlier works this past season, and paved the way for her audience to trust in her and the quality of her work with the tremendous success of these shows. She expressed her incredible admiration for Sadeer Massoud who directed Muneataf Khatar. “He’s among the directors whose artistry I’m enamoured with,” she says, as he led her in a role that was truly emotional, despite the fact that she did not get as much screen time. With her role as Doha in Wish Wa Dahr, we got to see her in a lighter and more playful role than we’re used to.

Suit by Mamzi by Mariam Abdelghany, Jewellery by Nado’s Jewellery

Seeing Abdel Ghafour’s breakthrough in the past year has been an absolute treat to witness. With her latest series Al Asli, fans have finally gotten a series starring Abdel Ghafour at centre stage, and more than a co-star. It meant a great deal to her to be the female lead in such a successful show, ranking at the top of streaming services. She mentioned how incredibly moved she was that women around Egypt have taken her character, Fatma Al Asli, as a role model, that so many young women are looking up to this character that she played so exquisitely. “I’m really happy with the timing during which the series came out. After people have seen me co-star in four very successful series just this year, they can get into Al Asli trusting that I’ll have put my all into this role. It’s definitely a breakthrough moment in my career that I’m proud and grateful for,” she says.

This Ramadan, Abdel Ghafour is starring alongside Mohamed Mamdouh in Rashid, directed by Mai Mamdouh and produced by Abdallah Abou El Fetouh, who also produced Wish Wa Dahr. This is also very exciting for her as it’s something brand new, a role that she has never tried before. She is also waiting for the release of her latest movie Laylat El Eid (The Eid Night), starring the iconic Youssra. We can’t wait to see what more this talented star has to offer.


PHOTOGRAPHY by Bilo Hussein

STYLING by Mohamed Ashraf

MAKE-UP by Abdalla El Refai

HAIR by Mahmoud Ammer

LOCATION at the Nile Ritz-Carlton, Cairo


Balmain: int.balmain.com

Le Collezioni: +201149494911

Mamzi by Mariam Abdelghany: www.mamzistore.com

Moschino: www.moschino.com

Nado’s Jewellery: @nadosjewellery

Regalia: @regaliaofficial_

Sara Onsi: www.saraonsi.com