Cairo - Dozens of Syrian actors had to leave their homeland in the wake of the civil war that broke out in March 2011. They mainly moved to three Arab countries: Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Egypt; the country which has been long dubbed as the ‘Hollywood of the Orient’.
The collective memory easily recalls that composer, singer, virtuoso oud player, and actor 'Farid Al-Atrash' emigrated from Syria, as a child, with his mother and siblings to Egypt, escaping the French occupation 100 years ago. He, along with his sister 'Asmahan', found relief and fame in Cairo.
Egypt is now the most important destination for Syrian actors, despite the difficulties they faced there, including the differences between the Egyptian and Syrian dialects.
Several Syrian actors and producers speak of the reasons why they have chosen Egypt as watershed for their acting careers. One is actor and producer Farouq al-Shami, who resides in 6th of October City in Egypt.
Shami left Syria in 2012 because the crisis bred a lack of security and an inadequate work environment. He said, “I left for Egypt because it has been the most suitable environment for artists, and it gives us better opportunities in the arts field. Besides, before the Syrian crisis, I participated in Egyptian series, and I realized that my professional life would be in Egypt.”
Shami is currently producing a new film that will adapt 20 real-life stories of Egyptian army and police victims who died during battles against Egyptian terrorists. Egyptian businessmen are funding the production, and the film will be shown in cinemas soon.
Meanwhile, Firas Ibrahim, a Syrian
television star who also works in production, said, “I did not take on any new
production or acting project due to the ongoing Syrian crisis.
could not do it. My life hasn’t been the same. But, after a few years, I
realized I had spent all I had and returned to drama. I founded my own
production company and I am preparing several cinematic works in Egypt. Now I
am ready to act again.”
Syrian art has been affected by the Syrian crisis at home and abroad. The war led to a production crisis due to the economic downturn that affected all aspects of life.
The UN estimates that the official number of Syrian refugees in Egypt has, however, recently dropped from 140,000 registered by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in January 2015 to 117,000 in December 2015. It stood at 119,665, including 41,752 households, by the end of March 2016.
Young Syrian actor Bassam Ali, who has been in Cairo for a year and participated in the Egyptian series “Al-Khanikah” [The Mental Asylum] in 2016, said that his starring in Egyptian drama is a huge shift and a feat. He added, “I stayed in the UAE until 2016, then moved to Cairo after one of the producers of Al-Khanika nominated me to act in it. I am still in Egypt because it gives any Arab artist wider popularity as it is the Arab version of Hollywood. Still, I would like to return to Syria when the dust settles.”
According to a survey conducted by the Interim Syrian Government, Syrian refugees in Egypt are expected to reach around 124,000 by 2018. They have blended into Egyptian society and established businesses such as restaurants, while Syrian actors resumed their acting careers in Egypt.