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The nightingale of Cinema’s Golden Age

Asmahan: Saga of Singing Spy

Saturday 15-07-2017 - 08:13 PM
The nightingale of Cinema’s Golden Age
Remembering Asmahan,
Remembering Asmahan, the woman and the legend

Cairo - Renowned Syrian singer and actress Amal al-Atrash, also known as Asmahan was the greatest diva of all time. Asmahan was a femme fatale who had a life that was as strange and fantastic off the silver screen as it was on it.

The Syrian princess who emigrated to Egypt in the twenties and became an entertainer, was the sister of singer Farid al-Atrash, who helped her start her career, and the daughter of Fahd al-Atrash, a member of the famous Druze al-Atrash family who played a pivitol political role in Syria.

She married Emir Hassan al-Atrash and returned to Syria in 1934 where she gave birth to her only child, Camilia. Asmahan divorced a few years later and returned to Egypt and became one of the most prominent singers of her time. 

Asmahan was married three times while dozens of men, including Egyptians, Arabs and foreigners, fell in love with her. She lived in extremes: a heavy drinker and heavy smoker, she enjoyed a luxurious life while her many relations were intertwined with those that harmed her. 

Princess turned Songstress:

Passion and Revenge
Passion and Revenge (1944)

Asmahan was no ordinary woman, therefore, and it is no wonder that many see in her a legendary heroine, her life the perfect subject for a novel or film.

Although Asmahan’s talent was incomparable, her friend, renowned journalist Mohamed El-Tabie, recounted that she hated to sing in public concerts and didn't like singing in front of women in private parties. She always felt that she was born to be a princess, not a songstress, for indeed she was a princess.

However, everything in Asmahan confirms that she was born to be a songstress not anything else. She combined voice strength, flexibility, fitness, uniqueness along with good training at the hands of her sibling Farid Al-Atrash then Dawood Hosni, and the nuns at her French Catholic school.

In the world of cinema, Asmahan only acted in two films: The Triumph of Youth (1941) and Passion and Revenge, which she didn't complete because she died before the end of filming in 1944.

Princess embroiled in politics:

Asmahan: Game of
Asmahan: Game of Love and intelligence. Author (s): Said Abu Al-Enein, published: 01/09/1996

But, as we have already said, art wasn't Asmahan's prime interest. She was attracted to politics but she didn't know that in this world, the price for crossing the permissible lines is very high.


Many sources point out that Asmahan's chief mission, which the British intelligence assigned her to accomplish in May 1941 through her friend Amina Al-Baroudy, was to change the loyalties of the Druze from the Vichy French collaborationist government to the Allies' side, and to guarantee that the Free France troops led by Charles de Gaulle could pass through the mountains without any resistance from the Al-Atrash clan, the chieftains of the Druze.


Despite Asmahan’s success in her mission, thanks to the huge sums of money the British sent to the Druze leaders, she wasn’t satisfied with this role.


She used all her charms in order to gain the favour, money and influence of all those who had interests in the region whether they were British, French or Jewish, to the extent that when she sensed the British miserliness and their intention to dispense with her services she didn’t hesitate to contact Franz von Papen, Hitler’s ambassador to Turkey.


Then she betrayed her American journalist friend named Ford, who was the Germans’ agent in the Levant, handing him to the British on the Syrian-Turkish borders after she was certain that the British knew of her intention to travel to Ankara.

Asmahan's life and
Asmahan's life and death remains shrouded in mystery
Asmahan died in a car accident in 1944 at the age of 31. Suspicions and rumors still surround Asmahan's death as many believe she was deliberately killed. She was rumored to have been spying for both the Germans and British in the Second World War. 
She died in the water, just as she had been born in the water, aboard a ship.

She remained an enigma that sprang out of legend to live in our world, fraught with perturbation and tension until she returned to legend once again. Her story is fantastic. Asmahan is neither an angel nor a devil - she is just human. 

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