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Nihad Quali (1928-1993)


Nihad Quali was born and raised in Damascus. Upon completing his education he co-founded an amateur theatrical group in 1954 called the Orient Club Theater. The group adapted classic plays and performed them in Damascus for a limited income and audience. In 1957, they achieved success through producing a show that Quali had written called Lawla al-Nisaa? (What if it were not for Women?) In 1958 he wrote and produced another play entitled Thaman al-Huriyya (The Price of Freedom) which was performed in Cairo shortly after Syria and Egypt merged to form the United Arab Republic (UAR) in 1958. The following year, UAR Minister of Culture Salah al-Din al-Bitar delegated him to establish the National Syrian Theater. Quali complied, and established the first group of professional Syrian actors in January 1960. One month later, the Syrian National Television was created, and its Director Sabah Qabbani delegated him to star in a low-budget mini-series with Doreid Lahham, a then-amateur action, entitled Sahrat Dimashq (Evening of Damascus). The show was an instant hit, leading to two other shows in 1961 and 1962 that became Arabic classics.

Nihad Quali and Doreid Lahham established a comical duet, modeled after Laurel & Hardy, and performed their first movie in 1961. It co-stared the Syrian singer Fahd Ballan and the Lebanese starlet Sabah, and became an instant classic. It kept playing in Syrian and Lebanese cinemas for one year and a half, breaking a record in Arabic movie history. Quali and Lahham produced twenty-one other movies, often co-starring leading Egyptian and Lebanese actors and actresses. Among others, they acted with the Egyptian comedian Samir Ghanem, the starl Nabila Obeid, the singer Shadya, and the Egyptian movie queen Mariam Fakhr al-Din. Quali wrote most of the works, along the all television series and their characters. He created two characters, Husni al-Bourazan and Ghawar al-Tawsheh, for himself and Lahham respectively, who became household names in the Arab world. Tawsheh was a clown and prankster who always finds himself competing with Bourazan for something--a bride, a job, or money. Often, he outflanks Quali with practical jokes and humerous schemes.

In 1974, "Doreid & Nihad," moved into theater, and collaborated with the political playwright Mohammad al-Maghout. Quali created characters, Lahham directed, and Maghout wrote the script for two shows that became classics in modern Arabic theatre. In 1974, the three men produced Dai’at Tishreen (October Village), which eulogized the Arabi-Israeli war of 1973, and recounted the coup d’etats that rocked Syria in the 1950s, leading to the defeat of 1967. In 1976 they produced Ghorba, which dealt with the massive Arab emigration that was taking place in the 1970s. The two shows were performed in every Arab country and even toured Europe and the Americas, playing for the large Arab émigré communities. In 1977, Quali quarreled with an army officer in a Damascus nightclub who beat him and left him partly paralyzed. He continued to perform Ghorba while in half-paralysis and retired from acting in 1979. President Hafez al-Asad sent him to the United States for treatment but he remained in illness and spent the remainder of his years writing short comedies for Samer, a children’s magazine published in Beirut. In 1991, he tried acting in a show with Lahham entitled Awdet Doreid wa Nihad (The Return of Doreid and Nihad) but due to illness he was unable to film the program and died in 1993 with it uncompleted.


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