Naima Akef’s father owned the Akef Circus and at the age of four, she began her training as a trapeze artist. Growing into a beautiful young woman, she became an oriental dancer at Casino Badia Masabni. She made a brief dancing appearance in Sit al-Bayt (Lady of the House, 1949) by Ahmed Kamel Morsi.
Soon after, director Abbas Kamel saw her dance at a night club and was so taken by her that he quickly brought his brother, Husayn Fawzi, to the club. As soon as he saw her, Husayn felt he had found what he was looking for, a girl with a talent for dancing, singing, acrobatics, and acting, and with a beautiful face and gorgeous figure. He gave her the lead role in his film al-Eish wal-Malh (Bread and Salt, 1949), opposite singer Saad Abd al-Wahab, Muhammad Abd al-Wahab’s nephew Audiences immediately fell in love with her and fame was instantaneous. Husayn Fawzi quickly monopolized her, signing her up for his coming films.
Their relationship culminated in marriage although Husayn was almost twenty-four years older. Naima’s first eleven films were all directed by Husayn Fawzi, who also wrote the script for most of them—that remains unique in Egyptian cinema, and perhaps in any cinema in the world.
After starring in Arba’ Banat wa Dhabit (Four Girls and an Officer, 1954) by Anwar Wagdi, Naima took the lead role in Fawzi’s Bahr al-Gharam (Sea of Love, 1955) opposite Rushdi Abaza. Then she made Madraset al-Banat (The Girls’ School, 1955) with Kamel al-Tilmissani. Before their divorce, she made two more films with Husayn Fawzi: Tamr Henna (Tamarind) and Ahebak Ya Hassan (I Love You Hassan), both in 1957.
Altogether Naima Akef and Husayn Fawzi made fourteen successful films, all comedy-musicals revolving around a high spirited, common girl: a showgirl with whom the pasha’s son falls in love in Lahaleebo (The Firebrand, 1949); an alley girl who rejects the pasha’s temptation in Baladi wa Khifa (Common and Light, 1950); a street girl finding work for her family in a theater in Furigat (Relief, 1951); a circus girl with whom an aristocrat falls in love in Fatat al-Sirk (Circus Girl, 1951); a club dancer who discovers the barman is her father in al-Nimr (The Tiger, 1952). Once they divorced, both stars began to wane. Husayn Fawzi died in 1962, and Naima four years later, aged just thirty-seven.