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Egyptian actor and comic Ibrahim Nasr dies at age 70

The actor is renowned for his character Zakiya Zakaria in the prank show ‘Camera Al Khafiya’

One of Egypt’s most loved actors and comics, Ibrahim Nasr, died on Tuesday.

The news was reported in the Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Youm, with the actor said to have succumbed to a long-term illness. He was 70.

The fact he left us during Ramadan is rather fitting as Nasr was often the star of the holy month. For the past 20 years he would appear on regional television screens as the host of Al Camera Al Khafiya (a regional twist on the Candid Camera concept), an annual Ramadan staple, which has Nasr walking down busy Cairo streets and bamboozling citizens in his disguise of neurotic elderly woman Zakiya Zakaria.

Not only was it charming and good natured (a far cry from some of the mean spirited natures of today’s prank shows) Camera Al Khafiya was a brilliant showcase of his comic talents, ranging from slapstick, zany improvisations and sharp punch lines.

But making us laugh wasn’t Nasr’s only forte. He put his bulky frame and raspy voice to good use by appearing in a range of dramas, including the second season of the classic spy series Ra’fat Al Hagan (1990), the Second World War film Shams Alzunatii (1991) and 1993’s Mr Karate – a not-so-subtle take on the Hollywood hit Karate Kid with Nasr playing the stern Hassan, a martial arts instructor in the vein of Mr Miyagi.

Nasr’s dramatic range came from honing his craft at an early age. Born in the Shobra neighbourhood of Cairo, Nasr caught the acting bug in university, where he took part in theatre productions.

His knack for impersonations, including that of the late Egyptian star Ameen El Henaidy, was spotted by producers who tapped him to appear in a number of children television shows. Nasr followed it up with his feature film debut in a small role in the 1970 comedy drama Almereaya, alongside future screen titans Nour El Sherif and Adel Imam.

Nasr’s enduring appeal resulted in a steady work load throughout his five-decade career that saw him amass over 100 credits in both film and television.

The last ten years of his career had him appearing in the 2011 comedy X Large and the 2018 Ramadan series Foq El Sahab.

Despite his acclaim, Nasr always had an ambivalent attitude to his success. In a 2018 interview broadcast in Al Hayat, Nasr admitted to a personality far removed from the gregarious characters he portrayed on screen.

“I don’t know how to be happy like people,” he said. “I can be happy with you because you have a good energy that allows me to be easy. If I am at home alone, it is not the same.”

Nasr’s funeral was held on Tuesday, May 12, at the St Mark’s Coptic Orthodox church in Azbakeya district of Cairo, before he was buried in family plot.