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Belly Dancer Karioka Dies at 78

September 21, 1999

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Actress Tahiya Karioka, the Arab world’s most famous belly dancer, has died of a heart attack in a Cairo hospital. She was 78.

Karioka, born as Badawiya Mohammed Karim, had been in al-Safa Hospital for two weeks, where she was suffering from heart, digestive and breathing problems, according to hospital officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

She died Monday and was buried later the same day, with Egyptian Culture Minister Farouk Hosni leading the funeral procession.

Karioka, dubbed the ``Queen of Oriental Dancing,″ studied dancing as a young girl at Ivanova Belly Dancing School before moving to Mohammed Ali Street, Cairo’s 1930s and ’40s equivalent of Broadway.

Karioka’s first film was ``Doctor Farahat″ in 1935, directed by Togo Mizrahi. Altogether, she performed in some 300 films, plays and television soap operas.

The beautiful and elegant Karioka was the Arab world’s Marilyn Monroe. She attracted the attention of key figures in Egypt and won the admiration of the late King Farouq.

The outspoken Karioka _ who criticized the military rule of Egypt after the 1952 army coup led by Gamal Abdel Nasser _ temporarily stopped performing when the new regime accused her of conspiracy.

Before her death, Palestinian-born writer Edward Said wrote that Karioka was not only a belly dancer but an artist who played a role in shaping Egypt’s modern culture.

``She was an important part of Egypt’s movie history,″ said film director Galal Sharqawi.

One of her most popular movies was ``Youth of a Woman,″ in which she played a landlady who seduces a young, naive peasant student. The film was shown at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival and won the international directing prize in 1958.

Karioka married 14 times. Among her former husbands were an American army officer whom she married during World War II, the late actor Rushdi Abaza and famous playwright Fayez Halawa.

She is survived by an adopted daughter, Atiyat Allah.

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