The exhibition Divas showcases the lives and careers of the greatest female artists of the Arab music and film world of the last century. Women whose work had a worldwide artistic and social impact. Four well-known divas from the exhibition are Umm Kulthum, Asmahan, Fairuz and Warda. On these pages you can read more about their lives and careers, and listen to their music.
Amal al-Atrash was a Druze princess of Syrian-Lebanese origin who grew up in Cairo. The family lived in poverty but regularly hosted influential musicians from the city. It was soon obvious that Amal and her brother Farid were very talented. Under the name Asmahan, ‘the exalted’, Amal started performing in the concert halls of Cairo from the early 1930s. She quickly became a success, thanks to her exceptional voice and her talent for improvisation.
In the eyes of her eldest brother she led a dissolute life. He invoked the Druze tradition and obliged her to marry. She found it impossible to reconcile her life as a housewife and mother in As-Suwayda, in south-west Syria, with her career as an artist, and she suffered from depression. After her divorce, Asmahan returned to Cairo where, during the Second World War, she chose the side of the Allies.
In 1944, while making her second film, Love and Revenge, Asmahan drowned as a result of a car accident. The whirlwind career of the diva and the tragic circumstances of her death remain a source of fascination and speculation.