The Upper Egyptian Al Hag Al Dawy has become a popular video maker in Egypt, casting light on the defects of our society in a sarcastic way and portraying the sublime values that are disappearing from our community.
Through his distinct Upper Egyptian accent, which contradicts some of the English words he uses, and his spontaneous expressions, Al Dawy gained overwhelming admiration from millions of spectators.
His videos tackle issues that are not easily confronted by parents, schools, the media or officials, as he discusses topics like the deterioration of education, vengeance in Upper Egypt, traffic accidents and the growingly expensive pre-marriage traditions.
Al Dawy, whose official name is Hamdi El Ghabri, was born in El Zeineiya city, north of Luxor. After graduating from the Industrial Secondary School, he worked in the tourism field for a while before turning to his passion of acting and video making that was evident during his preparatory stages of education.
Sarcastic scenes in his videos highlight the contrasting differences among different segments of the Egyptian society and their encounters with each other in comic skits. Al Dawy says, “I have the luxury of wearing the most expensive suits, but I usually choose to wear the Galabiya and Luxor’s ‘Emma’, Upper Egypt’s head dress, out of respect to my homeland as these clothing items reflect our identity.”
We talked with Al Hag Dawy to find out more about what he does, how he started and what he aims to achieve.
Why have you chosen the title of Al Hag Al Dawy?
I chose this name in honor of my neighbor Al Dawy who is a respectable man with strong principles and whose character would be a good role model for the youth to follow after watching my videos.
When did your interest in film making begin and what is the aim behind your videos?
The idea came by chance. It started when I posted a dialogue between an Upper Egyptian woman and her husband criticizing customs and traditions in a sarcastic manner on Facebook.
I then received overwhelming admiration by numerous readers commenting on the dialogue, which encouraged me to turn my work into videos.
The aim behind what I create is to discuss social issues in a satirical way to help shed some light and perhaps even solve these concerns. At the same time, I want to encourage the spirit of gaiety among my followers.
What was the idea behind your first video and the reasons behind your overwhelming success?
The idea was to encourage the youth to work. I wanted to convey to them that they should not expect to fulfill their dreams right away, but that they have to struggle and accept any type of work first in order to achieve experience and then pursue their dreams.
After uploading that first video on the portal page of Upper Egypt on Facebook, I was surprised when an Egyptian working in Dubai called me to tell me that a million viewers watched the video. This gave me the drive to continue forward.
People admired the personality of Al Hag Al Dawy, and the issues I tackle in my videos are of great concern to the simple Egyptian citizen and the Upper Egyptian people in particular, so probably these were the reasons for my success.
What values have you gained from being brought up in Upper Egypt?
I was taught how to respect others and to be honest and gallant. This benefited me a lot when I went to Europe where I was taught to respect time, love my work and to respect women.
Are there any signs showing that your videos are changing the behavior in our society?
Yes, fortunately many children have come up to me to tell me that, from my videos, they have learned not to lie or be hypocritical, to respect the elderly and their teachers and to love their country.
What other projects are you involved in now and what future projects do you have in mind?
At the moment, I participate in supporting Al Orman Hospital for curing tumor diseases for free. In my videos, I also provide awareness on the dangers of Virus C, and I have already put together a documentary on the centers that treat this disease.
I also started a campaign titled “Your Old Clothes are Valuable”, which aims to collect 10,000 items of clothing to be donated to those in need.
Participating in art works is also a dream of mine that was suppressed during my permanent stay in Upper Egypt, as traveling between there and Cairo proves a little difficult.
So I am aiming to establish a theater that I would name Al Dawy Show in Upper Egypt. However, I have to look for a producer and investor because I can’t bear the high costs of this big project alone. However, serious steps are being taken towards this project, where my team will include talented small people who will bring happiness to the viewers by playing a great role in Upper Egypt’s theater where I want to reflect the significance of the handicapped in our society.
Currently, I stay in Egypt for nine months, and then I travel to Europe during the remaining three months of the year to visit my brothers who are living in Sweden and France, and my wife who carries the Finnish nationality. In the near future, I want to present my work throughout the Arab World.
What are your hopes for Egypt and Upper Egypt in particular?
I aspire for Egypt to become one of the advanced nations, and to restore its international position. Regarding Upper Egypt, I believe that it has great industrial potential, which can encourage the youth to stay rather than traveling abroad in search of work in Europe and the Arab World.