Veteran Egyptian actor objects to being called 'entertainer' by Saudi Arabia, sparks social media war

Veteran Egyptian actor objects to being called 'entertainer' by Saudi Arabia, sparks social media war
Veteran Egyptian actor Mohamed Sobhi claimed he had rejected millions of dollars to perform a play in Saudi Arabia after being described as an 'entertainer', sparking a social media war between Egyptians and Saudis
3 min read
04 February, 2022
Egyptian artist Mohamed Sobhi says he was offered $4,000,000 to perform a play in Saudi Arabia [Getty]

CAIRO – Veteran Egyptian actor and director Mohamed Sobhi has been involved in a war of words with Saudi Arabia's Entertainment Authority after refusing to perform in the kingdom.

The row initially began when Sobhi said he had been belittled after the authority described him as an "entertainer", and has sparked a heated debate on social media for days now.

In a phone interview with Egypt’s El-Hadath satellite TV channel broadcast on 29 January, Sobhi said he had been offered $4,000,000 in exchange for performing his play ‘Kheebetna’ (Our Failure) as part of the Saudi Festival of Joy Awards 2022, but turned the offer down.

“In a previous interview with Hadath, I said that Egypt has been a pioneer in arts and culture for 120 years now, whereas Saudi Arabia had long been a closed community that has only opened up artistically over the past year,” Sobhi said.

“I refuse to perform in Saudi Arabia…. because I don’t accept as an artist to present a work under the title of entertainment,” he argued.

Sobhi had been invited to the kingdom by Saudi Arabia's General Entertainment Authority.

Known as 'the Knight of the Arab Theatre,' Sobhi is best known for his theatrical performances, also appearing in films and TV series over the past several decades. He started his career in the 1960s.

Sobhi’s comments were met with ridicule from Saudi Entertainment Authority head Turki Al-Sheikh and many Saudi Twitter users, while Egyptian social media users leapt to Sobhi's defence.

In a tweet, Al-Sheikh denied Sobhi's claim that he had been offered four million dollars to perform, even questioning the sanity of a person who would offer Sobhi that amount of money.

However Prince Abdul-Rahman Bin Musaed attempted to ease the ongoing tension between the two men, tweeting: “When Egyptian artists came to Saudi Arabia to perform sophisticated, and at the same time, enjoyable art, they were appreciated and respected. This is what they deserve and what Egypt deserves. It is regrettable to consider an artist who has artistic value and history as just an entertainer.”

Other Twitter users reminded the Egyptian actor and director of comedies he performed and directed previously that were focused on entertainment, such as El-Joker (The Joker) and El-Hamagy (The Savage).

Many Egyptians, on the other hand, view Sobhi as a role model and a theatrical master.