Egypt's superstar Bayoumi Fouad sets off outrage over comedy show at Saudi festival amid war on Gaza
Recently, renowned Egyptian actor Bayoumi Fouad sparked outrage across Egypt and other parts of the region after he performed a comedy during a Saudi festival amid the ongoing Israeli offensive on Gaza that has claimed thousands of Palestinians after entering the second consecutive month.
Social media activists and artists were quick to denounce what they described as Fouad's "shameful" stance towards the Palestinian cause as well as the Egyptian arts after he had criticised fellow superstar Mohamed Salam for refraining from performing in a play in solidarity with Palestinians.
One day before the premiere of Zawag Estena'y (Artificial Marriage), the play in which Fouad performed the lead role, Salam released a video on his social media accounts in which he addressed his fans, saying he withdrew from Riyadh Season at a time when his "fellow Palestinian brothers and sisters are being killed in Gaza."
"I can't travel [to Saudi Arabia]…even though acting is my means of living," he said.
"I can't laugh…joke…act…and dance while women and children….are being killed…I say this the last minute, as I was hoping the festival would be called off like the case with the El-Gouna Film Festival here [in Egypt] or that the situation would calm down in Gaza," Salam added in the video.
Salam continued: "Forgive me if I'm exaggerating, but I feel that if I [work on the festival], I will be just like their killers [the Israelis], I will let them [the Palestinians] down…I will be just silent [about their ordeal] and what's going on in Palestine; it will be a silly joke."
Last month, Egypt's Gouna Film Festival, one of the most important cinematic events in the region, had been postponed indefinitely due to the Hamas-Israel conflict.
In a recent viral video, Fouad appeared with the play's actors at a Saudi theatre while fiercely slamming Sallam without mentioning his name directly and hailing actor Mohamed Anwar, who replaced him at the last minute and played his part.
Foud claimed that Salam did not respect his role as an artist.
"You have the right to apologise for not playing your part in the play. But you don't have the right to offend your art," Fouad said, obviously addressing Sallam.
"I'm an Egyptian artist… [who] came has been honoured to come to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We work hard to perform an art, not to make people laugh," Fouad argued.
In recent years, Saudi Arabia has attracted popular Arab artists, especially Egyptians, offering them competitive fees for performing in the kingdom.
"It's something splendid for me to have my picture taken with a Saudi young man and Saudi lady," Fouad said, addressing the theatregoers, one phrase that has triggered prevalent criticism against by social media activists who accused him of "hypocrisy."
كنت متخيل أن الكلام المنسوب— Haytham Abokhalil هيثم أبوخليل (@haythamabokhal1) November 5, 2023
ل #بيومي_فؤاد كلام غير صحيح لزوم الترافيك والتريند
ولكن طلع حقيقي بل وأكثر انحطاطا
يخرب بيت الدولارات اللي تخلي حد يتحول لمسخ كده ويهاجم زميل له أخذ موقف محترم
وصدق من قال أن أشد الناس نفاقا من يطوع جوارحه ليبكي ليخدم على نفاقه
اسفوخس عليك!#محمد_انور pic.twitter.com/owGdGbly0U
"I thought the conversation attributed to Bayoumi Fouad was untrue and [only] used to garner social media traffic. But it turned out to be true; and even more outrageous. Down with the dollars that turn a person into a freak who slams a colleague who had taken a decent stance," wrote an Egyptian Twitter user named Haytham Abokhalil.
Arguably one of the most commercially successful actors in the history of modern Egyptian cinema and TV, Fouad has been a common face in new films, and TV shows several times every single year over the past few years.