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Mother of Egyptian Broadcasters
Published in The Egyptian Gazette on 06 - 07 - 2010

“She's a smart girl, but there's something wrong with her speech and I'm afraid it could jeopardise her future," said a kindergarten teacher about a little girl called Safia el-Mohandes, who went on to become known as the ‘Mother of Egyptian Broadcasters'.
The late Safia was a much-loved radio broadcaster, who owed her popularity to her wonderful, rhythmic voice.
Safia (1922-2007) was the daughter of Zaki el-Mohandes, a famous linguist and Dean of Dar Al-Uloom Faculty and Vice-President of the Arabic Language Academy in Cairo.
Her younger brother was the late comedian Fouad el-Mohandes, and it was she who first introduced him to acting.
In 1950, Safia married another broadcaster, Mohamed Mahmoud Shabaan, affectionately known as Baba Sharo. They had three children: Moustafa, an engineer; Mohamed, an accountant; and Mamdouh, a dentist.
In 1937, she was admitted to Alsania School in Cairo and soon got involved in acting and other social activities there. In 1945, she was awarded a degree in English and two years later started working for the radio; she was one of the founders of Egyptian Radio.
She started off as a news anchor and hers was the first female voice to be heard by Egyptians on the radio. She was famous for saying Hona Al-Qahira (Here is Cairo) at the start of her Rokn el-Mara'a (Women's Corner) which became transformed into a programme called Rabat el-Boyout (Housewives), in which her role was that of an agony aunt, solving people's problems.
Safia, who received many awards from the Ministry of Culture, the Medical Association and the media, befriended many Egyptian families with Rokn el-Mara'a, Rabat el-Boyout and another radio programme, Ailet Marzouk Effendi (The Family of Marzouk Effendi).
As the years passed, she gradually ascended the ladder. In 1965, she become Egyptian Radio's supervisor of women's programmes and then in 1967 a general manager of the general programme.
She was then made a vice-chairwoman of Egyptian Radio, before reaching the pinnacle of her career when was appointed chairwoman. She held this prestigious post from 1975 to 1982, the year she retired.
In 1999, she was made a member of the Board of Trustees of the Radio and Television Union, then a member of the Shura Council and a member of the National Arts Council.
Safia skilfully managed both her career and her domestic life.
"I am a caring wife, a good mother and a successful working woman. My husband and I work together and we have agreed never to talk shop when we get home at night," she once said.
For Safia, Mohamed was not only a husband, but also a lover, father and guide. He was also the father of their sons and grandfather of their grandchildren.
Omar Batisha, another former head of Egyptian Radio, said that she was a great teacher, training many broadcasters like Omar himself.
"She deserved the nickname ‘Mother of Egyptian Broadcasters'. She had a great sense of humour and loved it when we called her Mama Safia."
Egypt's legendary musician Mohamed Abdel-Wahab was also a great admirer of her voice: "I would like to ask you a question Safia, who composes your words?!" he once asked her humorously.


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