BEIRUT: The much-loved Lebanese actress Amalia Abi Saleh died Friday after being in critical condition in a hospital in Beirut’s southern suburbs. She was 68.
Abi Saleh was in a coma for approximately a week, the National News Agency said.
Born in Dhour Choueir in the Metn, Abi Saleh was brought up in a modest family that later moved to the Lebanese capital, where she attended school in Ashrafieh. Her classmates nicknamed her “tom boy.”
After her parents’ divorce, Abi Saleh and her father moved to the Syrian town of Latakia in 1955. Years later, Abi Saleh, who was fluent in both Arabic and Italian, moved to Milan.
In Italy, Abi Saleh joined an entertainment group that toured Europe and performed in shows at U.S. military bases throughout the continent.
In 1964, Abi Saleh, who had visited Lebanon occasionally to see her mother, moved back to her home country, where she commenced her acting career, starring in several television shows and plays.
One of her most popular roles was in the television series “Nadi al-Howat” (Amateur Club) in which she played an Italian girl who did not speak Arabic.
Abi Saleh enjoyed working and living in Lebanon despite the financial challenges actors face in the country, in contrast to her contemporaries in Italy.
In the 1970s, Abi Saleh took part in several stage shows starring Lebanese and Arab actors. She also appeared on the big screen, in the movies “Zaman ya Hob,” (Where have you been, love) with Fareed al-Atrash and “Zawjati min al-hippies” (My wife is a hippie) with renowned Syrian comedian Dored Lahham.
Abi Saleh also composed and acted in several children’s plays, pairing with another comedian.
After a short time away from the screen, Abi Saleh returned to television in 1981 in a series that became part of Lebanese popular culture. The hit “Al Moalemah wal Ostaz” (The Teacher and the Professor) also starred Ibrahim Maraashli and Hind Abi Lamaa.
Her most recent role was a play composed by Father Fadi Tabet in 2004 called “10452.”