For a quick intro to Sameer Sabry (from 30 years ago, although his current live performance, if somewhat slower, is not all that different), click the link to YouTube below:
Yes, he's an implemention of the Julio Iglesias interface. But his performance on Thursday was really amazing. An absolutely unforgettable experience. Sameer (also known as Samir) Sabry is a very well known actor in Arabic movies from the '70's and '80's, in particular. He is much loved. In Dutch terms, "hij werd op handen gedragen", i.e., he was almost literally carried on the hands of the people in the audience, that's how much he was loved by them. :-)
I was there, at the Alexandria Center of Arts, only because I had got lost a few days before, while trying to make my pilgrimage to the poet Cavaffy's apartment, which is in the same area. I asked for directions at a big white building, which turned out to be the Alexandria Center of Arts, and got a free tour around the whole building into the bargain. The tour ended with an invitation to the next performance, which was the Sameer Sabry show.
I went there with Mahmoud, my Arabic teacher of the moment (who I met randomly at my local coffee house [run by the wonderful Hannafy] around the corner from the Cecil hotel). He was great company, especially because the show started an hour later than planned, because there were so many people in attendance. Literally, every single seat in the theater was occupied and there were people standing around the sides as well. As far as I could see, everywhere I looked I saw Arabic faces yearning for Sameer's appearance. And, at the very least, the whole upper class of Alexandria seemed to be there, all with special seats assigned to them, protected carefully by the smartly suited attendants. Luckily Mahmoud and I had Sherif, the guy who had shown me around the building, as our guardian angel, otherwise we'd never have had good seats to begin with.
Then, eventually, once everyone and their uncle (none of whom, other than myself, were European, so that I ended up having a very unique experience, from the perspective of a 'tourist' from Europe) was seated, in the rather wonderful theater of the Alexandria Center of Arts (seriously, stop by there in Fouad Street if you get a chance, i.e., the same street as the Alexandria Opera house, also known as the Sayed Darwish Theater, and have a look at all the things going on in there, it is a massive building once you're inside of it), the show began. Dancers, musicians (two keyboards, a drum set, bass guitar, and other smaller drums), and... Sameer Sabry himself. He was fantastic. (Even though, or because, he didn't have the lamp post from the YouTube clip above with him!) Not only a really wonderful voice (Mahmoud whispered to me, at some point, that you could 'almost drink it', because of the velvety sound of it all), but also a great personality. At some point he stepped off the stage and mingled with his many adoring fans. (Seriously, one guy two seats to my right had an envelope containing a number of photos showing Sameer Sabry in his youth, which reminded me a lot of Omar Sharif.) He danced and sang with them, at length, before returning to the stage and finishing his show, singing many songs from his most famous movies.
Though I understood almost nothing of what he was singing, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and I felt enriched at the end of it. Sameer Sabry is a really wonderful performer!