With a genre-spanning career, Egyptian entertainer Mohamed Ramadan has more than proved himself.
Don’t be deceived by his rugged appearance, fleet of luxury cars, expensive swag, and diamond bling. Egyptian actor and rapper Mohamed Ramadan is one humble man, as evidenced at the cover shoot for this issue at the St Regis Hotel in Cairo. Friendly with everyone old and young, he doesn’t hesitate to pause the shoot at the request of fans asking for a picture. His cheerful personality and love for music, blaring during the shoot, are well on display.
The 32-year-old – who turns 33 in May – was born in Cairo, to a modest family. He’s never denied growing up in a poor community, and it also didn’t prevent him from nurturing his ambitions and dreaming of stardom. “My love for cinema, theater, and art was born through observing the legends of the screen,” he shares. At age 16, he started acting at Al Saadiah High School, and in 2007, he was cast in the series Hanan and Hanin with Omar Sharif, earning his praise. Ramadan rose to fame playing the roles of the young thug, a character entirely different from his reality.
Unlike members of his community searching for stable jobs, Ramadan believed that success required taking risks. When he ventured into the world of entertainment, it was something that no one in his family had ever considered. His mother, however, always believed in his talent, encouraged him, and shared his vision from a young age. Having benefited from the positive impact of art and sport in school, he is quick to offer his praises. “The ages from 10 to 16 are so important for children and youth because they create their talents during this time,” he says. “This type of activity protects young people from indulging in an unhealthy life, keeping them away from bad friends and directing their energy to ensure a good future.” Despite the awards he received, he did not pass exams at the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts. Failure, however, did not curb his determination. “The rejection I faced was a great motivator because it indirectly contributed to increasing my ambition and determination,” he shares. “Every rejection I encountered in my life made my ambition fiercer.”
His authenticity and love for work are two motivating factors that help him master every role he plays. He has played remarkable characters in theater, from Qa’idin Leih in 2005 and Yamama Beida in 2007 to Rais Jumhuryat Nafso in 2018, and many in-between. He has also starred in 16 films; among them Ramy Al-Eatssami (2008) and Hassal Khair (2012). He followed this with Qalb El-Asad in 2013, and a movie a year until 2019’s El-Kenz 2. “Each step took me to a bigger and more important role,” he says.
“All my work since my start on stage in 2005 with the late comedian Saeed Saleh has been important to my career.” It is impossible to write about Ramadan without dissecting “the thug” – the character he excels at portraying, to the point where it was said to be his real personality. However, the star defends himself, “The first person who was surprised by this character was my mother. I did not fight with any child when I was young, and even in my acting journey, I have never been involved in any quarrel with any colleague or person I worked with.” He continues, “A bad guy cannot change his behavior in his entire life.”
For Ramadan, acting has been a key first step towards entering the world of music, of which he has reached the top of the ladder, though he does not have a powerful singing voice. “There is an enormous difference between a real singer and me,” he concedes. “I do not have what it takes to be a real singer, but I do have the typical qualities of a singer,” he considers. The Egyptian star asserts that he sings to entertain his fans. His music is enjoyed at wedding parties and events, where songs like “Number One”, “Ensay” (with Saad Lamjarred), and “Bum Bum” are among the most popular, and 12.3 million people follow his YouTube channel, which has clocked 3.9 billion views.
At times, Ramadan has incited controversy – which is not entirely uninvited, he shares. “Historically, controversy is persistent with real stars. It is just normal and a sign of success. No debate, no success,” he says. His fashion choices have also sparked commentary. He notes that his outfit choices differ dramatically compared to what they were at the start of his career. “I try to choose pieces that resemble myself as an Egyptian, Arab, and African. Using diamonds reflects the African part of my character,” he explains. “At the beginning of my career, I was aiming to be an Egyptian artist, then I wanted to be an Arab artist who is well-known in MENA and the Gulf states. Later, my aim was to be an African-acknowledged star. I’m an Egyptian, Arab, and African artist. All my ambitions have been fulfilled. I need now for my name to shine in the rest of Africa. For that reason, I am working with the Congolese-French singer Maître Gims to be a celebrity across continents.”
Apart from acting, and contrary to the image that appears in public, Ramadan is a family man at heart. He credits the balance in his life to his wife, Nisreen. “Home is my anchor point. Without Nisreen, I lose balance.” In his house, you won’t find photos from his works on the walls, rewards, or any indication of his career. He keeps all that at his office. “My life at home is typical of any Egyptian man. I show my real personality to my family exclusively, while I prefer to hide it from fans. I am always keen to instill in my kids Haneen, Ali, and Kanez values of honesty, piety, national belonging, and family affiliation.” He does reveal, however, that his favorite hobby is owning and driving luxury cars. “I find myself in cars. I share similar characteristics with top famous cars. Their success can be summed up with three factors: speed, strength, and stability. These characteristics apply to me as a person.”
Another side to him is his commitment to charitable endeavors, especially the Ahl Masr Foundation and its important work with burn victims, and the Children’s Cancer Hospital Egypt 57357 – where he inaugurated a division under his parents’ names. He’s also participated in an anti-drugs campaign. “You cannot be a real artist unless you engage in social participation,” he asserts. “To me, 2020 was a year of challenges due to Covid-19, but I managed to overcome the circumstances. I created work and didn’t wait for it. I introduced some songs, including ‘Ya Habibi’ and ‘Coronavirus’ about the pandemic and its effects, and filmed a few ads.
For 2021, Ramadan hopes to achieve even more. He will participate in the Holy Month of Ramadan with Mousa, a series from director Mohamed Salama and writer Naser Abdul Rahman. He also plans to release the music video for “Versace Baby” over Eid. Another surprise for his fans is that he will be the first playable Arab character in the popular battle royale video game Free Fire. He is also preparing to work with Maître Gims on a music video and sign with a global firm to release his first album.
Thirty-two years have made a legend out of the inspiring Egyptian. The coming years will be filled with more than enough work to continue his success, with a guiding light Ramadan’s own words, “Trust in Allah, and success will surely come.”
Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2021 issue of Vogue Man Arabia
Hair: Mamdouh from Chez Richard Salon
Grooming: Mohamed Abdelhamid
Junior fashion editor: Mohammad Hazem Rezq
Photography assistant: Najla Said
Style assistants: Mohamed Ashraf, Engy Hassan, Habiba Rahouma
Creative producer: Amira Elraghy
On-set producer: Zeyad El Kadi
Off-set producer: Laura Prior
Assistant producer: Marwa El-Zomor
Business manager: Mahmoud Ramadan
Team leader: Hesham Abo El Naga
International assistant: Passant Morsy
Special thanks to St Regis Cairo