insight - Muna Wassef
Written by Heba Hashem Illustration by Rebekah Nichols
Muna Wassef is one of the first Arab stars to break the boundaries of conformity while achieving her dream of becoming a leading stage, film, and television actress
Today, the Syrian icon is widely recognised for the passion she portrays in her acting, the vast variety of roles undertaken, and her talent for acting in Classical Arabic, as used in literary texts and Islamic doctrines. In 2009 she starred in Bab Al Hara, the most-watched TV show in the Arab world.
Apart from receiving many other accolades, Muna Wassef – who is a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador – has been awarded the Syrian Order of Merit by Syrian President, Bashar Al-Assad.
Q. When did you discover you have a talent for acting? And how did your family and friends react when you decided to become an actress?
A. In the Sixties I was a rebel. At first they were very much against it, so I bided my time and did some fashion shows. After a while they respected my wishes.
Q. With your extensive repertoire, is there a particular role you would like to play?
A. I am a stage actress, using Classical Arabic in historical settings. I would very much like to portray a tragic historical figure, like Indira Gandhi.
Q. Have you considered acting in an Egyptian play with an Egyptian dialect?
A. No I haven’t, and no-one has offered me such a role. But if I like the script I’m willing to do it. I’m not very fluent in the Egyptian dialect and I’m not sure if the public will accept me!
Q. What do you think of the Middle East Film festival held recently in Abu Dhabi?
A. I wasn’t invited to this festival the past two years. But this year I was welcomed at the airport and I very much enjoyed the daily screenings and seminars, which were well organised.
Q. Why is it that, unlike most other actresses, you have never had plastic surgery?
A. I breathe art and not beauty – I don’t think I’m the most beautiful woman in the world, but my face has now become familiar, and a thinner nose will not make the public like me more!
Q. Where do you feel most at home?
A. I don’t feel safe and content except in my homeland, Syria. There are many other beautiful countries such as Algeria, Tunisia, and France. I also lived for a time in Germany, which I enjoyed very much.
Q. Where can we expect to see you next?
A. I’m not a producer so I don’t really know, but as a stage actress, maybe I’ll go back to live theatrical performances.