Karim Shukry's Take Me Back To Cairo

Posted July 13th, 2012 at 7:34 pm (UTC+0)


Take Me Back To Cairo album cover

Take Me Back To Cairo

Diaa Bekheet | Washington, DC – The name Karim Shukry  may not strike a chord with Westerners, but he was popular in Egypt and the Arab world in the early 1960s. When I heard that Shukry, a Canadian-Egyptian singer, composer and film producer died last May,  I was filled with nostalgia.

I recall his hit song, “Take Me Back To Cairo”.  Shukry was one of the talented, popular Egyptian entertainers who pioneered Anglo-Arab and Franco-Arab music in the early 1960s. I grew up listening to “Take Me Back To Cairo”. I was impressed by its bilingual  (English-Arabic) lyrics  mixed with  modern Western and Egyptian classical tunes.  For me,  the song’s lyrics and instrumentation evoke strong emotions. I admit that my heart skips a beat when I watch a video clip of the song, which has become an anthem for the Egyptian diaspora.

The gorgeous imagery of the lyrics aside, the song instantly transports me back to the summer of 1970 when I first heard it, having moved more than 6,000 miles away from my beloved native land. Now, I can’t hear it without being transported back to my childhood and the good times with friends whom I miss dearly.

One of the reasons “Take Me Back To Cairo” became a hit in Egypt was its mix, which incorporates the segments of a popular Egyptian folk song called “ Ya Nakhleteen fel Allali”.  The song sparked passion and fascination in the hearts and minds of a whole generation of Egyptians. Several other Egyptian artists have released their own versions of the song, including popular pop and jazz singer Samir El-Eskandarany, whose album remained at the top of the Egyptian radio charts for several months.

Born in Cairo in 1933 as Jean Zaloum, Karim Shukry (his stage name), worked in the shipping and booking department for MGM in Cairo when he was 16. He devoted himself to the movie and entertainment industry in Egypt, and maintained good relations and close contacts with some of Hollywood’s biggest stars who traveled to Egypt to work on such films as Valley of the Kings and Cleopatra. His dedication earned him higher positions in MGM’s publicity and public relations departments and later, as 20th Century Fox’s publicity and operations manager for the entire Middle East.

Shukry grew up also listening to classical Arabic and Western music, and became a singer and composer himself.  But his singing career was short-lived in Egypt, because he had to move to Canada in 1965.  At the time, the nusic scene was dominated by big names like Umm Kulthoum, Abdel Wahab and thenightingale” and actor Abdel Halim Hafez.

Shukry later earned respect as a film distributor and producer in Montreal. He also worked as a distributor in Canada for Paramount Pictures. Eventually, he started to produce his own films, including the Quebec box office hits Après Ski (1971) and Les Beaux Dimanches (1974). Years later,  he teamed with his son Alain, then a young director, and produced the films Canvas (1992), Suspicious Minds (1997) Promise Her Anything (1999) C’est Pas Moi, C’est L’Autre (2004) and Nouvelle France (2004). On his last trip to Egypt in 2005, Shukry was honored at the Cairo International Film Festival, and presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by screen legend Omar Sharif.


Music & Lyrics by Karim Shukry
Arranged by Andre Ryder, an acclaimed Egyptian score writer

Take me back to Cairo
Beside the river Nile
My heart belongs to Cairo, Oh Cairo
Where I have found my smile

Take me back to Cairo
Beneath the silver moon
I left my heart in Cairo, Oh Cairo
The day I heard this tune

يا نخلتين فى العلالى يا بلحهم داوا
يا نخلتين على نخلتين هما الاتنين طرحوا سوا

I have been yearning to go back and see my darling
And still remember the big gardens in the sun
How can I stay away so long, my heart is burning
Please take me back I want to be near my dear one

Take me back to Cairo
I’ve been away so long
I must return to Cairo, Oh Cairo
Again to hear that song

There is a saying that came out from the Sahara
That if you ever taste the water of the Nile
You will return again I heard it from Samara
Although you may be far away many a mile

Take me back to Cairo
Beneath the silver moon
I left my heart in Cairo, Oh Cairo
The day I heard this tune

Eternal sunshine winter, summer any season
Go there and hear the Sphinx he’s talking every night
And oriental tunes they play and for a reason
They must be celebrating someone’s wedding night

Take me back to Cairo
I’m sad and never smile
I must go back to Cairo, Oh Cairo
Just once again
to see the Nile

Take oh take me,
Take oh take me,
Take oh take me back
To Cairo

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Diaa Bekheet
Diaa Bekheet has worked for a host of media outlets, including Radio Cairo in English, ETV News, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) and the Associated Press. He joined VOA in Feb. 1989 as an International Broadcaster, hosting a variety of popular news and entertainment shows such as Newshour, Radio Ride Across America, Business Week, and Jazz Club USA. He has interviewed a number of Jazz celebrities, including the legendary Dizzy Gillespie, Ramsey Lewis, Wayne Shorter, and George Benson. Diaa is currently an editor for our main English site, VOAnews.com.

4 responses to “Karim Shukry's Take Me Back To Cairo”

  1. […] the original post here:  Karim Shukry’s Take Me Back To Cairo – Voice of America (blog)Share this on del.icio.usDigg this!Stumble upon something good? Share it on StumbleUponShare this on […]

  2. Jual BB Murah says:

    It’s a nice song. I also miss Cairo anyway 🙂

  3. Easter Bradly says:

    Excellent work indeed. Any of them would look great in a nice frame, on a wall. I don’t think it’s the kind of thing that looks as good on a screen. For simple me, those first impressions signal it as art more than anything I could be told about it. Love to see the ones that didn’t make the final cut.



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