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Regal Facts About Queen Narriman, The Cinderella Of The Nile

Mehroo S.

Every girl may dream of becoming a princess someday, but dreams don’t always come true. And if they do, they don’t necessarily guarantee a happy ending. Narriman Sadeq’s story was Cinderella-like: She was a commoner who became queen. However, her time on the throne didn’t last for too long, and neither did her marriage to the king. So, what happened? And what was Narriman’s journey from commoner to queen, and back to commoner, like? Buckle up as we take you on a ride through her life.


Queen Narriman Facts

1. She Was A Beloved Daughter

Narriman Sadeq was born in 1933 to Hussain Fahmi Saqiq Bey and Asila Kamil. The couple delighted at their daughter’s birth, as they had sadly lost some babies in miscarriages. They named their little girl Narriman, which meant “beautiful, fascinating, vivacious spirit.” Even at birth, our girl Narriman had a lot to live up to…

2. She Was Beautiful

Narriman’s childhood years were peaceful and calm. But after finishing her schooling, her life kicked into high gear. You see, by this time, Narriman was a total catch—and she began to draw the eyes of eligible young men all over Egypt. After all, who wouldn’t want to marry a beautiful, young girl, the only child of a well-to-do family?

3. Men Adored Her

There was no dearth of suitors for young Narriman, but her father wanted to choose someone well-educated who would take care of his little girl. He ended up choosing a young lawyer, studying for his doctorate at Harvard, called Zaki Hashim. Narriman’s engagement to Hashim took place when she was just 16, but her heart wasn’t in the match. And for a strange reason too.

4. She Didn’t Like “Small” Men

You can’t blame a 16-year-old for being attracted to tall, dark, and handsome men rather than nerdy doctors—and Narriman was no different. She didn’t find her new beau attractive, specifically shading him for being short. In a salty dig, she referred to her betrothed as the “small Zaki Hashim” and compared him unfavorably to a “small school teacher.” However, there might have been another, more reasonable motive for her

5. She Liked Someone Else

It isn’t common knowledge, but it is possible that Narriman had feelings for someone else. She may have had a crush on one of her classmates named Salah Shaarawi. Instead of a short doctor, he was a good-looking officer—equal in rank to a captain—when he asked Narriman’s uncle to test the waters with her parents and see if they’d let him marry their daughter.

Unfortunately for the young lovebirds, this did not go well…

6. She Faced Heartbreak

Narriman liked Shaarawai and he belonged to a good family. She probably figured that her parents would be overjoyed to see her married to him—but she was wrong. Both her parents rejected Shaarawi and stumped for her vertically-challenged suitor, Hashim. Hmm. A young, beautiful girl stuck in a loveless engagement. What could go wrong there?

7. She Caught The King’s Eye

Look, it’s easy to see that Narriman’s engagement wasn’t going well—but the events that led to it ending? No one could have predicted those. Like something out of a fairy tale, teenage Narriman somehow ensnared the freaking King of Egypt. According to King Farouk, someone showed him a picture of Narriman and he was immediately smitten, specifically with her “gentle” and “friendly” eyes.

8. She Had To Meet Some Expectations

Narriman entered King Farouk’s life three years after he divorced Farida, his wife and queen of ten years. The reason Farouk gave for the divorce was Farida’s unfaithfulness and inability to give him an heir: He had three daughters, but like every other king in the history of the world, he wanted a son. However, King Farouk wasn’t just looking for a baby-maker.

He had certain other expectations that his bride-to-be had to fulfill…

9. She Was All The King Wanted

For starters, King Farouk was looking for a purely Egyptian bride, who had no Turkish or Syrian ancestors. Apart from that, his new wife also had to be Muslim, a virgin, and, in an effort to curry favor with his people, she should not belong to the aristocracy. Well, 16-year-old Narriman certainly fit the bill. And for bonus points, she was also beautiful, polite, and charming. It seemed like a perfect match. Emphasis on “seemed.”

10. Their First Meeting Was A Hit

Narriman and Farouk’s first meeting was…awkward, to say the least. They were introduced at a jewellery store, where Farouk was browsing and where, get this, Narriman had come with her fiancé to pick out an engagement ring (!). While sources differ on the details of their meet-ugly, the fact remains that the king saw Narriman and decided then and there to make her his queen.

And what of Narriman’s poor fiancé you ask? Oof, strap in.

11. She Broke Her Engagement

Farouk sent his proposal to Narriman’s father, who felt shocked and extremely dismayed. But wait, you say, who wouldn’t want their daughter to marry a King? Well, Farouk wasn’t exactly winning any popularity contests. Plus, he had a bit of a reputation as a womanizer. Despite these warning signs, he was the king, so Narriman’s dad gave in and told Hashim to buzz off.

12. Her Father Was Afraid

Narriman’s dad was right to be less than enthusiastic about his daughter’s new fiancé. He consulted with people he trusted, and they also advised him against the marriage. He realized he was caught between a rock and a hard place: He didn’t want his daughter to marry the king and suffer, but he knew he couldn’t stay in Egypt and reject the king’s offer. So he came up with a desperate plan.

13. He Wanted To Protect Her

Narriman’s father figured that the only way he could save his daughter from the marriage was by running away from Egypt with her. He went as far as booking a flight out of the country. However, his family and friends warned him not to invoke the king’s ire by carrying out the plan. The poor man had to suffer in silence. Then, in a heartbreaking turn of events, his health gave way soon after Farouk sent his proposal.

14. He Did Not Live for Too Long

Narriman rejoiced at the prospect of becoming queen, though she did feel bad that her father was unhappy with her upcoming nuptials. She didn’t have to worry about his disapproval for long though, as he was unable to handle the stress and passed long after agreeing to the match. Farouk turned up to give his condolences, but in Very Bad Fiancé Behavior 101, didn’t stick around to comfort his young fiancé.

Already depressed at losing her father, Narriman began to worry that the King had lost interest in her.

15. Farouk Charmed Her

Narriman was wrong. The King still wanted to marry her—he was just an insensitive jerk when it came to parents kicking the bucket. Instead of emotional support, he showed that he cared by talking to Narriman on the phone, sending romantic letters in French (despite the fact that Narriman couldn’t read the language), and piling roses into his fiancée’s mailbox.

Looking back, these were good days for Narriman and King Farouk. Later on, she remembered that her royal fiancé would listen to her talk when he called her on the phone (high bar, Narriman!) and would insist on hearing her opinions. He made her feel like “everything [she] said was useful for him and [had] meaning.” Well, for now, at least…

16. She Went To Europe

Narriman had to prepare to become queen, and Farouk insisted that the only way to do that was by traveling to Europe and learning about etiquette and culture. Just after she turned 17, Narriman left Egypt and went to Rome with her uncle, where she received classes in history, royal etiquette, languages, tact, and music.

17. She Was Famous

While in Europe, Narriman received the nickname that would define her time as Queen. The teenage soon-to-be royal was called “The Cinderella of the Nile” because of her rags to riches story. But don’t get it twisted: Narriman’s time abroad was far from a fairy tale. 

18. She Was Under Pressure

One of the king’s stipulations for Narriman was decidedly unromantic. He wanted her to lose weight before the wedding. Her diet in Rome accordingly helped her achieve her fiancé’s desired weight of 110lbs. Farouk, meanwhile, weighed around 300. Girls, take note: If he has issues with the way you look, just dump him. Even if he happens to be king.

19. Her Wedding Was Unforgettable

Naturally Narriman had a wedding ceremony fit for a queen. The king’s forces marked the day with celebrations on ground, in air, and on sea. There were parades, fireworks, dances, and songs to make it an event to remember. A convoy of Cadillacs and Rolls-Royces brought the bride to the ceremony, traveling through heart-shaped pink neon arches, embellished with F & N for Farouk and Narriman.

20. Her Dress Stole The Show

Narriman’s dress was an absolute stand out—and for good reason. Seamstresses delicately sewed a stunning 20,000 diamonds sewn onto the fabric. And that wasn’t all. It seems like Narriman couldn’t decide whether she preferred diamonds or pearls—so she decided to have both. The queen wore an extravagant crown of pearls on her newly-royal head.

But after the glamorous wedding, everything changed.

21. The King Pampered Her

In his own words, the king wanted to make sure he didn’t make the same mistakes with Narriman, as he had with Farida—his first wife. I’m assuming one of those was not taking her on a long honeymoon, because he took Narriman on a three-month long vacation along the French Riviera. He would also buy her gifts everyday from money he “earned” by gambling.

Unfortunately, the King didn’t tell Narriman the truth about all those presents. You see, Farouk wasn’t the best gambler. He was actually losing far more money than he was winning. If you’re thinking that the king doesn’t sound like the wisest, most responsible person you know, you’ve got it right.

22. She Came Back To Egypt

While still on her extended honeymoon, Narriman woke up feeling dizzy and nauseous. King Farouk was certain that this meant his wife was pregnant. Clearly thirsty for a male heir, King Farouk immediately had his royal passenger ship transport his wife back home. Nine months later, Farouk go what we desired most: A son.

23. She Did Her Duty

Crown Prince Ahmed Fuad was born in January 1952, a month before the due date, and only eight months after Narriman had wed the king. An over the moon Farouk spent the early days lavishing attention on his son and wife. The king now had everything he wanted: a beautiful young wife and an heir to the throne. But things were going to change. And soon.

24. She Didn’t Marry A King Of Hearts

Farouk inherited his father’s title and throne at the young age of 16, mere months after he left the palace to study in England. Upon his father’s passing, he returned to Egypt to fulfill his duties as king, but he had no experience of what that entailed, and no understanding of how to win his people’s hearts. Although Egyptians wanted to think kindly of Farouk, he began to lose favor once the people realized he only cared about himself and his own hedonistic lifestyle.

Well, shortly after the birth of his son, Farouk’s past finally caught up to him.

25. Her Fairy Tale Started To Collapse

Remember how Narriman liked the King more than her old fiancé because of his tall stature? Well, King Farouk’s appeal was beginning to dwindle. After the wedding, the King put on weight and began to lose his hair. Once the glamor of becoming queen had expired, Narriman became “bored” of the royal lifestyle and increasingly uninterested in her hubby.

26. He Made Bad Decisions

Being an idealistic teenager, Narriman had imagined that Farouk was sincerely committed to bettering his people’s lives. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. He seemed oblivious to his country’s poverty. His decisions made the poor even poorer and often benefitted the rich and corrupt. As though that wasn’t bad enough, Farouk also invoked everyone’s ire because of his own lavish lifestyle.

Brace yourselves as the worst part is coming up…

27. He Was Very Greedy

As if those weren’t big enough problems to grapple with, Farouk had also made a fatal mistake. His people were embroiled in a huge fight to defend Palestine from Israeli fighters. However, his forces failed miserably—for a truly sickening reason. Their weapons were shoddy, because Farouk had cheaped out and given them substandard ones…so that he could keep a cut of the budget for himself. WHAT A GUY.

28. He Wasn’t Faithful

But there could have been another heartbreaking reason for Narriman’s misery. Her husband was an incorrigible flirt and playboy. He was always in the international tabloids for his sordid affairs, and though the Egyptian media could not print anything at home, these things don’t remain secret for long. Had Narriman discovered the truth before she had her son?

29. He Had To Leave

Clearly this king was winning no popularity contests, so the disgruntled officers decided to take matters into their own hands. They planned a coup and overthrew Farouk’s center of power in Cairo. At the time, he was (of course) neglecting the throne to picnic in Alexandria with his family. Farouk tried in vain to get the USA or Britain to intervene on his behalf.

But all they helped him get was a safe exit so that his son wouldn’t grow up with too-terrible memories.

30. Narriman Remained Loyal

You may have thought that Narriman would seize this chance to leave the king, but you’d be wrong. She stayed with her husband during this dark time, sailing into exile in Italy with Farouk, their son, and the king’s daughters from his previous marriage. It was a selfless act, but let’s be real. We all know this won’t end well…

31. She Had Enough

Instead of repenting his past actions and appreciating Narriman for standing by him, Farouk continued his hedonistic lifestyle of splurging and womanizing all the time. But the worst part: He hurt his bride, both emotionally and physically, several times. After this, Narriman realized that nothing would change. The royal couple separated and soon, the young queen asked for a divorce.

Sadly, this wouldn’t be the end of Narriman’s trials.

32. She Came Back To Egypt

By this time, Egypt had abolished monarchy and become a republic. The new government, perhaps realizing that Narriman was a young victim of a powerful man, was happy to welcome Narriman back to live with her mother again. But though she’d left her past in Italy, it wouldn’t be easy for her to move on and pretend that her disastrous marriage to King Farouk had never happened.

33. She Met A Handsome Stranger

A few months after she returned to Egypt, Narriman visited an old friend from court, who was the daughter of the king’s private doctor. This friend decided to play Cupid and introduce her friend to her brother, Dr. Adham Al-Nakeeb. Narriman was very impressed by the handsome young doctor, who was practicing in a hospital after studying abroad.

Did this mean that Narriman would finally find happiness with a much better man?

34. She Fell In Love Again

The young couple didn’t waste much time on courtship and got married just a few months after Narriman’s divorce from Farouk came through in 1954. Based on pictures from the wedding, Narriman was overjoyed with her new husband. Soon enough, she even gave birth to her second child. Unfortunately, these happy times didn’t last for too long.

35. Her Heart Broke

Although Adham was a good man, he found it wasn’t easy to live with a woman with so much emotional baggage. There are conflicting reports on why Narriman’s second marriage broke down. One of these is that she hadn’t left her taste for luxury behind and found it frustrating to live in a budget. But according to some sources, the real reason was much darker. 

36. Her Past Was A Problem

According to Narriman’s second son, the Egyptian government began to rethink their warm welcome to ex-Queen Narriman. Instead of accepting her, they made life difficult for the new couple by trying her new husband for trumped-up offenses and forbidding him from practicing medicine. These stressful circumstances affected Narriman’s new marriage enormously.

Aaaand things only got worse from there.

37. Her Hubby Lashed Out

Narriman and the doctor simply couldn’t see eye to eye. She would travel to faraway places like Switzerland, while he would file lawsuits demanding that she come home and behave like an “obedient” wife. At one point, Narriman made it clear that she wanted to split—only for her husband to publish their dirty laundry in a newspaper. He printed a notice declaring that he’d never submit to a divorce. Yikes.

38. Her Marriage Didn’t Last

After living together for ten years, Narriman and her second husband Dr. Adham eventually decided there was no point in prolonging an unhappy marriage. Their differences had increased over time, and neither was happy with the other. They finalized the divorce agreement in 1964. Narriman’s son stayed with his mother until he was legally old enough to live with his father.

39. She Met Another Man

Narriman was living in a quiet neighborhood villa when she fell ill and needed some blood tests. Her cousin asked a doctor friend to visit her and get the samples. This friend was Dr. Ismail Fahmi, a major doctor in the army. Well, he went and Cupid struck. The ex-queen’s beauty and charm greatly impressed Fahmi. But was Narriman ready for another relationship after two disastrous marriages?

40. Would She Find True Love?

Fahmi didn’t wait too long to pop the question to Narriman. Perhaps because she thought he was different, or maybe she was lonely and wanted companionship, whatever the reason, she didn’t wait too long to accept either. The couple married quietly, with only family present, in 1967. Thankfully, it appears that for Narriman, the third time was the charm.

41. She Shied Away From The Public Eye

After living in the public eye for the whole time she’d been engaged and married to Farouk, and even initially after she’d left him and come back to Egypt, you can’t really blame Narriman for wanting to ditch the paps and keep her life private. She clearly wanted to avoid any spotlight on her third marriage too. You can’t blame her, and seems like she had the right idea since her third marriage lasted until the longest.

42. Her Husband Cared For Her

Narriman really succeeded in keeping her life private after she married Dr. Fahmi. There is no account of her marriage, and neither she nor Fahmi talked to the press or to anyone who would blab. It does seem though that she was happy and Fahmi genuinely cared for her well-being. Sadly, Narriman’s troubles didn’t end, despite her loving husband. 

Just two years later, she got terribly sick. It turned out that there was severe internal bleeding in her brain. Doctors were afraid whether it could result in permanent damage.

43. She Had To Go Away For Treatment

Luckily for Narriman, her doctors diagnosed the problem in time and Fahmi took her to Paris for her treatment. She recovered after a major surgery, though doctors told her there would be some lasting effects. One of those was that she could not conceive again, as pregnancy would be fatal. Sadly, Narriman would never have children with the only husband who truly loved her.

44. The Surgery Affected Her Personality

Such a huge surgery was sure to have other effects too. Narriman continued to suffer from hypertension until the end, and she would also get frequent headaches. She would also lose her temper on little things. In spite of these little setbacks, she managed to live a comfortable life with Fahmi.

45. She Didn’t Want To Give Interviews

You can’t have a queenly past and not have stories to tell. Journalists and writers constantly hounded Narriman to share snippets from her past by writing her memoirs or agreeing to interviews. She remained firm until the end though and closed the door on all such offers. Except for one interview, recorded close to the time of her passing.

46. Her Last Interview Is Heartbreaking

Unfortunately, when Narriman finally accepted an interview request, the journalist seemed much more interested in her ex-husband than Narriman herself. Eventually, the poor woman simply asked, “We have spoken much about King Farouk…What about Narriman?” Perhaps that sums her life best: People remembered her as Farouk’s second wife although she only lived two out of her 75 years in the world with him.

47. She Worsened

Even though she’d lived almost completely isolated from the world after her third marriage, she hardly left the house during the last three years of her life. The reason was mostly physical: She fell in the bathroom and broke her leg in 2002. Two years later, towards the end of 2004, she got pneumonia and had to stay in the hospital for a few weeks.

48. Her Story Came To A Sudden End

She did come home after she got better, but not for long. A few months later she went into a coma and never woke up. After ten days in the hospital, she passed on February 16, 2005, at the age of 75.

49. She Gave Up A Lot

Though her time with Farouk was incredibly short, it haunted Narriman for the rest of her life—all because of the terrible choice he forced her to make: He agreed to a divorce—on the condition that their son stayed with him. She could either stay with her cruel husband and see her baby son, or she could leave the King—and abandon her child.

It may have broken her heart, but Narriman stayed firm in her decision. Perhaps she hoped Farouk would relent, or the law would help her see the child regularly. Unfortunately, she couldn’t have been more wrong.

50. Things Didn’t Go Her Way

Once she left Farouk, Narriman couldn’t go see her son. The ex-king only permitted her to meet him in 1955, two long, painful years after she’d left the child in Italy. Poor Narriman, she really picked the wrong guy.

51. She Tried To Make Amends

Narriman was unable to be present in her sons’ lives in the traditional way, but she tried to be there for them as best she could. Prince Fuad admitted that he blamed her for leaving him in infancy, though he should have directed the blame to his father. Narriman came to see him when Farouk allowed her to. She was a part of his wedding too.

52. Is She Remembered?

One question remains: Have Egyptians truly honored Narriman’s tragic legacy? In 2010, her son, Akram Al Naqib, claimed they had not. He did admit, however, that there had been a recent interest in that era of history and stated that he hoped that would mean that Narriman would finally receive the recognition that she should have gotten during her lifetime.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15


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