The timeless Egyptian icon did not just represent stardom or eclectic singing, but also the epitome of artistry and craft. Whether you listen to her timeless music, or simply know her name – her voice and image are famous the world over. 

This most renowned and beloved singer of the Arab world is nicknamed ‘Kawkab Al Sharq’ (Planet of The East)’ and ‘Egypt’s 4th Pyramid’,  showing the pride that Egyptians and Arabs as a whole found in her. This is perhaps best illustrated by her passing in 1975, her funeral was one of the largest public gatherings in recorded history, attended by millions who flooded the streets of Cairo, unleashing a never-seen-before wave of mourning in the capital. 

Her instantly recognizable look paralleled her regal stage presence throughout her performances. This unique style consisted of a hair-up do, a floor length gown, a silk scarf clutched in her hand, and signature dark sunglasses that she always wore while singing on stage to protect her against prolonged exposure to stage and studio lighting, as her performances could last up to 8 hours at a time. The old adage about being blinded by the lights springs to mind, perhaps this is something Oum Kulthoum sought to avoid.

Not many are aware that Oum Kulthoum (real name Fatima Albaltagi) was the daughter of an Imam of a local mosque outside Cairo. As a child, her father would dress her up as a boy whenever she would sing, that became unfeasible as she grew older and later moved to Cairo during the early 1920’s to pursue her calling. As her career progressed, her sense of style also developed and departed from her rural origins, forming into a sophisticated ensemble, that some say was first inspired by the fashion of the wealthy women whose houses she performed in during the early stages of her career. 

In 2009, pieces of her jewelry were auctioned for sky-high prices, and today a museum in Cairo has a collection of her dresses, gowns, and accessories on display and available to see in person. 

47 years after she departed the world, her everlasting legacy remains very much both heard and seen. A statue of her in her iconic dress, scarf and sunglasses stands tall in the capital, Cairo, close to where she lived in the area of Zamalek. Most recently, international supermodel Imaan Hammam launched a capsule eye-wear collection in collaboration with Moroccan label Port Tanger, inspired by and paying tribute to the singer’s unforgettable look.