History is full of strange twists of fate, but the case of Narriman Sadek is an exceptional one. Her life was marked by short-lived periods of apparent happiness and long periods of oblivion and sadness. And it always seemed that destiny…external circumstances and other people decided the road of her life.
It all started in the last months of 1950 when King Farouk (recently divorced from his first wife, Queen Farida, who after three daughters, was unable to provide the long-awaited male heir to the Egyptian throne) met the 17-year-old Narriman Sadek in a jewellery shop in Cairo. There are many stories about their meeting, and nobody can know exactly how it happened, but the most likely version was that the King was visiting the jewellery shop that was owned by his uncle and at the same time, by sheer coincidence, Narriman was also there with her fiancé to choose her engagement ring.
The King was already on the lookout for a new wife that ideally would be Egyptian, from a good family but not necessarily from the aristocracy of the country. More importantly, she would be able to provide a son who one day will inherit the throne.
Narriman was pretty, healthy and her blood was one hundred percent Egyptian. And what the King wants, the King gets. The young lady broke off her previous engagement to a Harvard doctoral student named Zaki Hashem and was shortly sent to the Egyptian embassy in Rome to learn how to perform her royal duties. While in Rome she assumed the identity of the ambassador’s niece in order to hide the real purpose of her presence. At the embassy, she studied history, etiquette, and four European languages with the best available teachers. She was also put on a strict weight loss program.
In May 1951, she returned to Egypt and became Queen Narriman, following a lavish and extravagant wedding. Narriman wore a bridal gown embroidered with 20,000 diamonds and received lots of gifts. Although the Egyptian aristocracy didn’t really warm up to her and they continued to consider the King’s new wife just a pretty girl unfit to be Queen, Narriman did her duty.
On 16 January 1952, she gave birth to Prince Ahmed Fouad, the heir to the throne. Unfortunately, the birth of a healthy prince who would ensure the future of the Egyptian monarchy did not change its sad fate. Later that year, his father, King Farouk was forced to abdicate and leave the country. On paper, six-month-old Ahmed Fouad was King, but his symbolic reign will be cut short with the establishment of the Arab Republic of Egypt the following year.
The royal family went into exile. Narriman was increasingly uncomfortable and unhappy with her husband’s itinerant lifestyle and the rumours of countless extramarital relations. She asked for a divorce and returned to Egypt accompanied by her mother. The young prince had to stay with his father, and Narriman was granted permission to see her son only after two years and a lot of efforts.
On 3 May 1954, she married doctor Adham al-Nakib from Alexandria, whose grandfather was the personal physician of the royal family. They had a son, Akram and it seemed for a while that the former Queen of Egypt found her happiness leading a quiet life with her new family. Unfortunately, that was not to last. Times were difficult, and Narriman was still under a lot of pressure from the new regime in Cairo who would not let her forget her past. Her distress put a strain on the marriage, and they divorced in 1961.
She married for the third time in 1967 to doctor Ismail Fahmy who held the rank of a general of the Egyptian armed forces. Their marriage lasted for the rest of her life, and her husband protected the former queen from her own past. She lived in isolation in their flat in Heliopolis neighbourhood of Cairo. Narriman refused to write her memoirs, and apart from one or two interviews, she rejected any offers to talk about her past as a member of the royal family.
Narriman Sadek died in 2005 in Cairo, after a brain haemorrhage. She was Queen of Egypt only for two years, and she spent the rest of the life trying to cope with her past and trying to create a new beginning.