Egyptian politician Gamal Abdel Nasser became one of the primary leaders of Egypt following the Egyptian Revolution of 1952.* He was elected president of the country on June 23, 1956.
A little more than a month after the election, on July 26, Nasser nationalized the 120-mile Suez Canal. Up to that point, the canal had been controlled jointly by Britain and France. Nasser did this in response to the U.S. and Britain withdrawing their offers to help finance the construction of the Aswan Dam, which was part of Nasser’s plan to improve Egypt’s economy and thereby modernize the country.
In late October and early November, forces from Israel, France, and Great Britain invaded Egypt. But the aggression was opposed by much of the rest of the world, including both the U.S. and the Soviet Union, and the three invading countries were pressured to withdraw from Egypt over the following weeks and months.
So, Gamal Nasser emerged victorious from the Suez Crisis. (It was now “clear that the old colonial powers, Great Britain and France, had been supplanted as the world’s preeminent geopolitical forces by the United States and Soviet Union.”) And in 1957, both Gamal and Nasser saw enough usage as baby names to debut on the U.S. baby name charts:
Usage of Gamal
Usage of Nasser
13 baby boys
6 baby boys
8 baby boys
7 baby boys
9 baby boys [debut]
7 baby boys [debut]
Many of these early Gamals and Nassers were born in New York and Illinois — likely New York City and Chicago specifically — and could therefore be babies born into Egyptian-American families.
But did you know that several long-ago royal couples from a very different region of the world gave similar boosts to a handful of Arabic baby names in the U.S. — as far back as the 1930s?
In January of 1938, 17-year-old King Farouk of Egypt married 16-year-old Farida Zulficar in Cairo. LIFE made Farida a cover girl in February. The magazine even correctly defined her name as “unique” in the accompanying story.
Right on cue, the baby name Farida appeared for the first time in the U.S. baby name data:
1938: 6 baby girls named Farida [debut]
The name dropped off the charts the next year, but returned a few decades later. These days, dozens of U.S. babies are named Farida every year.
Interestingly, Farida Zulficar’s first name at birth was not Farida. It was Safinaz. (The components safi and naz mean “pure” and “pride” in Arabic.)
Why the name change? Because Farouk’s father Fuad had decided that all members of the royal family should have identical initials (to match his initials, naturally). Hence, the five children he had with his second wife were named Farouk, Fawzia, Faiza, Faika, and Fathia. To fit the pattern, Safinaz’s name was changed to Farida before her marriage to Farouk.
Farouk and Farida went on to have three F-named daughters — Ferial, Fawzia, and Fadia — before divorcing a decade later. Several years after that, Farouk was deposed.
Do you like the name Farida? Do you like it more or less than Safinaz?
Yesterday I discovered the “Asian Name Pronunciation Guide,” which was created by California State Polytechnic University (Pomona) to help its students “more accurately pronounce some common Asian first and last names.” What a cool thing for the school to make available.