Khalid Abdalla

Khalid Abdalla (Arabic: خالد عبد الله, Khālid ‘Abd Allāh; born 26 October 1980) is a British Egyptian actor and activist. He came to international prominence after starring in the 2006 Academy Award-nominated and BAFTA-winning film, United 93. Written and directed by Paul Greengrass, it chronicles events aboard United Airlines Flight 93, which was hijacked as part of the September 11 attacks. Abdalla played Ziad Jarrah, the pilot and leader of the four hijackers on board the flight. He starred as Amir in The Kite Runner and acted with Matt Damon in Green Zone, his second film with director Paul Greengrass. Abdalla appears as himself in Jehane Noujaim's documentary on the ongoing Egyptian revolution, The Square, which won the Audience Award at Sundance Festival in 2013.[1][2]

Khalid Abdalla
Born (1980-10-26) 26 October 1980
ResidenceLondon, England, UK
EducationKing's College School
Alma materQueens' College, Cambridge
OccupationActor/media activist
Years active2005present
Spouse(s)Cressida Trew (m. 2011)

Abdalla is on the board of the National Student Drama Festival. In 2011, Abdalla became one of the founding members of the Mosireen Collective in Cairo: a group of revolutionary filmmakers and activists dedicated to supporting citizen media across Egypt in the wake of Mubarak's fall.[3] Three months after it began, Mosireen became the most watched non-profit YouTube channel in Egypt of all time, and in the whole world in January 2012.[4]

Early life

Abdalla was born in Glasgow, Scotland, to Egyptian parents, and was brought up in London.[5][6] Abdalla's father and grandfather were well-known anti-regime activists in Egypt. His parents were both physicians who immigrated to the UK before he was born.[7]

Abdalla was educated at King's College School, an independent school for boys in Wimbledon in South West London and his classmates included actor Ben Barnes and comedian Tom Basden.[8] He became interested in acting after becoming involved in his school's thriving drama scene. In 1998, he directed a production of Someone Who'll Watch Over Me by Frank McGuinness, which ended up having a successful run at the Edinburgh Festival and earned five stars in The Scotsman newspaper,[9] making him the youngest director to receive this accolade.

After spending a gap year travelling around the Middle East, Abdalla went on to Queens' College, Cambridge where he read English.[10] He was active in the student drama scene alongside the likes of contemporaries Rebecca Hall and Dan Stevens.[11] He was a joint winner with Cressida Trew, his future wife, of the Judges' Award for Acting at the National Student Drama Festival for his performance in Bedbound by Enda Walsh.[12]


In 2003, Abdalla played the title role in Christopher Marlowe's Tamburlaine the Great at the Rose Theatre. This was the inaugural production of Peter Hall's Canon's Mouth Theatre Company composed of "young actors intent on discovering a new voice for the great metaphorical dramas of the Renaissance".[13]

Abdalla's first screen role was in a 2005 episode of Spooks entitled Infiltration of a New Threat.

In 2006, Abdalla made his Hollywood debut in United 93, a film about the September 11 attacks, and garnered critical acclaim for his portrayal of Ziad Jarrah.[14] He was cast in the lead role of the film The Kite Runner. In preparation for that role, he spent time in Kabul learning Dari Persian and kite-flying.[15]

In 2008, Abdalla appeared as Guy Pringle in the BBC Radio 4 adaptation of Fortunes of War. He starred as Freddy in Green Zone with Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass.[16]

In 2009-10, Abdalla produced and acted in the independent Egyptian film In the Last Days of the City, directed by Tamer El Said, and currently in post-production.

In November 2010, Abdalla was awarded special recognition for achievements in cinema at the Cairo International Film Festival.

In 2011, he was narrator in documentary film East to West, also known as The River Flows Westward.[17][18][19]

In 2016, he appeared as Muhammad XII of Granada in the film Assassin's Creed.

Personal life

In January–February 2011, Abdalla was among protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt in the major protests against the Hosni Mubarak regime.[20] He also appeared on Wolf Blitzer on CNN on 9 February 2011 and Anderson Cooper [21] to reflect his views on the protest. He continues to be active in Egypt.[22]

In 2011 Abdalla became one of the founding members of the Mosireen Collective in Cairo: a group of revolutionary filmmakers and activists dedicated to supporting citizen media across Egypt in the wake of Mubarak's fall.[3] Mosireen films the ongoing revolution, publishes videos that challenge state media narratives, provides trainings and equipment and screenings and holds an extensive library of footage. At three months old, Mosireen became the most watched non-profit YouTube channel in Egypt of all time, and in the whole world in January 2012.[3][23]

In September 2011, Abdalla married his long-time girlfriend, Cressida Trew.


2005Spooks (series 4)Yazdi
2006United 93Ziad Jarrah
Cannes 2006: Crónica de Carlos Boyero himself
2007Hush Your MouthJJ Farouk
The Kite RunnerAmir Qadiri
Secret's Out himself
2008Cinema 3 himself
2010Green ZoneFreddy
2011East To Westnarrator
Al AlamaynMahmoud
Une arme de choix himself
2013The Squarehimself
2014Narrow Frame of MidnightZacaria
2016Our Kind of TraitorLuke
1001 Inventions and the World of Ibn Al-HaythamIbn Al-Haytham (voice)
2016In the Last Days of the CityKhalid El-Said
Assassin's CreedMuhammad XII of Granada
2017Birds Like UsBat (voice)


  1. Zeitchik, Steven (24 January 2013). "Sundance 2013: In Egypt doc 'The Square,' a new kind of muckraking - Los Angeles Times". Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  2. Felperin, Leslie (23 February 2013). "Variety Default Web Image 640×360 (16:9) | Variety". Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  3. "About Mosireen |". Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  4. "Egyptian citizen journalism 'Mosireen' tops YouTube - Media - Egypt - Ahram Online". 20 January 2012. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  5. Barkham, Patrick (10 December 2007). "Patrick Barkham - talks to actor Khalid Abdalla - 'To screw it up would be offensive'". London: The Guardian.
  6. "KCS Newsletter - Khalid Abdalla returns to King's" (PDF). 2011. p. 13.
  7. "Island". Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  8. "Thinking the unthinkable wins accolades" (PDF). Cambridge Alumni News. 2006. p. 4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 July 2013.
  9. "Rebecca Hall takes the lead". London: Daily Telegraph. 29 October 2011.
  10. Wilkinson, Chris (16 December 2007). "Why student theatre matters". London: The Guardian.
  11. "Wayback Machine". 10 December 2008.
  12. Horn, John (26 April 2006). "Do they really want the part?". Los Angeles Times.
  13. "Thirty years of kites, weddings and funerals in Afghanistan". 23 December 2007. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  14. "Khalid Abdalla: My acts of defiance - Features, Film & TV". London: The Independent.
  15. "Cast - East to West: Series". Archived from the original on 14 May 2013. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  16. "The River Flowing Westward Exhibition". MEDAM | CIVILIZATION STUDIES CENTER. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  17. "East to West". SBS: Documentary. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
  18. "Khalid Abdalla: 'Fight for noble ideals will continue'". BBC News. 3 February 2011.
  19. "Lies & Brutality Of Mubarak's Regime: Anderson Cooper & Egyptian Actor Khalid Abdalla Discuss". YouTube. 8 February 2011. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  20. "Revolution is the only way to save Egypt | Khalid Abdalla | Comment is free". London: 25 April 2013. Retrieved 2 September 2013.
  21. Mackey, Robert (4 November 2012). "Crowdfunding Citizen Journalism in Cairo". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
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