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Egyptian singer Sherine Abdel Wahab faces trial for saying Nile unfit to drink

Sherine Abdel Wahab's trial date has been set for 23 December on charges of 'harming the public interest'

Egyptian singer Sherine Abdel Wahab during a 2009 performance at the International Carthage festival in Tunisia (AFP)

Egyptian pop singer Sherine Abdel Wahab has been referred to trial for suggesting at a concert that drinking from the Nile River could lead to illness, judicial officials said Wednesday.

The singer's trial date has been set for 23 December, they said, on charges of "harming the public interest".

The announcement came after the Musicians Syndicate in Egypt said it would bar her from performing in the country after she made the remark at a concert in the United Arab Emirates.

Social media users had shared a video of a fan asking her to sing her tune "Have you drunk from the Nile".

"You'd get bilharzia," she said, referring to a water-borne parasite Egypt struggled for decades to combat. "Drink Evian, it's better," she joked, referring to a brand of bottled water.

Bilharzia is a parasitic disease endemic to Egypt caused by water contaminated with infected freshwater snails.

The Egyptian government launched a $10m campaign to eradicate the disease in 2016.

Her comments, the Musicians Syndicate said in a statement, constituted "unjustified ridicule toward our dear Egypt".

Lawyer Samir Sabry – known for his prosecution of citizens for breaching indecency laws - also told Egyptian television host Ahmed Moussa on Tuesday that he had brought a separate case against the singer, accusing her of “hurting the national economy, terrorising tourists and harming tourism,” reported the Guardian.

The lawsuits and public outcry led Egypt’s Radio and Television Union to place a blanket ban on playing any songs by the 37-year-old singer, considered one of the most popular in the Middle East.

Later, Abdel Wahab wrote on Facebook that the concert had taken place more than a year ago, apologising for the “silly joke”.

“When I saw [the video], I watched it as if this was happening in front of me for the first time,” she said.

"I don't recall saying that because of course I don't mean it, and it doesn't reflect my personal feelings towards my nation... I'm sorry," she said.

The charismatic singer topped the charts in the region before announcing her retirement last year, but has since gone back on her decision, much to the delight of fans. 

She has also been a judge on the regional version of reality talent show The Voice.