Omar Sharif playing bridge – CC via Wikipedia
CAIRO – 10 July 2017: Born on April 10, 1932 in Alexandria, Egypt as Michel Dimitri Chalhoub, Omar Sharif was one of Egypt’s most prominent actors and one of the rare ones to make it big internationally as well. He is of Lebanese descent, but was born and bred in Egypt. His parents were of good social standards; his father in the wood business and his mother a notable society hostess who often hosted King Farouk to play cards.
Sharif realized his passion for acting at the tender age of 13 when he participated in his English boarding school’s theatre program. This horrified Sharif’s father, since it would stop his son from following his footsteps and becoming a timber merchant. Later, Sharif’s talent overtook all obstacles and he became a world-renowned actor.
Growing up, Sharif easily became multilingual, brought up by his French speaking mother and attending an English boarding school and Victoria College; he also became fluent in Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. After graduating from Cairo University with a mathematics and physics degree, Sharif attempted to follow in his father’s line of work but quickly receded and went on to London to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
In 1954, Sharif starred in The Desert’s Devil (Shaytan al-Saharaa), but his break out was the same year when he acted in Struggle in the Valley (Sira’ Fi al-Minaa) alongside his future wife Faten Hamama. Despite being born Catholic, Sharif converted to Islam and changed his name in order to marry Hamama.
Sharif managed to achieve international stardom in 1962 by acting in Lawrence of Arabia alongside Peter O’Toole. Thereafter, he kept his status as the foreign heartthrob by leading in films like Doctor Zhivago and Funny Girl; the latter film was the one to cause an outrage in Egypt against him due to his romance with his Jewish leading co-star Barbara Streisand. While the 60s were the best and busiest years of Sharif’s acting career, they were the ones to take a toll on his marriage with Hamama, leading in divorce.
His impeccable acting skills speak for themselves, but Sharif’s mastery of contract bridge also precedes him. He wrote books on contract bridge, his favorite game, and even created the Omar Sharif Bridge Circus. However, his addiction to gambling eventually caused him money troubles, which led to his acting in flops such as Che! for quick money and resulting in his downward spiral.
Living alone and with little money, Sharif spent his later days living in hotels in Paris and London, until he made a brief comeback with his role in the 2003 French film Monsieur Ibrahim. The film received positive reviews, and Sharif even won the audience award for Best Actor at the Venice Film Festival. Thereafter, he moved back to Egypt to spend his final days while struggling with Alzheimer’s disease.
Sharif passed away at the age of 83 due to a heart attack on July 10, 2015. In memory of Sharif, the Hanager Arts Center will be showing Sharif’s best films July 10-14. There are no entry fees, and the film will be followed by discussions about Sharif and the films. Film director Ashraf Fayek is supervising this film project.
The films’ schedule is as follows:
Love Rumor (Esha3et Hob) 10/7
Funny girl 11/7
There is a Man in our House (Fi Baytona Ragol) 12/7
Lawrence of Arabia 13/7
River of Love (Nahr El Hob) 14/7