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Arts and Cultures


Omar Sharif: An Arab Legend

Hasan A. Yahya

One of the leading few legendary actors in Arab cinema, was Omar al-Sharif (born Michael Demitri Shalhoub; April 10, 1932) is an Egyptian actor who has starred in many Hollywood films. He is most famous for his roles in Doctor Zhivago, Funny Girl and Lawrence of Arabia. Sharif has been nominated for an Academy Award and has won a Golden Globe.

In his time, two other famous actors: Rushdie Abazah, and Ahmad Ramzi were rising together as young graduates from Alexandaria school. He was the selected Arab person to join Hollywood. Sharif was fluent in three languages: Arabic, English, and French. And later he has knowledge of some Italian, and Spanish.

As of his personal life, he was born Michael Shalhoub in Alexandria, Egypt, to Egyptian Catholic parents. In a 4 September 2009 television program on Nile Cinema, Omar specifically denied published claims that his family had originated in Lebanon as often reported, and affirmed that his parents and all his grandparents were born in Egypt. He recalled spending time in his childhood in his maternal grandparents' home in Tanta, Egypt. He was very attached to his grandmother, 'Abla Abdallah, who lived for more than 100 years. He graduated from Alexandrias Victoria College, then from Cairo University with a mathematics and physics major.

Originally a Christian converted to Islam to marry Egyptian actress Faten Hamama who was also an actress, in 1955. The couple had one son, Tarek El-Sharif, who appeared in Doctor Zhivago as Yuri at the age of eight. They separated in 1966 and the marriage ended in 1974. Sharif never remarried; he stated that since his divorce, he never fell in love with another woman, and that, although he lived abroad for years, it was not possible for him to fall in love with a woman who was not Egyptian. In a 2007 interview, Sharif denied rumors that he had become atheist. Hes remained a firm believer in God and Islam, and had performed a Umrah (pilgrimage to Mecca) three or four years earlier.

Sharif lived in his native Egypt from birth in 1932 till he moved to Europe in 1965. Omar recounts that, in 1932, his father "wasn't a wealthy man", but "earned quite a bit of money". Before the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, King Farouq frequented Omar's family's house, and became a friend and card game partner of Omar's mother. His mother was an elegant and charming host who was all too delighted with the association because it gave her the privilege of "consorting only with the elite" of Egyptian society. Omar also recounts that his father's timber business sky-rocketed during that time, in ways that Omar himself describes as dishonest or immoral.

By contrast, after 1952, Omar states that wealth changed hands (or names) in Egypt, under Nasirs nationalization policies. His father's business "took a beating". Travel restrictions in the form of "exit visas" were required of Egyptians, and his own travel to take part in international films was sometimes impeded, which he could not tolerate. The Nasser government's travel restrictions influenced Omar's decision to remain in Europe between his film shoots, a decision that cost him his marriage to Egyptian film legend Faten Hamama, though they remained friends. It was a major cross-roads in Omar's life and changed him from an established family man to a life-long bachelor living in European hotels. When commenting about his fame and life in Hollywood, Sharif said, "It gave me glory, but it gave me loneliness also. And a lot of missing my own land, my own people and my own country." His Egyptian citizenship was almost withdrawn by Nasirs government when Omar's affair with Barbra Streisand (a loud supporter of Israel) was made public in the Egyptian press.

Sharif became friends with Peter O'Toole during the making of Lawrence of Arabia. They have appeared in several other films together and remain close friends. He is also good friends with Egyptologist Zahi Hawass.


Sharif underwent a triple bypass surgery in 1992, and suffered a mild heart attack in 1994. Sharif had smoked 100 cigarettes a day; after the surgery, he quit easily.

On August 5, 2003, As a normal person act according to circumstances. Had some troubles dealing peacefully with others. For example, he received a one-month suspended prison sentence for striking a police officer in a suburban Parisian casino in July. He was fined $1700 and ordered to pay the officer $340 in damages. (He had insulted and then head-butted the Pontoise policeman, who tried to intervene in an argument between the actor and a roulette croupier. On February 13, 2007 Sharif was "found guilty of assaulting a Beverly Hills parking lot attendant and breaking his nose".

On the political stand, Omar Sharif said the East will never have a democracy because people like him prefer to go to the neighborhood chief. In the interview, Sharif reportedly blasted U.S. policy in Iraq and said Americans are ignorant. Sharif also claimed to have spoken with U.S President George W. Bush before the beginning of the Iraq War, telling him that Arabs were not like westerners and that Arab nations were made up of sects resistant to becoming democratized.

Actor and friend Tom Courtenay revealed in an interview for the July 19, 2008 edition of BBC Radio's Test Match Special that Sharif supported Hull City and in the 1970s would telephone their automated scoreline from his home in Paris for score updates.

As family relations, at present, Omar Sharif resides mostly in Cairo with his family. In addition to his son, he has two grandsons, Omar and Karim. Omar has denied that his older grandson, Omar, is Jewish. The younger Omar is in fact a Muslim. ( 962 words) www.dryahyatv.vom


Hasan Yahya is a professor of sociology, an American Arab scholar, and columnist in several newspapers and Internet sites. He resides in Michigan, USA. He authored 25 plus books on sociology, psychology, poetry, politics, short stories in both Arabic and English. He also, published 200 plus articles. His webpage at www.dryahyatv.com


About the author:

Hasan Yahya is an American Arab scholar, and a professor of sociology. He published 25 plus books and 220 plus articles on sociology, psychology, politics, poetry, IQ Test Measurement and short stories in both Arabic and English. His articles may be found on articlesbase.com, Face book and other internet sites. His recent book published on Amazon titled: Lawlaki: Lawlaki Poetry Diwan, Zawjat lil-Bay's: Tales and articles, 2000 Bayt Min al-Shi'r al-Arabi and al-Zawaj wal-Jinse fil-Alam,. All in Arabic.(On Amazon, 2009). His recent activities reflects his talents and knowledge on youtubes Dr. Yahya Channel TV under the name of askdryahya. www.hasanyahya.com




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Posted by dryahyatv at 11:55 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 27 September 2009 12:44 PM EDT
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