Omar Sharif

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For other people named Omar Sharif, see Omar Sharif (disambiguation).
Not to be confused with Umer Sharif.
Omar Sharif
Omar Sharif - Zhivago - 1965.jpg
Sharif in Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Native name عمر الشريف
Born Michel Demitri Chalhoub
(1932-04-10) April 10, 1932 (age 83)
Alexandria, Egypt
Education Victoria College
Alma mater Cairo University
Occupation Actor
Years active 1954–2013[1]
Spouse(s) Faten Hamama (1954–74)
Children Tarek El-Sharif

Omar Sharif (Arabic: عمر الشريف‎, Egyptian Arabic pronunciation: [ˈʕomɑɾˤ eʃʃɪˈɾiːf]; born Michel Demitri Chalhoub, [miˈʃel dɪˈmitɾi ʃælˈhuːb]; April 10, 1932)[2] is an Egyptian actor. The assumed surname Sharif means "noble" in Arabic. His films include Lawrence of Arabia (1962), Doctor Zhivago (1965) and Funny Girl (1968). He has been nominated for an Academy Award and has won three Golden Globe Awards.

Early life[edit]

Omar Sharif was born Michel Demetri Chalhoub[3] in Alexandria, Egypt,[4] to a Melkite Catholic[citation needed] family of Lebanese descent.[citation needed] His father, Joseph Chalhoub, was a precious-wood merchant originally from Zahle, Lebanon, who settled in Egypt in the early 20th century.[citation needed] His mother, Claire Saada, was of Syrian and Lebanese heritage.[citation needed] In his youth, Sharif studied at Victoria College, where he became active in sports and developed interest in theater and acting.[citation needed] His classmates included Youssef Chahine and Edward Said.[citation needed] In 1955, Sharif converted to Islam[5] to marry Egyptian actress Faten Hamama.[6]

After obtaining a degree in mathematics and physics at the University of Cairo,[citation needed] he worked for five years in the business of precious wood of his father,[citation needed] before studying acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London.[citation needed]

Acting career[edit]

Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

In 1953, Sharif began his acting career with a role in Sira` Fi al-Wadi. He quickly rose to stardom, appearing in over 20 Egyptian productions, including Ayyamna el helwa with singer Abdel Halim Hafez, La anam in 1958, Sayedat el kasr in 1959 and the Anna Karenina adaptation Nahr el hub in 1961. He also starred with his wife, Egyptian actress Faten Hamama, in several movies as romantic leads.[citation needed]

Sharif's first English-language film was in the role of Sharif Ali in David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia in 1962. This performance earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture. Following this breakthrough role, Sharif played a variety of characters, including a Spanish priest in Behold a Pale Horse (1964), a Yugoslav wartime patriot in The Yellow Rolls-Royce (1964) and the Mongolian conqueror in Genghis Khan (1965). In the same year, Sharif reunited with Lean to play the title role in Doctor Zhivago, an adaptation of Boris Pasternak's novel.[citation needed]

Over the next few years, Sharif starred as a German military officer in The Night of the Generals, as Crown Prince Rudolf of Austria in Mayerling and as Che Guevara in Che!. Sharif was also acclaimed for his portrayal of Nicky Arnstein, husband to Fanny Brice in Funny Girl, though some thought he was miscast as a New York Jewish gambler. His decision to work with costar Barbra Streisand angered Egypt's government at the time due to Streisand's support for the state of Israel. Streisand herself responded with "You think Cairo was upset? You should've seen the letter I got from my Aunt Rose!" Sharif reprised the role in the film’s sequel, Funny Lady in 1975.[citation needed]

Among his other films were the western Mackenna's Gold, as an outlaw opposite Gregory Peck; the thriller Juggernaut, which co-starred Richard Harris, and the romantic drama The Tamarind Seed, co-starring Julie Andrews, directed by Blake Edwards. Sharif also contributed comic cameo performances in Edwards' The Pink Panther Strikes Again and in the 1980 spy-film spoof Top Secret!

In 2003, he received acclaim for his role in the French-language film adaptation of the novel Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran, as a Muslim Turkish merchant who becomes a father figure for a Jewish boy.[citation needed]

Contract bridge career[edit]

Sharif once ranked among the world's best-known contract bridge players, forming the "Omar Sharif Bridge Circus" in 1967 which toured the world, competing against such powerhouse teams as Blue Team and Dallas Aces, at a time when barnstorming bridge teams were very popular.[citation needed] With Charles Goren, Sharif co-wrote a syndicated newspaper bridge column for the Chicago Tribune[7] for several years, but has mostly turned over the writing of the column to Tannah Hirsch, whose name appears on the byline with Sharif to this day. He is also both author and co-author of several books on bridge and has licensed his name to a bridge video game; initially released in a MS-DOS version and Amiga version in 1992, Omar Sharif on Bridge is still sold in Windows and "mobile platform" versions.[8] Computer Gaming World in 1992 described the game as "easy to get into, challenging to play and well-designed",[9] and named it one of the year's best strategy games.[10] In 1993 the magazine stated that "it does not play a very good game of bridge", however, and criticized it for inadequate documentation and forcing players to conform to its bidding style. The magazine recommended two other bridge games instead.[11] For a number of years his partner at international tournaments was Egyptian contract bridge superstar Maged Elewa.[citation needed]

Sharif has been a regular in casinos in France.[12]

In 2006, Sharif declared both pastimes as ended when he was asked if he still played bridge: "I've stopped altogether. I decided I didn't want to be a slave to any passion any more except for my work. I had too many passions, bridge, horses, gambling. I want to live a different kind of life, be with my family more because I didn't give them enough time."[13]

Personal life[edit]

Sharif in January 2013

Family and personal relationships[edit]

Sharif lived in his native Egypt from birth in 1932 until he moved to Europe in 1965.[14] He recounts that, in 1932, his father "wasn't a wealthy man", but "earned quite a bit of money".[15] Before the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, King Farouk frequented Sharif's family's house, and became a friend and card game partner of Sharif's mother. His mother was an elegant and charming hostess who was all too delighted with the association because it gave her the privilege of "consorting only with the elite" of Egyptian society. Sharif also recounts that his father's timber business was very successful during that time, in ways that Sharif describes as dishonest or immoral.[16]

By contrast, after 1952, Sharif states that wealth changed hands in Egypt, under Nasser's nationalisation policies.[17] 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[18] influenced Sharif'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 crossroad in Sharif's life and changed him from an established family man to a lifelong 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."[18] When Sharif's affair with Barbra Streisand was made public in the Egyptian press, his Egyptian citizenship was almost withdrawn by the Egyptian Government due to Streisand's vocal support of Israel, with which Egypt was then in a state of war.[19]

Sharif with Cyrine Abdelnour at the Venice Film Festival in 2009
Omar Sharif in Doha Tribeca Film Festival

In 1954 acclaimed actress Faten Hamama accepted young Sharif as her co-star in the film Struggle in the Valley and shockingly accepted a scene involving a kiss with him, a first in her career. The two fell in love, and Sharif converted to Islam and married her.[20] The couple had one son, Tarek El-Sharif, born 1957 in Egypt, who appeared in Doctor Zhivago as Yuri at the age of eight. They separated in 1966 and the marriage ended in 1974.[18] Sharif never remarried; he stated that since his divorce, he never fell in love with another woman, although he lived abroad for years.[18] Hamama died in 2015.

Sharif became friends with Peter O'Toole during the making of Lawrence of Arabia. They appeared in several other films together and remained close friends. He is also good friends with Egyptologist Zahi Hawass. 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 Association Football Club and in the 1970s would telephone their automated scoreline from his home in Paris for score updates. Sharif was given an honorary degree by the University of Hull in 2010 and used the occasion to meet up with Hull City football player Ken Wagstaff.[21]

At present, Sharif resides mostly in Cairo with his family.[18] In addition to his son, he has two grandsons, Omar (born 1983 in Montreal) and Karim.[18] Omar Sharif, Jr. is also an actor.[22] He is most recently known for playfully tussling on stage at the 83rd Academy Awards ceremony with actor Kirk Douglas, who was presenting the award for Best Supporting Actress that evening.[23] Sharif Jr. also generated buzz for coming out as both gay and half-Jewish during the aftermath of the 2011 Egyptian revolution, saying he fears for his safety after Islamist parties' triumph in parliamentary elections.[24][25]

In May 2015 it was reported that Sharif was suffering from Alzheimer's disease and gets confused when remembering some of the biggest films of his career, his son has claimed. Tarek El-Sharif, the only child of the star's marriage to ex-wife Faten Hamama, said his 83-year-old father mixes up the names of his best-known films 'Doctor Zhivago' and 'Lawrence of Arabia', often forgetting where they were filmed.[26]

Criminal convictions[edit]

In August 2003, Sharif received a one-month suspended prison sentence for striking a police officer in a suburban Parisian casino the previous month. He was fined the equivalent of US$1,700. On February 13, 2007, Sharif was "found guilty of assaulting a Beverly Hills parking lot attendant and breaking his nose".[27]

Doha Tribeca Film Festival[edit]

On October 27, 2011, Sharif became irritated with a woman who was queuing up to have her photo taken with him on the red carpet at the Doha Tribeca Film Festival. He struck her, but after a moment he turned and leaned in to pose for a picture with her.[28][29]


In November 2005, Sharif was awarded the inaugural[30] Sergei Eisenstein Medal by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in recognition of his significant contributions to world film and cultural diversity. The medal, which is handed out very infrequently, is named after Russian director Sergei Eisenstein. Only 25 have been struck, as determined by the agreement between UNESCO, Russia's Mosfilm and the Vivat Foundation.[31]


Year Title Role Notes
1954 Shaytan al-Sahra Known as Devil of the Sahara
1954 Sira` Fi al-Wadi Ahmed Also known as The Blazing Sun or Struggle in the Valley or Fight in the Valley'
1955 Ayyamna al-Holwa (Our Best Days) Ahmed
1956 Siraa Fil-Mina Ragab
1957 Ard al-Salam Ahmed Known as Land of Peace
1957 The Lebanese Mission Mokrir Original title was La Châtelaine du Liban; credited as Omar Cherif
1958 La anam Aziz Also known as I Do Not Sleep and No Tomorrow
1958 Goha Goha Credited as Omar Cherif
1959 Fadiha fil-zamalek Scandal in Zamalek
1959 Sayedat el kasr Adel Lady of the Castle
1959 Seraa fil Nil Muhassab Struggle on the Nile
1960 Bidaya wa nihaya
1960 Hobi al-wahid My Only Love
1960 Esha'a hob Rumor of Love
1960 Nahr al-Hob Khalid The River of love
1961 A Man in our House Ibrahim
1962 Lawrence of Arabia Sherif Ali Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture
Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor
Nominated – Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor
1964 The Fall of the Roman Empire Sohamus
Behold a Pale Horse Francisco
The Yellow Rolls-Royce Davich
1965 Genghis Khan Genghis Khan
Marco the Magnificent Sheik Alla Hou, 'The Desert Wind'
Doctor Zhivago Dr. Zhivago (Yuri) Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama
1966 The Poppy Is Also a Flower Dr. Rad
1967 The Night of the Generals Major Grau
More Than A Miracle Prince Rodrigo Fernandez
1968 Funny Girl Nick Arnstein
Mayerling Archduke Rudolf
1969 Mackenna's Gold Colorado
The Appointment Frenderico Fendi
Che! Che Guevara
1970 The Last Valley Vogel
1971 The Horsemen Uraz
The Burglars Abel Zacharia simultaneously shot in French as Le Casse with the same cast
1972 Le Droit d'aimer (fr) Pierre
1973 The Mysterious Island Captain Nemo TV miniseries; also known as L'Ile Mysterieuse
1974 The Tamarind Seed Feodor Sverdlov
Juggernaut Captain Axel Brunel
1975 Funny Lady Nicky Arnstein
1976 Ace Up My Sleeve Andre Ferren also known as Crime and Passion
The Pink Panther Strikes Again Egyptian assassin uncredited cameo
1979 Ashanti: Land of No Mercy Prince Hassan
Bloodline Ivo Palazzi
1980 S*H*E Baron Cesare Magnasco S*H*E: Security Hazards Expert
The Baltimore Bullet The Deacon
Oh Heavenly Dog Bart
Pleasure Palace Louis Lefevre TV movie
1981 Green Ice Meno Argenti
Inchon Indian officer uncredited cameo
1984 The Far Pavilions Koda Dad TV miniseries, based on The Far Pavilions
Top Secret! Agent Cedric
1985 Edge of the Wind McCorquodale TV movie (BBC)[32]
1986 Peter the Great Prince Feodor Romodanovsky TV miniseries
Harem Sultan Hassan TV movie
Anastasia: The Mystery of Anna Czar Nicholas II TV miniseries
1987 Grand Larceny Rashid Saud
1988 The Possessed Stepan Les Possédés
Les Pyramides bleues (fr) Alex The Novice
1989 Al-aragoz Mohamed Gad El Kareem The Puppeteer
1990 The Opium Connection
1990 The Rainbow Thief Dima
1991 Memories of Midnight Constantin Demiris TV movie
1991 Mowaten masri An Egyptian Citizen
1992 Beyond Justice Emir Beni-Zair
1992 Mayrig Hagop
1992 Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris Marquis Hippolite TV Movie
1992 588 rue paradis Hagop Mother
1993 Dehk we le'b we gad we hob Laughter, Games, Seriousness and Love
1994 Lie Down With Lions Safar Khan TV movie; Red Eagle
1995 Catherine the Great Razumovsky TV movie
1996 Gulliver's Travels The Sorcerer TV movie
1997 Heaven Before I Die Khalil Gibran
1998 Mysteries of Egypt Grandfather Documentary
1999 The 13th Warrior Melchisideck
2001 The Parole Officer Victor
2003 Monsieur Ibrahim Monsieur Ibrahim César Award for Best Actor
2004 Hidalgo Sheikh Riyadh
2005 Imperium: Saint Peter Saint Peter TV movie
2005 Fuoco su di me Principe Nicola Fire at my Heart
2005 Shaka Zulu: The Last Great Warrior
2006 One Night with the King Prince Memucan
2006 The Crown Prince (de) Hans Canon TV movie; Kronprinz Rudolf
2007 Hanan W Haneen TV series
2007 The Ten Commandments Jethro TV series
2008 The Last Templar Konstantine TV series
2008 Hassan & Marcus Hassan/Morcus Hassan wa Morcus
2008 10,000 BC Narrator Voice only
2009 The Traveller
2009 J'ai oublié de te dire Jaume I forgot to Tell You
2009 La Traversée du désir
2013 Rock the Casbah


  • The Eternal Male, with Marie-Thérèse Guinchard, transl. Martin Sokolinsky (Doubleday, 1977); orig. French, Éternel masculin (Paris: Stock, 1976)
  • Goren's Bridge Complete, Charles Goren with Omar Sharif (Doubleday, 1980) – one of several later editions of Goren
  • Omar Sharif's Life in Bridge, with Anne Segalen and Patrick Sussel, transl. and adapted by Terence Reese (Faber, 1983); orig. French, Ma vie au bridge (Paris: Fayard, 1982)
  • Omar Sharif Talks Bridge (2004)
  • Bridge Deluxe II Play with Omar Sharif (instruction manual)


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ "Omar Sharif Biography (1932-)". Retrieved May 25, 2015.  Source notes: "Original name, Michael Shalhoub (some sources spell surname "Chalhoub")"
  3. ^ Curtis, Edward E. (2010). Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History. Facts on File. p. 198. ISBN 978-0816075751. 
  4. ^ "Omar Sharif: 'It is a great film, but I'm not very good in it'", The Independent
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ Sharif, Omar (1977), The Eternal Male: My Own Story, Doubleday, NY, 1st Ed., p. 71.
  7. ^ "Change of Subject - Observations, reports, tips, referrals and tirades Chicago Tribune Blog". Chicago Tribune. September 6, 2005. 
  8. ^ "> {subcategory}". Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  9. ^ Wilson, Johnny L. (1992-09). "Interplay's Omar Sharif on Bridge". Computer Gaming World. pp. 20–21. Retrieved 3 July 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  10. ^ "CGW Salutes The Games of the Year". Computer Gaming World. 1992-11. p. 110. Retrieved 4 July 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. ^ Lindeman, David E. (1993-03). "Three Top Computer Bridge Games". Computer Gaming World. p. 42. Retrieved 6 July 2014.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  12. ^ "Omar Sharif sued for assault". (November 6, 2005). New Sunday Times, p. 29.
  13. ^ Mark Lubischer and Betty Jo Tucker. "ReelTalk Movie Reviews". Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  14. ^ Sharif, Omar (1977), The Eternal Male: My Own Story, Doubleday, NY, 1st Ed., p. 41.
  15. ^ Sharif, Omar (1977), The Eternal Male: My Own Story, Doubleday, NY, 1st Ed., pp. 45-46.
  16. ^ Sharif, Omar (1977), The Eternal Male: My Own Story, Doubleday, NY, 1st Ed., p. 46.
  17. ^ Sharif, Omar (1977), The Eternal Male: My Own Story, Doubleday, NY, 1st Ed., p. 98.
  18. ^ a b c d e f AlJazeeraEnglish. "Riz Khan - Omar Sharif - 10 Oct 07". YouTube. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  19. ^ Sharif, Omar (1977), The Eternal Male: My Own Story, Doubleday, NY, 1st Ed., p. 79.
  20. ^ Darwish, Mustafa (1998). Dream Makers on the Nile: A Portrait of Egyptian Cinema. Columbia University Press. ISBN 977-424-429-X. 
  21. ^ "THEY are two of the greatest names in film history.". This is Hull and East Riding. 2010-07-15. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  22. ^ Archived April 27, 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ Ross von Metzke (2011-02-28). "Introducing Omar Sharif Jr". Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  24. ^ "Omar Sharif Jr. Comes Out as Gay, Half-Jewish: "Am I Welcome in Egypt?"". ABC News. 2012-03-18. Retrieved 2012-11-18. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ [3]
  27. ^ Archived March 6, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ "You've Been Framed? Omar Sharif appears to slap a woman on film during a red carpet appearance at a Film Festival". Daily Mail (London). October 28, 2011. 
  29. ^ "Omar Sharif slaps a woman on film during a red carpet appearance at a Film Festival". Doha, Qatar. October 28, 2011. 
  30. ^ UNESCO Media Services; Retrieved 18 January 2014
  31. ^ Famed screen artist Omar Sharif receives UNESCO Eisenstein Medal
  32. ^ ""Edge of the Wind", BBC". Retrieved 18 January 2015. 

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