Skip to main content

The life and the legend: Meeting Omar Sharif

The life and the legend: Meeting Omar Sharif
3 min read
06 January, 2015
The Egyptian actor - who has recently returned to Cairo - discusses love, his career, and getting old.
Sharif's love for former wife Faten Hamama was 'all-consuming' [Getty]
The opening of the 32nd Arab Theatre Festival in Cairo was a spectacular event. But the fireworks and the glamour were outshone by the surprise appearance of none other than Egyptian megastar Omar Sharif, who was presented with an honorary award.

During the festival, al-Araby al-Jadeed talked to Sharif about his life, especially his recent return to Cairo after a long period living in France. The actor keenly pointed out that distance had not lessened his love for his native country.

"My love for Egypt comes from deep within. I adore every inch of her," he said.
     My love for Egypt comes from deep within. I adore every inch of her.
- Omar Sharif

Sharif said he returned in order to live among fellow Egyptians.

"I came back so the people here, who have loved and never forgotten me, could follow my funeral procession. How could I stay in France to die, with only strangers to attend my funeral?"

After the success of his starring role in the 2007 Egyptian TV show Hanan wa Haneen ["Love and Longing"], he retired from acting and withdrew from the world.

At nearly 84 years old he finds it difficult to memorise a film script.

"What's the point? It is time for me to enjoy life away from the hubbub of the art scene. What I really need more than anything is peace," he explained.

During the interview we discussed his former wife and fellow Arab cinematic icon, the Egyptian actress Faten Hamama.

Sharif explained why he did not remarry after their divorce. "Her love was all-consuming. Whoever married Faten couldn't expect to be satisfied with any other woman again. In all sincerity, my heart closed after her."

Sharif blamed his global vision for the end of their marriage. When he asked Hamama to move abroad with him, she refused and insisted on staying in Egypt.

The actor prefers to read than watch TV, and he has little interest in the internet. He views sites such as Facebook as part of a vain and superficial imaginary world. "Real, direct contact with friends is much better," he explained.

Speaking at great length on the subject of loss, he discussed the many friends he had recently lost both in France and Egypt.

There was his manager, director Inas Bakr, who had worked voluntarily for Sharif. After losing her, he felt he had lost a "fundamental support in my life".

There was also his close friend, Egyptian actor Ahmed Ramzy, who passed away in 2012. "How I wished he had been waiting for me when I arrived back at Cairo Airport, and that we could have lived out the rest of our days together. He was all alone like me. We could have faced our loneliness together, but he died before we got the chance."

Sharif has never owned a car because he hates driving and prefers taking taxis. For him talking to taxi drivers is as informative as "watching a thorough news report".

     I think I can say more than anyone I have lived my life to the full. Every stage was delicious in its own way.

The actor is not sad when he watches his past performances on the screen.

"I think I can say more than anyone I have lived my life to the full. Every stage was delicious in its own way. My youth was vibrant and now I live in peace and tranquillity."

Sharif ended the interview by returning to his fans. "I have really missed their affection and devotion. For Egyptians, emotion in its truest form is not superficial or selfish but inspired by their love of God. It is a most sincere kind of love."

This article is an edited translation from our Arabic edition.