Expressing their sadness and grief, many film buffs in Qatar have been paying tribute to the Egypt-born screen legend Omar Sharif, who died in Cairo yesterday at the age of 83.
The actor, who rose to international fame particularly for his roles in Dr. Zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia, had a heart attack in a hospital in the Egyptian capital yesterday afternoon, Reuters reports his agent Steve Kenis as saying.
Sharif had been been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, Kenis added.
Born Michel Demitri Shalhoub on April 10, 1932 to a wealthy family in Alexandria, Sharif became interested in acting while studying mathematics and physics at a university in Cairo.
He worked in his father’s timber business for several years before realizing his dream with a role in his first Egyptian movie, Siraa Fil-Wadi (“The Blazing Sun”) in 1953 alongside renowned Egyptian actress Faten Hamama, whom he married in 1955.
Born a Christian, he converted to Islam to marry Hamama and took the name Omar al-Sharif. The couple had one child, Tarek Sharif, but divorced in 1974 and Sharif never remarried.
Having featured in a number of Egyptian films, he gained international recognition after playing the Arab warrior Sherif Ali in the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, which was his first English-language film and which subsequently led to an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
His dashing good looks quickly made him known as a Hollywood heart-throb.
Sharif featured in numerous movies throughout the 1960s but it was playing the title role in the 1965 film Dr. Zhivago, based on the Boris Pasternak novel which was considered to be the high point in his career.
He visited Qatar in 2011 for the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, where his 1991 film An Egyptian Citizen was being shown, but the trip became controversial when he was filmed hitting a female journalist on the red carpet.
Footage showed him striking out at the journalist, who was later identified as Aisha al-Douri, a correspondent working for the American-owned television channel al-Hurra.
He said in Arabic to Al-Douri: “My dear! I told you I’d get to you afterwards! I just said that and you’re standing here. Put something in your brain!”
Since yesterday, Qatar fans of Sharif have been posting tribues on Twitter to pay their respects to the screen hero: