Egyptian actress Faten Hamama, an Arab film icon and ex-wife of actor Omar Sharif, died at the age of 83, her son Tarek Sharif announced.

Hamama who passed away on Saturday, was hospitalised weeks earlier due to illness but had returned home, Egypt's official news agency, MENA, reported.

"Egypt and the Arab world have lost a creative and artistic talent who enriched Egyptian art with her sophisticated performances," the Egyptian presidency said in a statement.

"The Lady of the Arabic screen," as she was known, suffered "a sudden health problem which led to her death," MENA reported.

Hamama was less than ten years old when she made her screen debut and appeared in almost 100 films and worked with masters of Egypt's massive film industry, including Youssef Chahine.

She often starred alongside her former husband Omar Sharif. Born a Christian, he converted to Islam to marry Hamama and described her as the only love of his life.

The couple appeared together in the 1961 film River of Love based on Leon Tolstoy's Anna Karenina.

They divorced in 1974 when Omar Sharif, then already famous in his homeland, launched a career in Hollywood.

A figure of the golden age of Egyptian cinema, Hamama's career reached its pinnacle in the 1940s and 1950s.

She starred in romantic movies alongside the famed Arab crooner Abdel Halim Hafez as well as in films advocating women's rights and condemning social injustices.

Hamama also had a daughter, Nadia, from a first marriage and tied the knot for a third time with a doctor, Mohamed Abdel Wahab.

Source: AFP