Omar Sharif: Why Google honours him today

Hailed by many as ‘The Noble’, Sharif would have been 86 years old today.

In honour of his birthday, Google is changing its logo in 48 countries to an illustration of Omar Sharif. 

This is a snapshot of his story:

Early steps

  • Born in 1932 to Syrian Lebanese parents in Alexandria, Egypt, Sharif’s birth name was Michel Demitri Shalhoub.

  • Before becoming an actor, he graduated with a degree in mathematics and physics from Cairo University and worked for several years at his father’s lumber company.

  • Sharif then left the family business, and at the age of 22 began his acting career starring in films with one of Egypt’s leading actresses, Faten Hamama.

  • Although it is widely reported that Sharif went on to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA) in London, RADA’s Alumni administration confirmed to Al Jazeera that Sharif neither graduated from nor trained at the academy.

  • In 1955, he converted to Islam, changed his name to Omar Sharif, and married Faten soon after. They had a son, Tarek, before separating in 1966 and divorcing in 1974.

  • Despite Sharif’s image as a eligible bachelor, he did not remarry, saying he never fell in love with another woman.

International fame

  • Sharif appeared in a number of Egyptian films before the British director David Lean added him to the cast of Lawrence of Arabia.
  • Sharif played the role of an Arab warrior. The scene showing his arrival is considered a classic piece of cinema.

  • He first appears as a tiny dot in the desert horizon, growing larger as his camel gallops into the frame with Peter O’Toole.
  • His performance brought him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor, propelling him to international fame.

  • But international recognition came at a hefty personal price, as Sharif intimated in an interview with The Associated Press news agency in 2003.
  • “It separated me from my wife, from my family … We didn’t see each other any more and that was it, the end of our wedding,” he said. “I might have been happier having stayed an Egyptian film star.”

I might have been happier having stayed an Egyptian film star.

by Omar Sharif


Career struggles

  • After winning a third Golden Globe award for acting in Doctor Zhivago, Sharif’s career went downhill. 

  • He attributed his change of film fortune to what he called ”the cultural revolution” at the end of the 1960s, as new directors focused on “making films about their own societies. There was no more room for a foreigner, so suddenly there were no more parts [for him to act]’,” Sharif said.

  • He began appearing in films such as “The Pink Panther Strikes Again”, and others he dismissed as “rubbish”.

  • “I lost my self-respect and dignity,” he told a reporter in 2004. “Even my grandchildren were making fun of me. ‘Grandpa, that was really bad. And this one? It’s worse’.”

I lost my self-respect and dignity

by Omar Sharif

Health problems 

  • Sharif had a triple heart bypass in 1992 and suffered a mild heart attack in 1994. At the time, he was declining film offers.

  • Away from his cinema career, Sharif was a world-class bridge player and also wrote on bridge for the Chicago Tribune newspaper. He quit the game in later years.

  • In May 2015, Sharif was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and was struggling to remember the biggest films of his career, according to his son, Tarek.

  • Sharif died in Cairo after suffering a heart attack on July 10, 2015, less than six months after his ex-wife’s death.


  • Sharif won two Golden Globes and an Oscar nomination.

  • He also received a Cesar for the 2003 film, Monsieur Ibrahim.

  • Acknowledging his contributions to cultural diversity, he was awarded the Sergei Einsenstein Medal by UNESCO in 2005.

With additional reporting from Elizabeth Melimopoulos and Gabriele Kahlout

Source: Al Jazeera