Egypt bids farewell to film legend Omar Sharif

Omar Sharif.
Omar Sharif.PHOTO: EPA

CAIRO • Cinema legend Omar Sharif (left), who will be forever remembered as the eponymous Doctor Zhivago, was to be buried yesterday in his native Egypt after a funeral service at a Cairo mosque.

Sharif, 83, died last Friday of a heart attack in an upmarket Cairo clinic after a struggle with Alzheimer's disease.

The funeral service was to be held at Mushir Tantawi mosque in eastern Cairo, where key religious ceremonies are often held, said Sameh El Soreity, board member of the Egyptian Actors Syndicate.

Sharif's remains will be buried at El Sayeda Nafisa cemetery in southern Cairo, Soreity said.

There were no immediate details on who would attend the funeral, and Soreity said the syndicate had no information whether any Hollywood stars would be present.

Sharif's death came six months after his ex-wife and iconic Egyptian actress, Faten Hamama, known as the Lady of the Arabic Screen, died in Cairo.

Born a Christian, he converted to Islam to marry Hamama, whom he described as the only love of his life.

The couple, who have a son, Tareq, divorced in 1974 when Sharif, already famous in his homeland, launched a career in Hollywood.

The winner of two Golden Globe awards and an Oscar nomination for his role as Sherif Ali in David Lean's 1962 epic Lawrence Of Arabia, Sharif captivated audiences worldwide for more than half a century. He was known for his debonair style, raffish good looks and often mischievous joie de vivre, but he will be remembered forever as the eponymous Doctor Zhivago.

Tributes poured in after the news of Sharif's death, with Hollywood star Antonio Banderas calling him "a great storyteller, a loyal friend and a wise spirit".

Fluent in six languages and also famous for his skills at playing the card game bridge, Sharif began acting in the 1950s.

After his high-profile roles in Lawrence Of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago (1965), he went on to star in many films and television productions. One of the films included 1968's Funny Girl, where he starred alongside Barbra Streisand.

Sharif had a triple heart bypass in 1992 and suffered a mild heart attack in 1994, according to the IMDb movie database website.

The 100-cigarettes-a-day smoker quit the habit after the operation. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 13, 2015, with the headline 'Egypt bids farewell to film legend Omar Sharif'. Print Edition | Subscribe