Faten Hamama, Arab film icon and Omar Sharif's former wife, dies aged 83: Family

A file picture taken on Jan 29, 2001 shows Egyptian actress Faten Hamama posing for a picture in Beirut. Hamama, passed away on Jan 17, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
A file picture taken on Jan 29, 2001 shows Egyptian actress Faten Hamama posing for a picture in Beirut. Hamama, passed away on Jan 17, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

CAIRO (AFP) - Egyptian actress Faten Hamama, an Arab film icon and Omar Sharif's former wife, died Saturday at the age of 83, their son Tarek Sharif told AFP.

Hamama, who was less than 10 when she made her screen debut, appeared in almost 100 films and worked with masters of Egypt's massive film industry, including Youssef Chahine.

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

"The Lady of the Arabic screen," as she was known, suffered "a sudden health problem which led to her death," Egypt's official news agency Mena reported.

It said she had been hospitalised weeks earlier due to illness but had returned home.

A figure of the golden age of Egyptian cinema, Faten 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.