Omar Sharif: Middle East Legend and Global Superstar


Omar Sharif: Middle East Legend and Global Superstar

The life of Omar Sharif could quickly become the subject of a great Hollywood film. The Egyptian actor, born Michel Yusef Dimitry Chalhoub, had a fant

The life of Omar Sharif could quickly become the subject of a great Hollywood film. The Egyptian actor, born Michel Yusef Dimitry Chalhoub, had a fantastic career and a life story that can inspire anyone. The star of Doctor Zhivago comes from humble beginnings, and his journey was not clear of challenges and temptation, even after he reached stardom.

Join us as we explore the fantastic story of Omar Sharif, the first actor from the Middle East to achieve international acclaim. You’re in for an exciting ride detailing his career, obstacles, and the undeniable legacy he left behind. 

Early Life and the First Touch with Acting

Omar Sharif was born into a wealthy family in Alexandria, Egypt. He showed great academic potential, particularly in mathematics and languages, and dreamed of becoming an engineer. However, fate had other plans for him.

In 1954, Sharif had a chance encounter with renowned Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Chahine. Despite his initial reluctance, Sharif was convinced by Chahine’s vision and agreed to star in the movie “Le Démon du désert” (The Demon of the Desert). His performance in this film, where he played a young Bedouin man, marked the beginning of his remarkable career in cinema.

The Roles That Brought International Fame

In 1962, Sharif achieved a significant breakthrough in his acting career with the historical drama film Lawrence of Arabia. He played the role of Sherif Ali, the leader of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire, with a captivating intensity that won the hearts of audiences worldwide. His exceptional performance in the film earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor and established him as an industry leader.

Three years later, Sharif solidified his position as a global star by portraying Yuri Zhivago in the romantic drama film Doctor Zhivago, directed by David Lean. The movie’s immense success helped Sharif gain worldwide recognition and established him as a Hollywood icon and household name. His portrayal of the character, a poet caught between love and revolution, earned him another Golden Globe Award and further cemented his reputation as one of the most sought-after actors of his time.

The Challenges of Gambling and Personal Trials

Sharif’s professional life was successful, but his gambling addiction impacted his personal life. He had a great passion for cards and casinos, resulting in significant financial losses and strained relationships. Despite his efforts to control his habit, it remained a constant challenge throughout his life. Although Sharif had a lot of self-confidence, he quickly acknowledged that he had wasted his life and career indulging in carousing and gambling.

Sharif and his Lawrence Of Arabia co-star, Peter O’Toole, were among their time’s most notorious Hollywood hell-raisers. Sharif added a third vice that he had inherited from his mother, gambling. He became a compulsive gambler, traveling throughout Europe and squandering his fortune. This forced him to take uninspiring roles as the ‘foreign gentleman’ or ‘exotic lover’ in a string of forgettable films.

Sharif eventually gave up on acting and became a world-class bridge player. He devoted most of his life to gambling instead. In his defense, Sharif once said, “I’d rather be playing bridge than making a bad movie.”

Although it is unfortunate, this trajectory towards gambling and poor decisions is not uncommon for successful people. You should check out the top 6 gambling tales of famous celebrities at for more intriguing stories.

Final Years and the Amazing Legacy Left Behind

Sharif remained passionate about acting despite facing personal struggles. In the later part of his career, he returned to the stage and performed in numerous plays in both English and Arabic. He also occasionally appeared in films, demonstrating his talent had remained strong.

Furthermore, he left a legacy characterized by his undeniable talent, captivating performances, and personal resilience. He shattered barriers as an Egyptian actor in Hollywood and managed to win over audiences with his charisma and versatility. His portrayal of complex and nuanced characters, such as Sherif Ali and Doctor Zhivago, established him as a cinematic icon.

Besides his successful acting career, Omar Sharif was a man of many interests. He enjoyed playing bridge, reading literature, and playing poker. He was a passionate advocate for Egyptian culture and a vigorous supporter of the arts. He also contributed to several philanthropic causes, including supporting educational and medical institutions in his home country.

Omar Sharif passed away on July 10, 2015, but his legacy inspires aspiring actors and film enthusiasts worldwide. His performances still captivate audiences, reminding us of the power of cinema to transport us to different worlds and connect us with characters that transcend time and place.