In Mustache We Trust (The Omar Sharif Episode with Ramy Youssef)

Subscribe to Lemonada Premium for Bonus Content

On this episode, we are joined by the comedian, writer, actor, Golden Globe winner and unbelievably handsome Ramy Youssef! And today, I’m going to tell him the story of one of the most legendary people in Hollywood: Omar Sharif – the FIRST! Arab actor to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Next time on FIRST! – make sure to catch me and Sydnee Washington as we talk about Connie Chung: the FIRST! Asian American and second woman ever to be named to the coveted post of nightly news anchor at a major network.



Kareem Rahma, Ramy Youssef

Kareem Rahma  00:28

So usually I have this little test before we begin episodes. I’m gonna show you a picture. Do you know who this person is?

Ramy Youssef  01:29

Yeah, of course. Omar Sharif, man. I’m trying to, he’s actually my style icon at the moment. He might be yours too.

Kareem Rahma  01:36

I do appreciate the fact that both of us wore our Omar Sharif outfits.

Ramy Youssef  01:42

Yeah, the stash. Yeah, I know.

Kareem Rahma  01:46

I’m relieved that you passed this little test. The comedians are a lot smarter than I thought they would be.

Ramy Youssef  01:52

But not too much smarter, but probably like just the bar solo, right?

Kareem Rahma  01:56

Yeah, just like, do you recognize Connie Chung? Of course. What’s up, y’all. I’m Kareem Rama and welcome to First a funny show about spectacular people who had a serious impact on society and culture because they were first. On this episode, we are joined by the comedian, writer, actor Golden Globe winner an unbelievably handsome Ramy Youssef. And today, I’m going to tell Ramy, the story of one of the most legendary people in Hollywood. Omar Sharif, the first Arab-American, fuck I say that every time. The first Arab actor to be nominated for an Academy Award.

Ramy Youssef  02:45

You’re so used to saying Arab American. I think I’m getting the premise of the podcast already.

Kareem Rahma  02:55

Well, thanks for the interruption.

Ramy Youssef  02:56

I’m not gonna let you rerecord the intro part. This will be in the episode.

Kareem Rahma  03:06

Not only am Egyptian, Ramy Youssef, Egyptian, and our subject is Egyptian. That’s not the only thing we have in common. All three of us are extremely handsome and good looking. Although the only person who’s ever said it to me is my grandmother. […]

Ramy Youssef  03:22

Did she wait, that’s it? She called you good looking?

Kareem Rahma  03:32

Omar Sharif lived one of the most interesting lives ever lived. He was an Egyptian actor who first rose to international stardom through the 1962 Hollywood blockbuster, Lawrence of Arabia. At the time, this was groundbreaking since he was cast to play an Arab character.

Ramy Youssef  03:50

Before that. Yeah. Where they were just kind of like painting White people brown.

Kareem Rahma  03:53

And they were using Indian people. India’s further than the Middle East. Like, why did they go? We’ll just skip this part.

Ramy Youssef  04:02

Because if you’re afraid of dark people, Arabs are more white. Technically. Well, that’s like that was for voting rights. So there were Syrians here back in the day. And they basically fought to make Arabs White so that they could own land and so that they could vote. They’d be like, no, no, we’re, we just been out in the sun. Like, no, no, we’ve just been out with our crops. That’s why we look darker but we’re white. Yeah. And that was so they could own land because you couldn’t own land if you’re not white. You couldn’t even own land if you were a woman. That’s why there is not a Middle East box yet. But I think the way we get our own box is by kind of pretending like we don’t want to leave the box. Like to keep us in the box. They’re trying to make a Middle East box. We like having the White box.

Kareem Rahma  04:55

But we should let all the Arabs know that they have to get behind this cause.

Ramy Youssef  04:59

Yeah, Arabs love a subplot.

Kareem Rahma  05:05

Okay, I’m gonna get back to it. So in that Lawrence of Arabia roll, the world got to see his deep brown eyes thick mustache and slick and black hair. It sounds like I’m describing you, but I’m describing Omar Sharif, I just want you to tell them that. I remember a few years back, I was reading this interview from 1995 in The New York Times, it was called at lunch with Omar Sharif eternally romantic, and it was so damn beautiful. And this is how it opens. Omar Sharif kisses my hand delicately, as if it might break.

Ramy Youssef  05:43

Oh, so Egyptian. So the hand kiss.

Kareem Rahma  05:50

Champagne he was first? Oh no, I demure. He is crestfallen to come here and not have a glass of champagne. You have some for both of us. I say. He picks up the menu. Are you going to have caviar and not trusting myself to speak. He looks deep into my eyes. Do you like it to have some taste?

Ramy Youssef  06:10

It’s crazy. I mean, an interview with the press today is just like a zoom link at 9:15 in the morning. This is like the most romantic description of anything actually that I’ve ever heard.

Kareem Rahma  06:20

It’s not even a rom com. It’s just straight up a romance. It’s no wonder that he became an international sex symbol. But what makes this story so interesting isn’t his success or looks, but the drive of a mischievous man searching for life in every possible way. Our story starts in 1932 when Michael Demetri Shalhoub was born in Egypt, but I’m going to call him Omar Sharif for the rest of the story, and we’ll get into the why later. Omar was of Lebanese descent, but he was born and bred Egyptian spending most of his childhood in Cairo. His family was upper class almost father owned a lucrative precious Woods business that afforded him many powerful connections.

Ramy Youssef  07:06

So the Michael Shalhoub because Omar Sharif’s Christian, born Christian, I see that always threw me off cuz Omar is such a Muslim name. It’s the reverse of what happened later in Hollywood. He put on the name to be more Muslim, right. And then like late 90s, early O’s everyone named Muhammad is changing their name to Mike. Yeah. And then you got this guy in the back because like I gotta go, you know?

Kareem Rahma  07:31

Well, get to it later. We’ll get to it later, but he did it for love. Anyways, the ruler of Egypt King Farouk regularly visited their family home to play cards with Sharif’s elegant and charming mother, who was also a notable socialite, the King believed Omar’s mother was his good luck charm, and he wouldn’t play without her. When he was in the mood, he’d make Omar’s mother play, even if she’d been asleep. And if she wanted to stop, the king would insist she keep playing.

Ramy Youssef  07:59

It’s like a. I don’t know. It sounds like a Wes Anderson movie.

Kareem Rahma  08:03

Yeah, it really does. Imagine Joe Biden Coming over to play cards with your mom.

Ramy Youssef  08:09

It feels believable. Actually, Biden feels like he’s mostly playing cards.

Kareem Rahma  08:17

Well, Mr. Joe, if you’re listening, we would like to stay in the White census box. Kareem and Ramy. Speaking for all Middle Easterners and Arabs in America. Yes. We just want you to know that we love being light. All right, now Joe Biden stopped listening for a second. Arabs, this is just part of a bigger plan to get out of the box.

Ramy Youssef  08:42

It’s out of the box plan to get out of the box.

Kareem Rahma  08:44

It’s like a Seinfeld episode. They’re in the box. They want to get out the box.

Ramy Youssef  08:49

Who by the way, Arab?

Kareem Rahma  08:51

Yeah, Syrianorigins. Yeah, I think I was looking up what number on the list. Omar Sharif was in terms of like winning an Oscar or goal. And like number one was very Seinfeld I was like, what the fuck article is this?

Ramy Youssef  09:05

You know that’s like an Arab with an IMDb Pro account. It’s like Steve Jobs. Maybe like the iPhone. It’s Arab.

Kareem Rahma  09:14

Next time somebody was like, yeah, when’s the last time Arabs ever invented something like iPhone.

Ramy Youssef  09:18

IPhone, pyramids? Then we brought up the iPhone. We took a break in the middle, but it’s alright.

Kareem Rahma  09:24

It’s alright. You know what else is alright? Us continuing with the story. Are you okay with that? So his mom was playing cards with the king of Egypt, very casual his dad selling wood and as a kid Omar’s parents noticed that he took two languages easily. He learned French from his mother in English when he went to an English boarding school when he was 10 years old. Fate would have it, at Sharif’s boarding school, also had a theater program and it’s there at age 13. She realizes his passion for acting, but he wouldn’t be allowed to pursue it. His dad told him He must take over the family’s wood business. Excellent. Omar was so distraught that he slit his wrists. Although it was later revealed that this is just a dramatic gesture, he was acting. He just wants to show his dad how passionate he was about acting.

Ramy Youssef  10:20

But he did slit his wrists.

Kareem Rahma  10:22

You know, in the research it said he slit his wrists. Yeah, but it was just for show. So yes, but I don’t know how you.

Ramy Youssef  10:32

Just kind of sounds like he just slit his wrists. I don’t know if they had that stuff at the boarding school.

Kareem Rahma  10:43

Alright, so he just wanted shows that how passionate he was for acting. Sharif was also fast becoming a ladies man selling his possessions to take girlfriends out to dinner if his parents refused to give him extra money.

Ramy Youssef  10:54

By the way that sounds like an addiction. Like selling your alarm clock to take a woman out. I mean, that’s like a meth addiction. Like you’re literally pawning things off to take a girl to go get like, taught me a sandwich. I mean, this is dark.

Kareem Rahma  11:20

So around 1953 Omar graduated from Cairo University with a degree in mathematics and physics, and reluctantly joined his father’s lumber company. But that didn’t last long. He defied his father’s wishes. And in 1954 Omar began his acting career with a lead role in a film called struggle in the family. In Arabic that’s […] which was written and directed by use of Chahine, one of Egypt’s most renowned filmmaker legend. He’s often referred to as the Egyptian Fellini and it’s a known fact that Shaheen is the one that launched Omar’s career. I just found out about use of Shane. About three months ago.

Ramy Youssef  12:03

It took me a while too, like, I think it was my early 20s where I realized how dope Egyptian cinema was. But that’s the problem. I think like Egyptian parents, they just have like temps of days and so propers and stuff on as my parents were like, well, how are we watching all this garbage like Ramadan? Like just people overreacting and crying, and you go back and watch use of Chahine. Oh, man, it’s unbelievable.

Kareem Rahma  12:28

So, Omar starred alongside Faten, then known as Egypt Shirley Temple because she was a star who made her film debut at seven years old, Faten typically refused to do any kind of PVA on screen. But she made an exception for the handsome Omar, the two kissed on screen which caused quite a stir in Egypt. And immediately, there were rumors swirling about the two having an affair. As the rumors continued, the two actually did start to hook up and they fell in love. A year later, Omar asked her to marry him. But there was one problem. Omar was raised Catholic and Faten was Muslim. Omar converted to Islam, which also meant changing his name. He like really didn’t feel conflicted about this. Yeah, it was like changing your order at McDonald’s. No guilt. No shame. You’re just like this is cool.

Ramy Youssef  13:23

If he was pawning off stuff just to have dinner. It’ll switch religions up for, yeah, for Faten.

Kareem Rahma  13:33

In his words, the name Michael annoyed me. I tried to come up with something that sounded Middle Eastern and could still be spelled in every language. Omar two syllables that had a good ring and reminded Americans of General Omar Bradley. Does that why you chose the name Ramy? Two syllables?

Ramy Youssef  13:55

The time of birth was not asked. No consent.

Kareem Rahma  14:01

Okay, so Omar and Faten’s marriage was very public and written about an Egyptian present as a true symbol of love for all Egyptians. They were basically the Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande of Egypt, or the Pete Davidson and Kaia Gerber of Egypt or the Pete Davidson and Kim Kardashian of Egypt. You get the picture, right? Two years later, in 1957, they had their only child, a son named Tarik Sharif. So the family’s happy as hell at this point. They’re both huge movie stars in Egypt. They make seven films together creating a mini genre called Faten and Omar films which in Arab cinema studies represent the romantic era during the Golden Age of Egyptian cinema. All told Sharif appears and 23 movies during this time, the entire country adores him and his wife. Life is good. He’s a full-fledged movie star in Egypt.

Ramy Youssef  14:57

Like pioneer shit. And especially to you’d like, you know, within the bounds of what you could pull off in the Middle East on screen, which actually back then was probably more liberal than now, you know, way more sex scenes are things that are considered revealing or whatever that now we’re kind of in a more conservative state for sure, probably, globally, but he was still dancing through lasers with what he could pull off.

Kareem Rahma  15:20

Would you put them on Ramy?

Ramy Youssef  15:22

You know, it’s not even because he passed like, maybe right before. We were like, I remember feeling like man if he was around.

Kareem Rahma  15:31

Also, you guys had the conversation?

Ramy Youssef  15:33

Of course. Well, it’s also funny too, because it was, you know, we’re making that pilot, you know, they always want people who were in things before, you know, like referencing. And I remember us being like, well, the greatest reference point just died. Because that would have been amazing? Oh my god. Omar Sharif is my grandpa and like, Dear God, I mean, just, it would have been unbelievable. And I’ve talked to some people in his family too, who were like he would have been down.

Kareem Rahma  17:44

That would have been so cool.

Ramy Youssef  17:46

Okay, do man’s God’s plan.

Kareem Rahma  17:49

Let me start next by reading a quote. Omar’s voice, if somebody comes to you, and says he wants to make a film that four hours long, with no stars, and no women, and no love story, and not much action either. And he wants to spend a huge amount of money to co-film it in the desert. What would you say? What would you say Ramy?

Ramy Youssef  18:20

Tell me more.

Kareem Rahma  18:25

Well, that’s what Omar said about his big break in the film that would make him an international superstar. In 1959, British director David Lean, who was widely considered to be one of the most influential directors of all time, was casting for his new film, Lawrence of Arabia, after many of his original choices turned it down. Lean cast Omar who was originally slated for a much smaller role. Until this time, Omar had never acted outside of Egypt or in English. He was basically just a big fish in a very small pond. This is huge. Lawrence of Arabia was a massive cinematic undertaking, it took Lean over three years to finish the film, and shooting alone took about a year and a half. With an enormous crew in the desert. The cast and crew lived in tents with the nearest town being 150 miles away. And Sharif recounts that there were 300 men with brooms on set whose entire job was to sweep the tracks in the sand from the camera to the horizon. Not to mention the fact that there are literally 450 horses on set as well as 150 camels.

Ramy Youssef  19:42

Oh, my God, dude.

Kareem Rahma  19:43

Like imagine that set in the middle of the desert with 450 horses 150 camels.

Ramy Youssef  19:48

And anyone who’s been on a film set knows it’s not even about the animals. It’s about the guy with the animals. So yeah, it’s a specific person. We’re lucky we when we shoot we have a great animal guy, but I’ve dealt with some animals guys that are a tough hang. So now you’re Omar Sharif, you just started the movie you shooting for a year and a half, you’re wiped, you just like let me just get over to this craft service table. Just get some water some cold water in the middle of the desert. And then you got some guy throwing random horror sacks at you. I mean, this is a feat. I think people don’t understand how hard it is to make a movie because you got horse guy talking to you and you got to go on screen and give an Oscar nominated performance. And you can’t get the guy out of your head. You know, he’s telling you all these facts about horse legs shit. Enormous amount of stress.

Kareem Rahma  20:32

And I never thought about this part. Do you think they had handlers? Or were they just like, hey, put a couple of horses here? Like I’m picturing like a little fat dude. Yeah, like the whip? Totally. And he’s just kind of like a piece of shit. I know he’s a piece of I feel like all the camel guys are pieces of shit.

Ramy Youssef  20:50

No, no, I make cute ones.

Kareem Rahma  20:54

Like little cute men. Like fat little cute man.

Ramy Youssef  20:57

Literally the description you made but cute. Like not a piece of shit. Just little cute guy with like, we were shooting in the desert in Cairo, camel guy, adorable. Just best smile you’ve ever seen. We asked him to be on camera. Because he was so cute

Kareem Rahma  21:13

The actually saved Peter O’Toole’s life on set. They were doing this famous scene. It was the charge of AKBA. And there was like 452 it’s unreal horses. And Sharif and Peter O’Toole were on camels because they were like the leaders. And Peter O’Toole fell off his camel. But the camel was so well trained that it like hovered over him and protected him so you’re right there was a camel guy. And like it protected him from being trampled by stampede. It’s actually sick. Peter O’Toole was actually this he was injured multiple times. During filming he received third degree burns. Sprain both his ankles, tore ligaments and both his hip and his thigh, broke his thumb, dislocated his spine, fractured his scalds, was bitten by a camel, sprained his neck, tore groin muscle and had two concussions. I mean, this is like an Englishman in the middle of the desert, like riding camels and horses in this huge cinematic feat. And Omar Sharif is like dude, I’ve really been I’ve been here, like I’ve already done for, like, this is chill. And Peter Till’s like what the fuck is going on? You age like 600 years. Have you seen the movie by the way?

Ramy Youssef  22:34

Yeah, of course. I didn’t know any of this shit though.

Kareem Rahma  22:38

Peter O’Toole looks mad uncomfortable the whole time.

Ramy Youssef  22:40

Yeah, he does. I have to watch it with the injury history in mind.

Kareem Rahma22:45

So that happened to Peter O’Toole. But Omar loved his time on set, noting that the crew was camping together. When the day’s work was done. They would drink and bond with each other. And Sharif got especially close to Peter. They bonded immediately and developed a lifelong friendship. In his memoir, Omar describes having champagne baths together. Does that mean they were drinking champagne in the bath? I was imagining that they filled it up like the tub with champagne. Oh, isn’t that what a champion bath is?

Ramy Youssef  23:16

This is the first time I’m hearing. That’s the whole thing. I actually don’t take baths in general that much. So maybe I’m a little out of my depth. The only time I ever took baths was like when I would have a breakup. I feel like oh, this is time to get in the bath and shed that relationship. I’m happy. So I’m not taking baths. They’re like, what’s going on? What are you going through that you got to put yourself fully in water? And like because that takes time, right? You got to fill it out. You got to be so sad that you don’t care about time for a while. You’re like, let me fill this. So let me get in here. Let me make it impossible to touch anything I care about. Because I’m so underwater. I’m only thinking about this now this way. Because I am thinking about how much time it takes to fill a bath. And I almost wonder if that’s what it’s about. It’s just taking time. It’s like prayer or something. Maybe they did that together with some champagne. That’s what I’m thinking. If you’re out there for a year and a half dude’s got all these injuries.

Kareem Rahma  24:19

Have you ever been approached to do a headspace recording? When you just, I was zoned. You were ready. I was Zen the fuck out. Like I would love for you to do that.

Ramy Youssef  24:31

Could you send them this?

Kareem Rahma  24:33

Sure. Let me call my guy. All right, guys. All right. We’re derailed. We gotta get back into this episode. Back to the movie that changed his life. Maybe even the scene that changed his life. The scene is highly regarded as one of the greatest character introductions of all time. Here’s how it goes. It’s absolutely silent. Two men stand in the desert as well. One of them is Lawrence and the other is his guide. They stare off into the distance far away. That can only be described as a black ghost flutters in the distance. It appears to come closer and closer; the audience and the characters may as well believe that this is a desert mirage. But no, the black ghost reveals itself to be a man on a camel. Who could it be, […] runs to grab his gun. As he aims it, he gets shot immediately by the ghostly figure. The ghost approaches, Lawrence, and the camel kneels to the ground. The Man in Black gets off the camel’s back and takes a look at the man he just shot. He very monotonically says he is dead. He pulls a scarf down from his face. And it’s Omar Sharif. handsome, charming. Beautiful. Lawrence looks like he’s going to have a heart attack. He says why? Omar’s response, this is my well. Lawrence says I have grown from it. Replies, you’re welcome. Should we act it out?

Ramy Youssef  26:05

I think you just did.

Kareem Rahma  26:12

I know we just did it but I really want to do it again.

Ramy Youssef  26:16


Kareem Rahma  26:18

That’s the line.

Ramy Youssef  26:19

I know. You just fucking broke it. I just started it. I was like half into doing it and then I did it and then you now I’m not doing it. No, no, it’s the moment fast.

Kareem Rahma  26:33

I’m gonna trick you into saying why again.

Ramy Youssef  26:37

You can probably steal from the recording and then do the other part.

Kareem Rahma  26:40

Oh no. This is all going in the podcast. Me trying to get a seat off my boiler Ramy dude. Yeah, we work together. We’re scene partners, actually. We did this one scene from Lawrence of Arabia.

Ramy Youssef  26:54

Like a bunch of scenes for headspace. Just a double decker.

Kareem Rahma  26:58

Double dream team squad. Let me get back to the story. Premiere night changed his life. He was a bonafide star in a hit movie. It was a huge financial success and widely acclaimed by critics and audiences alike. Its visual style has influenced so many directors, including George Lucas, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, Ridley Scott, Brian De Palma, Oliver Stone, and Steven Spielberg, who called the film a miracle. Lawrence of Arabia was nominated for 10 Oscars and won seven, including Best Picture and Best Director. But while he didn’t win, Omar was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, making him the first Arab actor to ever be nominated for an Oscar. That was his very first Hollywood film. Technically speaking, he was also the first Muslim to be nominated for an Oscar as well. Although I don’t think religion played a very big part in his life.

Ramy Youssef  28:05

What was the thing you know, that’s even in the premise of the of the podcast, right firsts, especially when it comes to something like that. It’s so tricky. I remember the night of the Golden Globes, and I was doing a press interview. And that was like, how does it feel to be the first Muslim American who could win the comedy lead male actor, I’m like, man, you guys are stretching. And then she’s asking me this question. And I’m like, I wouldn’t even be the first like, I think is […] won this. And like, so he’s not doesn’t he count? And then she’s kind of like, Arab. I’m like, this isn’t, this isn’t accurate.

Kareem Rahma  28:42

Like me and Aziz aren’t even in the same box, he checks out.

Ramy Youssef  28:45

He has a Southeast Asian box, but I mean, he’s this Muslim man. You know, I mean, there’s also might be people who’ve won Oscars or have done things who were Muslim, but didn’t tell anybody for Omar. Now look, I mean, if you got married and did something under religious pressure, sound pretty Muslim to me.

Kareem Rahma  29:03

You know, we’ll give it to him. We’ll give it to him. Later in life, Sharif claimed to be baffled by the film’s success, saying it was just a bunch of dudes riding camels. In his words. I think it is a great film, but I’m not very good in it. I also never thought anyone would go see the film. Three hours and 40 minutes of desert and no girls.

Ramy Youssef  29:29

That’s the addiction. I can’t even see his own work.

Kareem Rahma  29:33

Imagine being nominated for Oscars. I don’t know why you guys like this movie.

Ramy Youssef  29:38

That’s tough perspective to have can’t even see your own work.

Kareem Rahma  29:44

So Omar teamed up with David Lean a few years later in 1965 for Dr. Zhivago, this time in the starring role of Yuri Zhivago. The film ended up being one of the best works by both Lean and Sharif. Like Lawrence over Rabia it was also nominated for 10 Oscars winning five this time and is in the top 10 highest grossing films ever in the US once adjusted for inflation, though he was already developing a reputation in Hollywood for being a player when his costar Julie Christie propositioned him, Sharif turned her down. She ate fried egg sandwiches every morning and he found that gross. That’s wild deal breaker.

Ramy Youssef  30:30

He must have been allergic to eggs. Because the way that he viewed life for that to get in the way. That’s wild.

Kareem Rahma  31:37

I think it’s the best sentence I’ve ever read. She ate fried egg sandwiches every morning and he found that gross, gross, gross, gross. So this whole time he is still married.

Ramy Youssef  31:50

So what’s yeah, what’s going on? This timeline is so new to me.

Kareem Rahma  31:56

Essentially, what happened is he was in love with acting. And he was in love with his life. So much so that he might have forgotten about the love of his life back home in Egypt, Fateh. President Nasir of Egypt imposed exit visa travel restrictions that forced Sharif to start living in New Europe who around for the sake of his career, convinced that he would not be able to remain faithful. He told fatten that they’d be better off getting a divorce and they separated in 1965. It was tragic. And he would forever describe her as the love of his life, and would later declare that no other women had ever want his heart after her. Just like that the living symbol of love for many Egyptians was over.

Ramy Youssef  32:45

Yeah, I mean, Hollywood will do that. indescribable heights of fame. I mean, I have no idea what that does to a brain.

Kareem Rahma  32:52

I mean, I can’t imagine it would be easy. Now. I feel for her. I feel for her and him in a certain capacity for sure. In that same interview, that that he has this romantic and 9095 He’s like I never loved again, because like I had a lot of things, but that is the love of my life. She’s the only person I’ve ever loved. Every other breakup never hurt. I it just it was meaningless. And he’s alone and old and sad and essentially regretful.

Ramy Youssef  33:20

Yeah. Which is crazy, right?

Kareem Rahma  33:23

So Sharif’s reputation as a player continued to grow, he frequented discos, casinos, and would rarely turn down an opportunity to charm. He had a lot of affairs one month here, one month there, that was the way he described it. Sharif lived life as a bachelor, mostly alone in a hotel in Paris. He told himself it was for the best because they cleaned up after him. And if he ever got bored, he could just go hang out on the lobby bar. They always kept stool free for Omar. Honestly, I feel like he’s what many would call a Rolling Stone. In his words, from the age of 31, I have lived in hotels in the room, I do not have anything personal only my Armani suits. I wear a few each year and then I donate them. In my room, There is neither a book nor a photo in Duvall the same and in Cairo. I have a small apartment with some memories. The minimum. If they give an award to me, I accept it. I am grateful for it. And I leave it in the hotel. I do not have a car. I do not have possessions.

Ramy Youssef  34:30

This part of it that’s sad. Sure. But also like OG minimalist.

Kareem Rahma  34:38

I mean, maybe I read it sadly. Maybe he meant to say it like, like he could have read it like a TikToker or like he’s like, dude, from the age of 31. I have lived in hotels in the room. I don’t have anything personal. Only my Armani suits. I wear a few each year and then I donate them. In my room, there’s neither a book nor a photo. So, his next big move would forever lock in his reputation. In 1968 Sharif was cast in the iconic Funny Girl with Barbra Streisand. The studio released publicity photos, one of which showed Omar and Barbara kissing. Not a big deal, right? It just so happened that war broke out between Israel and Egypt and the sight of an Egyptian man kissing a Jewish woman suddenly got political. It pissed everyone off. The film’s Jewish backers wanted Omar kicked off the movie and protests broke out in Egypt, demanding that his citizenship be revoked. They also banned the movie from playing in Egypt before it even came out. The tour unfazed, they continued to have a very public affair while filming. Honestly, it probably made the movie better. It was a huge success, becoming the highest grossing film that year and netting eight Oscar nominations. But the affair only lasted for months. Sharif wanted to be with her so badly that he offered to convert to Judaism. I’m sensing a pattern here. She wanted to live in New York. And that’s where Omar drew the line. He hated New York and refused, so they broke up.

Ramy Youssef  36:17

So it like it became a classic like New York versus LA fight like that’s what it came down to? This is a really crazy fact.

Kareem Rahma  36:23

Literally. He was like, I’ll be Jewish. She was like you got to live in New York. He was like I’m out. The handsome romantic moved on pretty quickly. He dated the French icon Catherine Deneuve, next was German American actress Barbara Bouchet. Then it was the Playboy Bunny Pat Sheehan and the breakout actress Dottie Marshall. When he wasn’t getting his pre-con. She was tending to his race horses and spending time at the racetrack or playing cards with the boys. He was obsessed with Bridge. And how obsessed slash good was he? Well, he was a grandmaster at one point. Ranking among the top 50 best players in the world. He once said, acting is my profession. Bridge is my passion. But Bridge came with a price. Not just a gambler in love, he was always willing to risk it all and that may have been what spurred his downfall.

Ramy Youssef  37:22

Bridge came with the prices kind of hilarious. Yeah, it sounds like the dark side of the bridge.

Kareem Rahma  37:37

So he gambled a lot, a lot more. Sometimes he won. On one occasion in 1966 after getting rejected by a girl, he got blackout drunk, gambled all his money, had no idea what was going on. But the casino manager came over and handed him a gigantic sum of cash. Somehow he had won $1 million, which back then is about $10 million. And he was worried you’d be robbed leaving the casino with that much cash. So he got into a car and drove to Rome. The next day he sent the girl that wouldn’t come up to his room. Five literal truckloads of flowers. 25 tons to thank her for rejecting him. Wildest thing I ever did was send a mariachi band. Wait, is that a bit in any sitcom?

Ramy Youssef  38:41

It’s very, it’s very friends.

Kareem Rahma  38:44

I was gonna be like, Oh, dude, maybe you should put it in season four of Ramy.

Ramy Youssef  38:52

Yeah, I wrote it down.

Kareem Rahma  38:53

You’ll just write. You can just remember it. Don’t even worry about like credit. Like I don’t need the credit. Okay. I mean, but if you use it, I would like just shot at like special things.

Ramy Youssef  39:07

If I use it, definitely the special thing.

Kareem Rahma  39:11

Thanks, dude. I appreciate it. Okay, so back to Omar Sharif. Has more than one occasion, gambled everything, and he lost. In his words. In one evening, I entered the casino, and I was a millionaire. And I walked out at six in the morning, and only enough for my cup of coffee. Three or four times I’ve done this. His gambling addiction he admitted was madness. But he could not stop. He blamed boredom and the loneliness of living out of a suitcase to pay off his debts. He started taking any role, no matter how garbage it was. In his words, I call my agent and tell him find me any trash. I need money. And he wants stated I went 25 years without making a good film. He wouldn’t have the chance to star in another real blockbuster until 1999 When he was in the 13th Fourier, where he played alongside Antonio Banderas, but even that film was a box office flop, losing almost $129 million. Sharif was so embarrassed at the film’s failure that he announced he’d retired from filmmaking, and he also gave up on gambling. And as he grew old, his lifestyle started to catch up with it. After years of smoking, what he claims was a 100 cigarettes a day, he started to have heart problems and had triple bypass surgery in 1993. He didn’t tell anyone about the surgery, there in England, as he sat in the hospital, he decided to move back to Egypt. He never smoked it again. Is it a common thing you’ve heard?

Ramy Youssef  41:15

No, but I wouldn’t have heard of it because people keep it secret. It’s true.

Kareem Rahma  41:22

It wasn’t until he turned 80 that he finally seemed to slow down. By then he had slipped into a melancholy routine, sleep till noon. Then walk the streets of Paris. He spent his last days with his son Tarik and his two grandsons Omar and Kareem. He passed away by heart attack in 2015, just six months after his ex-wife fattened died. His funeral was held at the Grand Mosque of […] and Cairo, and his casket was draped in the Egyptian flag on top of a black shroud. And that was the end of Omar Sharif. Though things got rough, he still remembered for being a cheerful, talented and charismatic artist who opened the door for international heartthrobs in American media. In the end, Omar wasn’t sure if becoming famous was good for him. In his words, if I had never made Lawrence of Arabia, if I had not become known in the Western world, I’m not sure whether I would not have been a happier person. Not that I’m an unhappy person. I had a good marriage. I had a child; I had a wonderful life. I was an actor in Egypt, and my wife was also and we had a wonderful time. Suddenly, I became famous, and life separated us. And our marriage was over. And I’ve never really fell in love again.

Ramy Youssef  42:52

Yeah, it’s really interesting like him reflecting on the exposure that he got and what that meant for him. And I think even to this idea of being a first there is no blueprint for someone like him from that region seeing what he saw and having the amount of success that he had there’s no there’s nothing to look to and how to handle it.

Kareem Rahma  43:15

And Omar Sharif revival in Ramy would have actually been very good for everyone involved would have been amazing. Will help so that that’s what would have happened.

Ramy Youssef  43:31

That’s probably I’ve heard inshallah used very liberally. That’s the one that’s made the least sense ever been.

Kareem Rahma  43:39

After I said that, I was like..

Ramy Youssef  43:41

If God wills it in the past, but I think it’s an Inshallah that acknowledges how little we know about time. It’s a help out but I think it could sit in something that is potentially real.

Kareem Rahma  44:03

Maybe there’s a better word.

Ramy Youssef  44:05

I mean, it’s not just about the word. I think it’s probably about the whole sentence if we were to rewind. But I think if we stood by, you’re Inshallah, you know, God willing, the thing that happened in the past, we could then kind of talk about time in a way that I think it deserves to be explored. I’m really at this point, just kind of swerving towards the headspace, this is the headspace play. All of this is the headspace play.

Kareem Rahma  44:32

That’s nice. All right. And that, my friends is the story of Omar Sharif, the first Arab actor to be nominated for an Academy Award. Next time on FIRST make sure to catch me and Sydnee Washington, as we talked about Connie Chung, the first Asian American to anchor the nightly news at a major network.

CREDITS  44:59

FIRST is produced by some friends and salts. Ad sales and distribution by Lemonada Media. The show is created and hosted by Kareem Rahma. Executive producers for some friends are Kareem Rahma, Andrew […], researched by […], original audio production music and sound design by Salt. Executive producers for Salt are […] salts Head of Production […], Salt’s head of engineering, […], Salt’s head of post-production Robert Adler’s, Production Manager Alice […], post production coordinator […], recording engineer Aaron Kennedy, edited and sound designed by […] Harris, dialogue supervision by Noah Kowalski. Additional sound design and music supervision by […], mixed by Ben O’Neil. Original music and composition by […] additional Music courtesy of extreme music recorded at Salt Studios in Los Angeles and the cutting room in New York City.

Spoil Your Inbox

Pods, news, special deals… oh my.