Great Books Behind Omar Sharif’s Films

Omar Sharif is perhaps best-known for his role in Dr. Zhivago, based on the classic novel by Boris Pasternak. But many of his films were based on acclaimed books:

amanSharif starred in Francophone, Anglophone, and Arabophone movies, including a 2003 film adaptation of Monsieur Ibrahim et les fleurs du Coran and Nahr al-Hob, (River of Love), based on Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Indeed, Sharif could act in English, French, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and Greek productions, although he had an accent in all.

Classic Omar Sharif films based on Arabic books:

A Beginning and an End (1961), directed by Salah Abouseif, based on the novel of the same name by Naguib Mahfouz, the first of Mahfouz’s novels to be made into a film. The film was nominated for a Grand Prix at the Moscow International Film Festival. Omar Sharif played Hassanein.

Omar Sharif also recorded an audio version of Naguib Mahfouz’s Cairo Trilogy.

There Is a Man in Our House (1961), based on a novel by the popular writer Ihsan Abdel Quddous, who had many books turned into films. Directed by the legendary Youssef Chahine. Sharif played Ibrahim.

The 13th Warrior (1999) was based on a novel by Michael Crichton, Eaters of the Dead, but that in turn was inspired by Ibn Fadlan’s tenth-century travel narrative, Mission to the Volga. In the film, Sharif played Melchisidek.


  1. Great actor (and gambler it might be said, world class bridge player). He did a movie only a few years ago I highly recommend called ‘Monsieur M’ in English about a Turkish immigrant living in France who makes one last journey back to his homeland. It is told through the eyes of a boy living in the Paris neighborhood. Really good performances.

  2. Not written by an Arab author (though he might have argued the point) – and I suspect this was perhaps too obvious to be included, as I’m sure you know that T. E. Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom served as the basis for David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia.

    Just this past week I watched Sharif in The Tamarind Seed, in which he manages quite well despite having been cast as a Russian. What presence he had as an actor – one could have just stuck him up on the screen to do nothing and he still would have been worth watching.

  3. A friend of mine just told me about a film called ‘The Yellow Rolls Royce’ that he stars in. I have not seen it but she said that it is wonderful. How can it be anything but fantastic
    with Omar Sharif in the film ?!

  4. Are you sure Omar Sharif is in Chahine’s Cairo Station? It is definitely one of the best Egyptian films ever, or even in the whole world but I don’t remember Omar Sharif in it!

    1. No, I was wrong, and I thought I corrected that immediately. You must be looking at an older version? Perhaps the one that’s emailed out? No correcting that, I suppose.

      1. Yes, I read the email version… still, the advice to watch it hold good!

        1. Not sure why I was sure he was in it…but yes, worth watching in any case!

  5. I never knew that Omar Sharif was such a flexible actor! (Though I knew he was terrific). Is there is an actor currently that is flexible enough to pull off several different nationalities and perform in six different languages?

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