Omar Sharif’s Grandson Comes Out As Gay And Half-Jewish

The grandson of  legendary actor Omar Sharif—best remembered by gay audiences as Barbra’s squeeze in Funny Girl—has come out in the Advocate both as gay and half-Jewish, neither of which will make him very popular in his native Egypt.

I write this article in fear. “Fear for my country, fear for my family, and fear for myself” Omar Sharif Jr. writes. “My parents will be shocked to read it, surely preferring I stay in the shadows and keep silent, at least for the time being. But I can’t.”

Born in Canada, Sharif Jr., 28, grew up shuttling between Montreal, Paris and Cairo. Though he graduated from the London School of Economics, he’s now pursuing a career in acting.  (At the 2011 Academy Awards, he was the guy who humorously sparred with presenter Kirk Douglas.)

Sharif, Jr., who fled Egypt last January amid increased violence and instability, says he’s despondent over the situation in his homeland:

The vision for a freer, more equal Egypt—a vision that many young patriots gave their lives to see realized in Tahrir Square—has been hijacked. The full spectrum of equal and human rights are now wedge issues used by both the Supreme Council of the Egyptian Armed Forces and the Islamist parties, when they should be regarded as universal truths…

That my mother is Jewish is no small disclosure when you are from Egypt, no matter the year. And being openly gay has always meant asking for trouble, but perhaps especially during this time of political and social upheaval. With the victories of several Islamist parties in recent elections, a conversation needs to be had and certain questions need to be raised. I ask myself: Am I welcome in the new Egypt?

Is Sharif’s plight more tragic than that of a gay Egyptian without a famous name or the financial means to flee to the U.S.? He would be the first to say no. But he’s aware of the spotlight even a modicum of fame can provide and has decided to do something useful with it.

The Hollywood celebutantes who drunkenly stumble across the pages of Us Weekly could learn a lesson.

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  • jason

    Omar Sharif Jr is gorgeous and handsome. I share his fear for Egypt. It could end up like Iran with the fundamentalists in charge.

  • Rooney

    A great loss for Egypt if they no longer want him there.

  • Cam

    And THIS is why I don’t have respect for closeted Hollywood folks.

    What a brave guy, putting his safety in danger. I hope all turns out well for him and his family.

  • The Real Mike in Asheville

    He most certainly has his grandfather’s tall, dark and handsome and sexy features. Your comment though that we know Sharif the grandfather from Funny Girl is beyond silly, that gay audiences are somehow just showtune girls? Sharif, the grandfather, is at his sexiest as Dr. Zhivago and as Sheik Ali in Lawrence of Arabia.

  • JoeyO'H

    AS handsome as his Grandfather.

  • Farquart

    He is quite dashing, and he deserves a shot at fame in Hollywood.

  • David Ehrenstein

    Grandad was discovered by Egypt’s greastet filmmaker — the late and openly gay Upussef Chahhine.

  • B-Rock

    @The Real Mike in Asheville: Lawrence of Arabia is my favorite gay film ever! Peter O’Toole does a great job of bringing out the fop and the diva everyone knew T.E. Lawrence to be while keeping it under the radar of the Hollywood execs.

  • Bryan

    Middle Eastern/Arabs are sooo underrated on the hotness scale

  • The Real Mike in Asheville

    @B-Rock: Interesting aside: a couple years ago, someone brought in T.E. Lawrence’s officer’s watch. With the watch, was a repair receipt, to fix the watch after his motorcycle accident. The estimate value of the watch as a period watch was relative low (can’t remember, but certainly under $5k), while the value of this particular watch, with the Lawrence engraving and receipt, $500,000!

  • gus


  • CBRad

    I certainly think of Dr. Zhivago when I hear of Sharif, not Funny Girl.

  • geoff

    How does he get to be “Jr” if he is Omar’s GRANDson?

  • Joseph

    @CBRad: Me too. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen Doctor Zhivago, but I’ve only seen Funny Girl once. Indeed, I think of not only Zhivago or Lawrence of Arabia, but also Mayerling co-starring Catherine Deneuve before I think of Funny Girl.

    Also worth mentioning: Omar Sharif’s son, and Jr.’s father, Tarek el-Sharif, played the young Yuri Zhivago at the beginning of Doctor Zhivago.

  • CBRad

    @Joseph: Didn’t know that trivia about “Dr. Zhivago” (thanks). It’s certainly a great movie. That score alone !

  • gkkunkel

    Can you be half Christian?

  • The Real Mike in Asheville

    @geoff: It is quite simple: not all cultures use names the way we do. Omar Sharif, the grandfather, was born Michael Demitri Shalhoub, as a Catholic. When he converted to Islam, changed his name to Omar El-Sharif and had one son, Tarek. Tarek had two sons, the eldest named after his father, Omar.

    While here and in England, we would used “II — the second” instead of “Jr.”, in their culture, they used “Jr.”

  • Brand

    This man is not only a role model for gays but for moderate Egyptians and for proponents of democracy anywhere.

    This is a tremendously important discussion to be having, in Egypt, throughout the Arab Spring states, and everywhere. In our own country, we who pride and overpatriotize the concept of American freedom and equality—yet have our own brand of ultraconservative religious-cum-political extremists running the zoo from the peanut gallery and rhetorically gunning for the White House against what some circles will tell you is a half-black president—could ask the same question about ourselves: how welcome are we in a Rick Santorum or Mitt Romney America?

    It’s facile to say the situation is more volatile and dire in Egypt—that is undeniably true—but the last few times around, nobody saw the Dark Ages coming until it was too late.

    (Count me among the people who take some offense at the gay audiences reference and think “Lawrence Of Arabia” is the proper classic reference for his grandfather no matter what your sexuality, and who perked up and thought the grandson was cute during that little moment sparring with Kirk Douglas at the Oscars!)

  • Alexi3

    I haven’t been so proud of anyone for a long time. What guts! I wish you all the best.

  • rjp3

    @CBRad: agreed

  • dewin

    Shouldn’t be a big thing that his mother is Jewish- the Eqyptian relationship with Israel goes back before Exodus- how many Jewish women were made wives to Egyptians back then nobody knows- their blood is forever mixed- We’re all one family, really-

  • zando

    I am sure no one on here knows who she is, but his grandmother is a legendary actress in her own right….only she is only known in the Arab world. But Faten Hamama is considered at the level of Katherine Hepburn in the Arab world so this guy has quite the pedigree.

  • EvonCook

    @The Real Mike in Asheville: Thanks! Yes I know Omar by far better from Lawrence in Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, Funny Girl was a very weak and far third!

  • EvonCook

    @geoff: The designation Jr. is usually put after the first child with the exact name, especially if the elder with the name is still living. Then the next person with the same name in the family has II put after their name, the next III and so on. So, you have an original, then a jr, , then the 2’nd, 3’rd, etc.

  • EvonCook

    @The Real Mike in Asheville: No, we would not use II or 2nd until AFTER the one with jr. It goes: origianal, jr., 2nd, 3rd and so on…

  • Callum

    Wow, this nice coming out story has turned into a discussion of naming attributes. Firstly congratulations to young Sharif!!!

    Now about naming. The term Junior is ONLY used when the father has the exact same name. The term II (roman numeral for second) may also be used when the name is exactly the same as the father in lieu of Junior, and also may be used when the name is the first person with the same name as some one from a previous generation. In the case of Omar above, if the younger man is named exactly the same as was his grandfather’s (adopted) name then he would more correctly be called II or The Second as in Omar Sharif II or Omar Sharif, the Second.

  • xando

    @Everyone: Arabs rarely name their kids after themselves they name their kids after their parents as a way to honor them so yes he would be Jr. since his dad’s name isn’t Omar.

  • Adam Bloom

    wtf HE IS HALF JEWISH his granpa was jew so every one knows that

  • Derek Perron

    So you’re taking the opportunity of his grandfathers death to run a 3 to article? Btw I’m gay and I’ve never seen funny girl but have seen dr zhivago and Lawrence of Arabia

  • Milton Appleby

    Um, okay. This is relevant how?

  • gaypalmsprings

    R.I.P. Omar Sharif. Egypt, the US, and the world loved you.

  • Ariel Hans Christian

    Stay outta Egypt. Be a mouth piece and an ‘under ground railway’ for the young gay of New Egypt. You knew they will be persecuted, be the refuge.

  • Gus Anderson

    OhMyGod…….a half-Jew ? Seriously ???? It’s the end of the world.

  • Michel Filion

    Montreal connection?.. Did not know that!

  • Sutex Haron

    “Blessed You. Ameen”

  • Jacob Suarez

    you cant be half Jewish, it is a religion, either you believe in it or you don’t

Comments are closed.