My moment with Omar Sharif

I met him a decade ago at an ADC Conference in DC (years before bridges were burnt with the organization for their pro-regime stances etc etc, but I digress).

He was the key note speaker at the conference, the main attraction, and everyone was excited to meet and listen to this icon of cinema.

Omar Sharif

It was Saturday afternoon and I was walking in the Conference Hall lobby when a buddy of mine who ran a community newspaper came up to me saying he needed a photographer fill-in for a last-second interview he landed with Omar Sharif. Without hesitation I said yes.

Seconds later we were walking towards the interview room and I was handed a point-and-shoot camera and told to “take a lot of pictures”.

When we walked in, the aging legend was sitting in a chair right in front of me – a little star struck, I intro’d myself and he asked where I was from. I replied with my standard “Ana Soory – nus Hamwi/ nus Shami” motioning with my hand to highlight the 50/50 split.

He let out a huge smile and gave me a hug, and started sharing how much he loved Syria, and how his mother had roots in Hama, which “made us practically brethern”. You can only imagine the smile on my face – afterall this was Doctor Zhivago himself embracing me!

After we took a few pictures together the interview commenced and promptly got off to a horrible start – Omar Sharif didn’t appreciate some unexpected and odd, tough questions being asked and he proceeded to lecture the interviewer on tact. I tried to focus on just taking photos, pretending like I was an expert tilting the camera 90 degrees to capture the “essence of the moment”.

Within a few minutes the interview was over – he said goodbye to me with a smile and we were ushered out of the room.

That evening he gave (while a little tipsy) a wonderfully entertaining & hilarious speech – more of a rant – were he opined about everything from Arab cinema, to political hypocrisy to love in front of a crowd of about a thousand Arab-Americans.

I never did get a chance to meet him again. The interview was not published (to my knowledge), and I never got to see the pictures I took – years later when I asked to see them I was told that the hard-drives they were on were lost when the newspaper was tragically flooded by Hurricane Sandy.

And that, was my moment with the legend.

#‎RIP‬ Omar Sharif.

UPDATE: I learned today that the interview was published, albeit months after it took place – check it out!

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