Friday, March 21, 2008

Omar Sharif and the Pyramid Builders

Al Ahram Weekly (Zahi Hawass)

More than 10 years ago, when I was teaching Egyptology courses at UCLA, Lisa Truitt of National Geographic came to see me about an IMax film entitled Mysteries of Egypt, which they were planning to produce. I told Lisa that I wanted Omar Sharif to be the narrator. I wanted Sharif and I to work together on this film. When Lisa met Sharif, he immediately agreed to be the narrator and offered to do it for nothing. But, Lisa said no, and insisted on paying him. She told me that if they did not pay the actor it could end up costing the production company more. If one morning Sharif decided not to get up and come to the set, she explained, this would cost the production company because they would still have to pay for the cameras and crew. They therefore had a strict policy to always pay the actor a salary. We met many times during the film's production to discuss the details.

When Sharif used to come to Egypt, the press chased and hounded him, trying to get an interview. Sometimes they made him angry by asking stupid questions, or they would exaggerate and insinuate things in their questions. One day Amal Othman, who at that time was a reporter for Akhbar Al-Yom, wanted to meet him for an interview. She is a very intelligent and energetic person, and this is why she became the editor of Al-Negoum (Stars) magazine at such a young age. She asked me to contact Sharif because of our friendship and arrange the interview. I called Sharif and he agreed. Sharif thought that the reporter was a smart lady and asked good questions; it was a great interview. Later Othman wanted to do an interview with Sharif and myself. She thought that it should be an interview between a star actor and a star archeologist, which ended up being the title of the article. Othman convinced Sharif to do the interview at the Giza Pyramids and to visit the excavation of the tombs of the pyramid builders. This discovery is extremely important because it proves that Egyptians built the pyramids, not slaves, aliens or people from a lost civilisation.

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