in search of LagOmar: land of legend

in search of LAGOMAR a place of legend.

with Norman Warwick

An example of a legend might be a song that my mate Colin Lever and I wrote about a concertina player called Joe Maley aka Jack Easy, because of  his relaxed style of playing. We never met him and only learned of him at all when reading an obituary of him in Don Frame´s folk column in the Manchester Evening News in the nineteen seventies. That stage name was like a gift from heaven to any songwriter, so we wrote a song about him, similarly calling it Easy Jack Easy. We debuted the song in a folk club in Milnrow and it seemed pretty well-received by the audience, until a man we hadn´t recognised, the brilliant and revered songwriter Alan Bell, then followed us on to the stage and performed his new song, The Concertina Man  about his óld friend, the late Joe Maley´. We were mortified by putting our song anywhere near Alan´s especially as we hadn´t known the late musician and we apologised profusely.  ´Don´t worry lads,´ the considerably older song-writer said graciously, to us and the whole audience, ´that´s how legends are made.´.

Omar Sharif (keft) the Egyptian actor best known for playing Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and the title role in Doctor Zhivago (1965), was born Michel Demitri Shalhoub on April 10, 1932 in Alexandria, Egypt to Joseph Shalhoub, a lumber merchant, and his wife, Claire (Saada). Of Lebanese and Syrian extraction, the young Michel was raised Catholic. He was educated at Victoria College in Alexandria and took a degree in mathematics and physics from Cairo University with a major. Afterward graduating from university, he entered the family lumber business.

Before making his English-language film debut with “Lawrence of Arabia”, for which he earned a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award nomination and international fame, Sharif became a star in Egyptian cinema. His first movie was the Egyptian film The Blazing Sun (1954) (“The Blazing Sun”) in 1953, opposite the renowned Egyptian actress Faten Hamamah whom he married in 1955. He converted to Islam to marry Hamama and took the name Omar al-Sharif. The couple had one child (Tarek Sharif, who was born in 1957 and portrayed the young Zhivago in the eponymous picture) and divorced in 1974. Sharif never remarried

Beginning in the 1960s, Sharif earned a reputation as one of the world’s best known contract bridge players. In the 1970s and 1980s, he co-wrote a syndicated newspaper bridge column for the Chicago Tribune. Sharif also wrote several books on bridge and has licensed his name to a bridge computer game, “Omar Sharif Bridge”, which has been marketed since 1992. Sharif told the press in 2006 that he no longer played bridge, explaining, “I decided I didn’t want to be a slave to any passion any more except for my work. I had too many passions, bridge, horses, gambling. I want to live a different kind of life, be with my family more because I didn’t give them enough time.”.

As an actor, Sharif had made a comeback in 2003 playing the title role of an elderly Muslim shopkeeper in the French film Monsieur Ibrahim (2003). For his performance, he won the Best Actor Award at the Venice Film Festival and the Best Actor César, France’s equivalent of the Oscar, from the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma.

Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2012, Sharif died of a heart attack on July 10, 2015, in Cairo, Egypt.

Of Lebanese/Syrian descent, he resided in Egypt most of his life. Fluent in Arabic, English, French, Greek, Italian and Spanish, he graduated from Cairo University in 1963 with a joint degree in mathematics and physics. He wanted to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA) but, shortly before he was to travel to London, a producer saw him and offered him the leading role in The Blazing Sun (1954), Sharif’s first film.

A world-class bridge player, he was known to anticipate or postpone shootings in order to be able to attend major bridge events. He authored and co-authored several books and a weekly syndicated column on the game of bridge and licensed his name to a bridge computer game.

He underwent triple bypass surgery (1992), and suffered a mild heart attack (1994). Until his bypass, Sharif smoked 100 cigarettes a day; but he quit easily after the operation.

As of 2009, he is only one of six performers who won a Golden Globe Award as Best Lead Actor/Actress in a Motion Picture Drama without being nominated for an Oscar for that same role (his for Doctor Zhivago (1965)). The others are Spencer Tracy in The Actress (1953), Anthony Franciosa in Career (1959), Shirley MacLaine in Madame Sousatzka (1988), Jim Carrey in The Truman Show (1998) and Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road (2008).

His autobiography ‘L’Éternel Masculin” was published in France in 1976 and in America the following year as “The Eternal Male”.

In 1969, Sharif was named to star in a musical biography on Rudolph Valentino that director Mike Frankovich was preparing but which did not materialize.

Received one-month suspended prison sentence for striking a police officer in a suburban-Paris casino in July 2003. Was also fined $1,700 and ordered to pay the officer $340 in damages, for insulting and then head-butting the Pontoise policeman, who tried to intervene in an argument between the actor and a roulette croupier. [August 2003]

Sharif stated in an interview on Egyptian television that his former wife, Faten Hamamah, the only woman he ever married, was his only true love. He was the father of Tarek Sharif and grandfather of Omar Sharif Jr..

Sharif was close friends with Peter O’Toole, who nicknamed him “Freddy” on the set of Lawrence of Arabia (1962), because “no one could possibly be called Omar Sharif”.

When Omar Sharif signed on with Sam Spiegel to do Lawrence of Arabia (1962), it was a seven picture deal at $15,000 per film, which the producer convinced him was the standard rate at the time. The others were Doctor Zhivago (1965), Behold a Pale Horse (1964), The Night of the Generals (1967), Genghis Khan (1965), Mackenna’s Gold (1969) and Funny Girl (1968).

Bollywood movie star Dilip Kumar was initially offered the role of Sherif Ali. He declined the role after which David Lean offered it to Omar Sharif which subsequently catapulted him onto the world scene. Sharif was supposed to play the role of Tafas who is shot by Sherif Ali in his introductory desert sequence.

His Egyptian citizenship was almost withdrawn by the Nasser regime because of Sharif´s public affair with Jewish actress Barbra Streisand, who was strongly supporting Israel in its Six Day War against Egypt.

The first time he went to the United States was for the film premiere of Lawrence of Arabia (1962). The night before the opening Peter O’Toole took him to see Lenny Bruce in a show, after which they went backstage to see Bruce then went out for drinks. After a while Bruce said he had to go home for a few minutes so they accompanied him. While Bruce was giving himself a drug injection the police broke in and arrested them all. At the police station , Sharif asked to make a phone call and rang producer Sam Spiegel who eventually managed to get them released.

One of Shaiif´s main passions was horse racing and he bred horses for the sport.

This week one of the most emblematic architectural works of Lanzarote, inspired by the work of César Manrique, has gone on sale. Lagomar goes on sale for 7.5 million euros.

In Lanzarote there is a legend that the property belonged to the Egyptian actor Omar Sharif, hence its name.  It is said that the Egyptian actor lost it in a game of bridge to Samuel Benady, a Sephardic real estate eveloper based in Gibraltar. Indeed, that was one of the first things we learned about Lanzarote

This is the Lagomar Museum, (right) “surely the most exclusive and xtraordinary property of all those in Lanzarote”, it says in the property blurb prepared and promoted by the office of economists IZADI, which has put it up for sale.

The truth is that Benady built the house after having founded the company Oasis Nazaret SL in the sixties. César Manrique was also a founder of the society but soon abandoned it because of his numerous travels. Benady then hired Jesús Soto, one of Manrique’s greatest collaborators, as artistic director of the works.

The current owners, the Uruguayan Beatriz Van Hoff and her ex-husband, the German Dominik Von Boettinger bought the property in the late eighties and rehabilitated it.

In addition, they transformed the old rofe quarry located next to the villa into a lake with gardens next to which they built a restaurant and the current museum. For this they had the advice of Soto..

In the purest César Manrique style, Lagomar combines the volcanic nature of Lanzarote with the traditional architecture of the island and pieces of Arab influence. The Lagomar art gallery hosts exhibitions of local and international artists.

In the purest César Manrique style, Lagomar combines the volcanic nature of Lanzarote with the traditional architecture of the island and pieces of Arab influence. The Lagomar art gallery hosts exhibitions of local and international artists

In the purest César Manrique style, Lagomar combines the volcanic nature of Lanzarote with the traditional architecture of the island and pieces of Arab influence. The Lagomar art gallery hosts exhibitions of local and international artists

The property consists of three plots. The first has 2,202 square meters and 310 built in 4 houses, patio and common areas, with private pool apart from the main one of the complex.

The second plot has 3,061 square meters and 220 square meters built, including the restaurant, the exhibition cave and the cocktail bar. The third plot has 1,459 square meters and includes two tennis courts.

IZADI describes the property as “a good deal, which given its income (entrance to the complex, restaurant, bars, exhibition hall,…) raise profitability to interesting ratios, being able to amortize its price in a period of 7 to 8 years, with current income”.

So did Omar Sharif ever really live in the property?

That is how Lanzarote legend tells it, and today touists and residentss alike take for granted the veracity of the legend.

Legend, though, often lies !

Or does it?

Journalist Racheal Robson began her story by saying that  One of Lanzarote´s leading restaurants was actually built for the Hollywood star Omar Sharif back in the 70s. The leading actor of the box-office hit Dr Zhivago, was fascinated by the island and decided to build and set up his holiday home on Lanzarote, which today is a restaurant due to some curious circumstances.

Nestled in the little town of Nazaret, and built within volcanic rock, lays the restaurant of Lagomara (left) a unique restaurant with impressive surroundings including caves, grottoes, a pool, and secret passages. The grounds in which the restaurant is set was formally the location of the property of Omar Sharif with the restaurant having been constructed in the garden area. Omar Sharif was inspired by the unique house of Lanzarote born artist Jesus Soto and commissioned him to construct something similar for his holiday home. Jesus Soto had built his own house based on an idea from another famous architect from the island, Cesar Manrique. The unique style and technique used in Cesar Manriques art is ever so present in Lagomar and is therefore many times misleading as actually it was Jesus Soto that had designed the house using Manrique´s ideas.

Unfortunately Omar Sharif never got to enjoy his wonderful house for very long. While filming on the island, Omar Sharif being an extremely good Bridge player, challenged a man to a very high stakes game. He added his house to the stakes, but little did he know that he was actually playing the world championship of Bridge, and lost his house during the game. After losing his house Omar Sharif never returned to the island.

Nowadays one can enjoy the beauty of this location by visiting either the restaurant or the bar located on the premises. The restaurant overlooks wonderful views of the rock gardens and the caves located within the volcanic rock. It is one of the most exclusive restaurants on the island and serves a variety of Mediterranean dishes. The restaurant is open 12:00 to 24:00 Tuesday to Saturday and 12:00 to 18:00 on Sundays.

The bar is called La Cueva and is, as the name suggests, it is set in a cave with many small and cozy passageways. Here one can enjoy drinks in a unique ambience while listening to some electric tunes.  At times there are also organised concerts set in the bar with different musicians and artists performing. Opening times are 22:00 to 03:00 on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

On air sign background

Don´t forget there is some excellent music on air for you at any time of day. Our friend, Steve Bewick, has created another Hot Biscuits jazz programme featuring an interview and music with Jenny Bray while she takes a break from her writing, arranging and teaching. Also on the show are sounds from Alison Rayner Quintet ARQ; a blues from Mat Walklate, Chip Wickham, Jas Kayser and finishing with Dan Reinstein‘ Band. If this looks interesting pass on the word and listen in 24/07 at Steve Bewick’s Shows | Mixcloud

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