Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Curious Coincidence

Back in the mid-70s when Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud (aka "Saud al Faisal") became Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia, finally only stepping down this past April, I thought that he resembled the famous Arab actor, Omar Sharif. As time went on, their appearances seemed to diverge, with Saud coming more and more to resemble his late father, King Faisal. Whatever one thinks of the views or policies of the late Saud al Faisal, he was probably the wisest and most capable member of the Saudi royal family, and when he stepped aside three months ago, had been serving as Foreign Minister far longer than anyone else in the world. So, the curious coincidence is that they have just died within a day of each other, Saud on July 9 at age 75, and Sharif on July 10 at 83. I learned from Juan Cole that Sharif was originally born in Lebanon of Christian parents with a very different name, but converted to Islam in the 50s when he was the top film star in Cairo and married his leading costar, who was Muslim. They never divorced, although separated. I had always read that he was Egyptian. Cole also points out that today it would be all but impossible for a Muslim Arab actor to play a Jewish part as he did in Funny Girl, much less a part such as Doctor Zhivago. He certainly was a fine actor. Barkley Rosser

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