Omar Sharif''s Greatest Performance?

By cjohnson | November 17, 2005 12:50 pm

Ok, so you’ve noticed that some of us do a bit of tut-tutting on this blog from time to time. I’m certainly guilty of that. Well, I decided to go Tut-Tutting big time last night and go to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s (LACMA) special King Tut (yes, Tutankhamun) exhibition last night. The Egyptian government authorized a special exhibition of some of the treasures to go on tour and it has been here for a while. They’ve made it a huge commercial endeavour, tickets run at $25 each, and the advertising for it around the city reached remarkable levels of perpetual visibility earlier this year. It is coming to an end soon. The official website is at this link.

I think that they did an excellent job, overall. The placing and spacing of the artifacts allowed you to walk around them and properly take them in. There were not too many objects in each room, and the signs and labelling were thoughtfully laid out. The fact that it was an evening visit probably helped make it an enjoyable experience…..seeing the layout of barriers at the entrance for the huge lines they much get during the day and on the weekend, I imagine it must be a dreadful experience to come at that time.

A major contributor to making it an excellent couple of hours is Omar Sharif. He did the voice work on the personal audio tour devices. (Since first trying one of these in Taiwan in 1997, while looking at the vast collection of artefacts in the National Palace Museum there, I can no longer imagine seeing exhibits of this sort without an audio guide… it is at least 30% of the exhibit, in my view, when done properly.) Sharif’s voice work was one of the best performance I’ve ever witnessed from him. It starts off a bit corny, but works really well once you get used to it. He’s not just reading a script – he’s really into it- and he’s distintly got laughter in his voice (perhaps chuckling a little here and there!) at things which are amusing or ironic (such as their care about embalming internal organs, while they just pulled the brain out through the nose and toss it away), and reverent in the appropriate places, without being too over-dramatic. And all the time he’s giving you useful information that would be just a mess to try and put on the signs and labels, given the number of people trying to read them.

Anyway, the thing that tried hard (but failed) to spoil it all is near the end where they have a loud display concerning the issue of why the fellow was dead at age 19. It was annoying because it was too loud and spread to the room before, where you should be contemplating the tomb itself (what they think-wrongly- is the climax of the exhibit) in thoughtful near-silence. Instead, you can here in the distance the corny-movie-trailer-voice (definitely not Sharif…I’m sure it is one of the movie trailer people) booming “The Mystery Continues!”, every 60 seconds or so…..

But the artifacts are just wonderful. You get caught up in the workmanship, relationships to other artefacts, history, etc…. Excellent. Well worth the visit.

They don’t let you take cameras in. I have some respect for that…..especially given how intrusive people can be with those things (I still have terrible, terrible memories of the mob in front of the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris in Summer 2004). I’m also a bit weird about whether I ought to be taking snaps of some of this material to be gawped at randomly and out of context. It deserves to be looked at properly, perhaps, maybe out of respect for the culture (all of our Western culture…), and the dead. Maybe not. I don’t know. I have not thought it through.

Anyway, you know me by now. Camera often at the ready for a secret shot of significance to share with you. When I saw this little object, I just had to do it. It is a cosmetics jar from the burial chamber, and I think that I’ve no qualms about sharing a snap of such an object. It was so charming (big cats sticking their tongues out were involved, so how could I resist?), and so exquisite that I spent 15 minutes tracking the museum officials until I got my chance to do one of my no-flash keep-hand-steady shots, (which I made sure disturbed nobody, I stress). Here it is. Enjoy:

cosmetic jar from the tomb

Next, Tut-Tutting about Tut Tat!


CATEGORIZED UNDER: Arts, Entertainment, Personal
  • Plato

    I missed it while it was being hosted in Victoria, British Columbia. I wanted too. Well, with Clifford’s “photographic eye” then I guess. :)

  • zoss

    As an Egyptian; I must say I’m proud … of Omar (El)Sharif — he’s a passionate individual who went out there and applied himself and his talent; in contrast to many an idler basking in the accomplishments (of long gone “ancestors”) in which they themselves had no hand. As for your $25, Clifford, I’m sad to say, is counted with the sum of money that is not going to make the majority of Egyptians’ lives any better.

    (I must appologize for the bitterness that crept in my note, but I’m told repressing is not healthy. I’m glad you enjoyed the show, though.)

  • Pyracantha

    Clifford writes (about the Egyptian art show):

    “…it deserves to be looked at properly, perhaps, maybe out of respect for the culture (all of our Western culture)…”

    I have recently encountered some ideas that claim that all of “Western” culture originated from the ancient Egyptians, and that these Egyptians, including King Tut, were Black Africans. Is this what you are referring to by “all of our Western culture?”

  • Clifford

    Thanks zoss. I suspected that was the case.

    Hi Pyracantha, I think that whether one wants to go into the details of whether or not there is a clear line of descent from the ancient Egyptians, and whether or not they were Black Africans, it is clear that they are one of the oldest civilizations on the planet, with a tremendous influence on all that came after. It is in that sense (at least) that I meant what I said…..



  • Plato

    On recorded times in history of that era….does it seem satisfactory? Would science be comfortable with it’s time table?

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  • Samantha

    As for your $25, Clifford, I’m sad to say, is counted with the sum of money that is not going to make the majority of Egyptians’ lives any better.


    I thought that one of the reasons this show was so (controversially) expensive was that the Museums hosting it had to pay a decent amount ($5 million/venue) to the Egyptian government to aid in restoration projects (see here). Is this not true?

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  • spyder

    It is amazingly refreshing to read about the Tut exhibit’s success as it tours around. I remember the first time, back in the 70’s, when i beheld its stunning artifacts and unique incredible craftsmanship, at the LA County Museum of Art. Your enjoyment and thrill is the very reason exhibits such as this need to come round more often than they do, or just again in so many cases. Thanks for the hope.

  • zoss

    I don’t know whether that story is true or not, and I have no reason to believe that it isn’t. Either way, it certainly doesn’t contradict my comment — the key difference is what comes after Egyptian (in my comment it’s an “s” refering to the people, and in the story it’s the word “government” refering to the modern day pharos.)


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