Electric guitar

The Tragic Ballad of Omar Khorshid: The Egyptian Electric Guitar Giant

The Tragic Ballad of Omar Khorshid: The Egyptian Electric Guitar Giant

Omar Khorshid cycling through the streets of Beirut during his stay there to compose an album. The photo would later become the cover for his posthumous album, Giant + Guitar.
Image credit: Voice of Lebanon

Donning his signature black velvet suit, a dazzling smile from cheek to cheek and slicked back hair that would have given Elvis a run for his money, there was a man and his electric guitar. Audiences were mesmerized by her performance, both on and off screen. His name was Omar Khorshid and he was the very first Egyptian electric guitarist.

During the post-war era that merged tradition and westernization, Khorshid’s electric guitar would fascinate Egyptians for decades to come. And, after his death in a mysterious car accident, that same enthusiasm will continue about the conspiracies behind his circumstances.

The creation of the Egyptian electric guitar giant

Image Credit: Van Leo

Khorshid was born into a family of art and wealth that almost ensured he was destined for stardom. His father, Ahmed Khorshid, was a accomplished cinematographer with several links to the Egyptian celebrity scene, while her mother was a socialite. Her siblings, including iconic actress and performer Sherihan, would also follow in the family’s artistic footsteps.

Early in his childhood, Khorshid discovered his passion for music, learning the violin, piano and classical guitar, eventually landing on the instrument that would make him a household name: the electric guitar. A budding and mostly Western instrument, Khorshid’s mastery of the electric guitar was no small feat.

Khorshid’s electric guitar performances were unlike anything the Egyptian music scene had heard before. It fused the instrument’s Western sound style with Egyptian Eastern music, ushering in an era of funk-rock that symbolized the 1970s in Egypt. Khorshid has become the main event at Egypt’s hottest nightclubs, delighting crowds with his surf-rock riff mixed with the fingering skills expected of an oud player.

His main moments from the event would later make him mainstream, as Khorshid’s new wave of music would eventually draw attention titans of Egyptian music: Abdel Halim Hafez, Mohamed Abdel Wahab and Umm Kalthoum – legends who would invite young people to perform with them in concerts.

Omar Khorshid posing with Umm Kalthoum during his wedding to Amina El Sobky
Image Credit: Ein

Khorshid’s star would only shine brighter with the cinematic opportunities that followed his mainstream popularity, turning the guitarist into a celebrity in his own right. He became familiar with the most influential circles in Egypt, going so far as to be part of President Anouar Sadat’s entourage during a to visit at the White House in 1977.

Yet by reaching his forties, Khorshid was already an icon of modern Egyptian culture. His adoring fans were eager to see more guitar solos and noteworthy performances in the decades to come. But those hopes were dashed when Khorshid tragically died in a car crash in 1986, aged 36. Sudden and mysterious, Khorshid’s death remains a mystery to this day, as many suspect his death was more than just a car accident.

Car accident or murder?

On May 29, 1981, Khorshid was driving at high speed down El Haram Street in Giza, Egypt, with his wife, Dina, a Lebanese businesswoman, and fellow actress Madiha Kamel, when he lost control of the vehicle. and collided with a lamppost. . Both women suffered injuries as Khorshid’s autopsy determined him dead immediately after the collision.

Khorshid’s death was ruled a car accident, but it was not until after his death that questions about a possible assassination arose. After healing from their injuries and shock, Dina later claims that they were chased by a mysterious car which was determined to cause Khorshid’s accident – ​​a claim which has given rise to a number of theories from members of Khorshid’s inner circle.

The scene of the accident.
Image credit: Alqabas

Etemad Khorshid, the younger sister of the late guitarist, believes that the cause of his brother’s death lies in the hands of former Information Minister Safwat El-Sherif and the abusive relationship he allegedly had with movie superstar Soad Hosny.

Hosny would have worked in spying For El-Sherif during the Egyptian-Israeli conflict. According to Khorshid’s sister, Hosny, who is a close friend of the guitarist, suffered due to El-Sherif’s orders and Khorshid came to his defense, resulting in a spat and his eventual death.

Ehab Khorshid, the younger brother of the guitarist, would support this theory in a telephone interview ohnot Al Hekaya (The Story) talk show, shortly after El-Sherif’s death in 2021.

Another theory accuses Palestinian freedom fighters to assassinate him because of his role as a member of Sadat’s entourage during the peace talks between Egypt, Israel and the United States.

The late Maha Abou Ouf – who was also married to Khorshid at the time of his death – publicly shared her belief that Khorshid’s death was more than just an accident during the Kol Youm Talk show (daily) in 2019. Although the actress admitted she still doesn’t know what really happened, she acknowledged the question marks surrounding the accident.

“I did not go to the scene of the accident, but he was to meet me after he left [near Mena House], but then a friend who was with him called me asking if Omar had gone home or not. When I said “no”, he called me back a few minutes later to tell me that Omar had been in a car accident and had been transferred to the Anglo-American hospital… but why this hospital? There are several other hospitals much closer to [where he crashed]it does not make sense “, noticed Abu Ouf.

On the other hand, some believe that it was simply a tragedy that took away the Egyptian electric guitar giant. His former teammate and drummer, Yehia Khalil, Express disbelief in conspiracy theories, believing it was simply a tragic car accident.

Despite the controversy and his untimely death, Khorshid remains an icon of music and film, even 40 years after his passing. His work helped revolutionize music in the Arab world, becoming the first of its kind to push the boundaries of the guitar in Arab music. The legend of Khorshid lives on, both as inspiration and as a matter of conspiracy.

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