LagOmar – the stunning holiday residence once owned by Hollywood actor Omar Sharif – is now open to the public as a house museum. Boasting a fascinating history which has become mythologised on Lanzarote over the years. The Museum of Casa Sharif is open every day from 10.00 to 18.00, with guided tours available every half hour.
LagOmar - A Brief History
The property was constructed as a pilot house in the 1970’s by an English developer called Sam Benady. The idea being that it would work as a show home to attract investors and property hunters who wanted something similar built for themselves.
The developer was greatly assisted by the architectural talents of Jesús Soto, a Lanzaroteño who worked on numerous projects alongside César Manrique, including the internal lighting and layout of the route through the Cueva de los Verdes and various aspects of the Timanfaya National Park
It was Soto who devised the schema for the house’s design, which was based upon a marriage of the red volcanic cliffs of the former quarry site, lush green planting and smooth white plaster surfaces, similar to those favoured by Manrique in a number of his constructions.
The inspiration, however, is said to have been an idea of Manrique’s, whose influence is clearly in evidence throughout the gardens and the house. The overall effect was to create a setting that evokes the Arabian tales of 1001 nights.
The cliff walls have been incorporated into the design both inside and outside, with the kitchen and dining room featuring the rough picon stone as retaining walls.
The gardens extend down the side of the hill, with caves and curving staircases leading to a large terrace with an oval swimming pool. Overlooking this terrace is an outsize traditional Canarian bread oven which acts as both a place to cook and a refuge from the heat, as it contains banquette seating and a large built-in table.
Whilst the house was still in construction in 1972, a number of film stars, including Omar Sharif, were on Lanzarote filming ‘The Mysterious Isle’. This was a Spanish production, directed by Juan Antonio Bardem based on the Jules Verne novel and starring Omar Sharif as Captain Nemo.
During filming the cast visited the house being built on the side of the cliffs at Nazaret and Sharif was so taken with the design he bought it there and then. At the time, the house was almost the only dwelling in Nazaret, as can be seen from several of the photographs which form part of the exhibition at the museum.
Gambling on the House
Sharif’s purchase of the house was short-lived however. As within days he lost the property in a game of bridge. And the winner was none other than the developer Sam Benady. Who, unbeknown to Sharif, was the European Bridge Champion at that time and who, knowing the actor’s addiction to gambling, challenged him to a game.
This event is immortalised in a large photograph of the two men playing cards, which now forms part of the exhibition on display in the house. Elsewhere, the exhibits focus more on the construction process, with several photographs illustrating the different stages of the house’s development. The internal style of the house still retains many of the original seventies design touches, which visitors to the other attractions on Lanzarote will already be familiar with.
Sala Jesus Soto
And in the Sala Jesús Soto there is more information about the designer, who has won several awards for his works as an artistic architect in the Canary Islands. He originally began his professional life as an electrician, but as a result of working alongside Manrique, his talents extended into the construction of various installations and projects, such as Casa Sharif.
But as a result of Manrique’s extensive legacy, Soto has been left somewhat in the shadows, which is much of the reason for the museum’s focus on his contribution to various projects based in Lanzarote.
Guided tours around the house and gardens are now available, starting at 11.00 and then every half hour, with explanations of the history of the house in English, Spanish and German. The remaining gardens, restaurant, gallery and Bar La Cueva, which were all constructed during the 1990’s have been open since their completion and can be visited at the same time. Visitors to LagOmar Museum should go in through the entrance for Bar La Cueva, where the ticket office is located.
Entrance costs €5 for adults and €2 for children over 12 years.