Cairo: Sabah, considered by many to be one of the icons of the Arab world, has passed away. The Lebanese superstar, who celebrated his 87th birthday earlier this month, died Wednesday morning at his Beirut residence.
During her impressive six-decade career, Sabah – real name Jeanette Gergis Al Feghali – has released a record number of albums, performed across the world, and starred alongside some of the biggest names in Arab cinema.
Nicknamed Al Shahrourah – which means ‘the singing bird’ in Arabic – Sabah received many accolades during her lifetime, including the Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dubai International Film Festival ( DIFF) from the United Arab Emirates in 2010.
Speaking to Gulf News, DIFF Chairman Abdul Hamid Jomaa paid tribute to the star: âIt is very sad to hear of Sabah’s passing. It is a treasure of Arab cinema.
Born on November 10, 1927 in Bdadoun, Lebanon, Sabah’s journey to stardom has not been a happy one. She suffered abuse from her father, who beat her and even took the money she earned from odd acting jobs.
Sabah is also said to have witnessed the tragic death of her mother, who died as a result of domestic violence. The singer’s brother killed her after learning that she was cheating on her husband.
Later in her life, Sabah recalled, âI got married early because I wanted to escape.
Sabah began singing and acting in minor roles in the 1940s, before being discovered by Egyptian filmmaker Henry Barakat. His first feature film was Al Alb Laho Wahed (The Heart Belongs to One). With Egypt being at the forefront of the film industry at the time, Sabah made the majority of her appearances in these productions, even adopting the Egyptian dialect. She has starred alongside some of the biggest names in film’s golden years, including Abdul Halim Hafez, Kamal Al Shennawi, Ahmad Mazhar and Hussain Fahmy.
During her 60 years in show business, Sabah released an impressive 3,500 songs and 50 albums, and appeared in 20 plays and 98 films. She was the first Arab singer to perform at the Olympia in Paris, Carnegie Hall in New York, the Piccadilly Theater in London, and the Sydney Opera House.
She also made an appearance on European television – which in the 1980s was not common for an Arab singer – on the French show Le Grand Echiquier. She sang in a duet with French singer Enrico Macias, which resulted in her being banned from several Arab countries, due to Macias’ declared support for Israel.
Some of his biggest hits are here:
Colorful love live
The star has also garnered a lot of media attention with her nine marriages. She married her first husband, Najib Shammas at the age of 18, and the couple remained married for five years, having a son together.
She then received a proposal from former Saudi King Khaled Bin Saud Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, but it ended in divorce a few months later as her family did not approve of the marriage.
Her second child, her daughter Howaida, came from her third marriage to Egyptian violinist Anwar Mansi. But that ended four years later due to Mansi’s addiction to the game.
Her fourth husband was Ahmad Farraj (who lasted three years), and her shortest marriage was to her fifth spouse, Egyptian theater legend Rushdi Abaza. She filed for divorce 48 hours later, although she never disclosed the reason.
Another legend of Egyptian theater, Youssef Shaaban became her sixth husband, this union having lasted a month. This was followed by a two-year marriage to Lebanese MP Youssef Hammoud.
Her longest relationships came later in life. She stayed with Lebanese comedian and director Waseem Tabara for five years, while her marriage to the much younger Fadi Kuntar, aka Fadi Lebnan lasted 18 years.
Two years ago, it was reported that Sabah had married her personal hairdresser, Joseph Gharib. However, it was only a stunt that saw her enter Guinness World Records as the oldest bride of the year (85).
A TV series based on the life of Sabah, aptly titled Al Shahrourah, aired during Ramadan 2011. It was performed by Lebanese actress / singer Carole Samaha, who paid tribute to the star on Twitter.
âI personally experienced her feelings, her joys and her sorrowsâ¦ Today, she left, leaving a great void in my life. Goodbye Sabouhty, âshe posted.
Other Lebanese stars Nancy Ajram and Elissa also expressed their sadness, Ajram posting: âToday Lebanon has lost a legend. I send my deepest condolences to the friends and family of Sabah. His memory will remain in the hearts and minds of millions of people. “
Elissa said: “She was ‘life’ with all that it holds beautiful meanings, and that is how she will be remembered. With nothing but a smile.
Rachel McArthur is a Cairo-based journalist