Iconic figure in Arab music, Sabah passes away, When news outlets began reporting her death yesterday morning, radio stations and television networks interrupted their broadcasts to pay homage to one of Lebanon’s last surviving legends.
Born Jeanette Gergi Feghali on November 10, 1927, she later took the screen name Sabah (Morning in Arabic) but was affectionately known by the diminutive Sabbuha, or the nickname Shahrura (songbird).
She began performing in the 1940s, earning a reputation for her renditions of patriotic songs as well as folkloric ballads, though it was her light-hearted style that endeared her to fans.
But she was also an icon of the big screen, launching her career in Egypt, the centre of the Arab film industry, and appearing in more than 90 movies, including her first “The Heart Has One”.
She starred along many Egyptian heart throbs, including Rushdi Abaza.
Sabah, who also performed on the stage and on television, will be remembered almost as much for her tumultuous love life which at times threatened to overshadow her reputation as a performer.
She is believed to have tied the knot at least nine times, though the precise figure has been disputed, ensuring that her private life was perpetually in the headlines.
Her first marriage, in 1946, was to Najib Shammas, who fathered her son, Sabah. Her daughter Huwaida was born from her union with Egyptian violinist Anwar Mansy.
Her other husbands included Egyptian television presenter Ahmad Faraj and Lebanese member of parliament Yousef Hammoud.
Her marriage to Abaza lasted just days, but the longest of her unions, clocking in at 17 years, was to Lebanese artist Fadi Lebnan.
She continued to shock fans with her dalliances well into her later years, getting engaged briefly in 2003 to a Mr Lebanon winner several decades her junior.
In interviews, Sabah bluntly acknowledged she was unfaithful to most of her husbands, who she claimed were cheating on her.
She also feared that many of her husbands tried to take advantage of her wealth and well-known generosity.
Sabah clung to the glamorous style of her youth well into her 80s, continuing to wear her hair long and blonde and undergoing multiple plastic surgeries.
Her longevity became the subject of lighthearted jest among the Lebanese, though in interviews Sabah said she found such comments offensive.
Her fame also extended far beyond the borders of Lebanon, and she performed at grand international venues including the Sydney Opera House and the Albert Hall in Britain.
She held Egyptian, Jordanian and US citizenship as well as Lebanese, and was close to several Arab leaders.
Her funeral is set for Sunday, in central Beirut, and is expected to draw crowds of mourners before she is buried in her native village Bdadun.
Tributes for the diva poured in from across the Arab world.
“With her passing away an entire beautiful past of Lebanon passes away,” wrote Lebanese politician Walid Jumblatt on Twitter.
“She was a great singer of a Lebanon that my generation knew, that will never come back.”
Lebanese pop star Nancy Ajram tweeted: “Today Lebanon has lost a legend.”