It's been a busy weekend in Vatican City for Emirati singer Hussain Al Jassmi: seeing the sights, meeting Pope Francis, and making history in the process.
Al Jassmi became the first Arab artist to perform at the Vatican's annual Christmas concert when he took to the prestigious stage on Saturday night (December 15).
The Concerto di Natale in Vatican City, which is now in its 26th year, has been held annually since 1993, inviting Italian and international artists to perform free of charge to support charitable causes.
Last week, Al Jassmi announced on social media that he was "honoured" to be the first Arab invited to perform at the concert.
"With tolerance and peaceful co-existence, we, leaders and citizens, honour Zayed’s vision," he wrote. "My style is to embark on promoting interfaith and affinity among people."
And he certainly seems to have been busy on his trip.
Al Jassmi posted a number of photos and videos on Instagram from around Vatican City, including the piece de resistance: a video of the moment he met Pope Francis.
In the post, he wrote, in Arabic: "globalisation initiates from localisation and from the artist’s throat."
"Cultures and the UAE met, still meet and are making a difference in arts and culture which integrate to create a better life for humanity. Our presence in the Vatican will be my inspiration and that of the whole art. Our goal is to enhance goodness and promote dialogue and tolerance amongst religions and people in a refined manner."
In another post, he continued to pay homage to his homeland:
"I conveyed today in the Vatican in front of Pope Francis messages of love, peace and tolerance among religions and people which represent my culture, community, nation and Arabic heritage.
"I carried with me Zayed and the UAE vision to the peoples of the world and their faiths."
Al Jassmi was in good company at the annual Christmas concert, joining a formidable line-up of big-name acts.
Italian pop/soul singer Alessandra Amoroso, American pop star Anastacia, Puerto Rican musician Jose Feliciano, and American jazz legend Dee Dee Bridgewater were among a list of 15 international artists lending their musical prowess for the cause.
This year, the concert aimed to shed light on the plight of refugees. Funds raised from ticket sales will support charities who provide aid to refugees in Uganda and Iraq – Don Bosco Mission in Uganda, which helps resettle those fleeing the war in South Sudan, and the Scholas Occurrentes Project in Erbil, which aims to connect university students in Italy and university students in refugee camps.
The Emirati singer is perhaps the UAE’s most popular musical export and is one of the Middle East’s top-selling artists.
He was popular as a judge during the third season of The X Factor Arabia, and serves as a UN Goodwill Ambassador, and the Ambassador of Creativity and Ambassador for Arab Culture in the UAE.
In 2016, he became the first Emirati – and the first Arab – to perform at Dubai Opera. He is adept at fusing musical genres – elements from traditional Arab pop, 1990s R&B and even acid jazz are all present on his first three albums – and seamlessly shifting from singing in his native Emirati dialect to Egyptian, Moroccan rai and English.