In this June 2009 photo, famous Lebanese singer Sabah laughs during an interview with journalists at the Comfort Hotel where she has been living, in Beirut, Lebanon. AP Photo / Ahmad Omar
In this June 2009 photo, famous Lebanese singer Sabah laughs during an interview with journalists at the Comfort Hotel where she has been living, in Beirut, Lebanon. AP Photo / Ahmad Omar

Sabah, iconic Lebanese singer dies aged 87

Sabah, the iconic Lebanese singer known for her voice, fashion and perseverance, was rumoured to have died on many occasions in the past decade – the result of false social media reports and circulated emails.

When she finally passed away yesterday, many people in the Arab world still did not believe it.

The singer, who was known for the quote “I have lived enough”, died at home aged 87 after many years of ill health.

The news was released by Lebanon’s national newspaper in a brief statement at 8.30am, saying the “singer and actress Sabah passed away”. The Daily Star newspaper said Sabah died at 3am at Beirut’s Comfort Hotel, where she had been living.

One of a trio of Lebanese cultural icons including Fairouz and the great Wadih Al Safi, who died a year ago aged 91, Sabah was known as “the voice of Lebanon”, with “a voice like honey”.

To her fans, she was “white hearted” in the way in which she gave back so much of herself.

Sabah was born Jeanette Gergi Feghali, in 1927, in Bdadoun, Lebanon, to a Catholic family.

Taking the stage name Sabah, which means morning, she overcame a turbulent childhood marred by violence and became known to the Arab world as an actress and singer who rose to fame during the Golden Era of Egyptian Cinema in the 1940s and 50s.

Sabah earned various nicknames such as Al Sabbouha (a diminutive play on her name), Al Shahroura, in reference to her place of birth in Wadi Chahrour, as well as “singing bird”, and was also dubbed by many as “Al Ostoora”, the legend.

In a career that spanned more than 60 years, it was sometimes hard to separate the fact and fiction surrounding her.

It was alleged that she suffered abuse at the hands of her father and that her brother may have killed her mother.

Sabah married many times. The first time, it was said, was at an early age to get away from her family. Her most notable marriages were to the legendary Egyptian actor Roshdi Abaza for just one week, and the Lebanese writer-director Wassim Tabbara. Her marriage to the young Lebanese artist Fadi Lubnan lasted 17 years.

Lebanese media dubbed her “the Elizabeth Taylor of Arabia”. Some reports spoke of seven husbands, others 10, including a Saudi prince.

In Lebanon, she was often mocked on her romantic adventures and her plastic surgeries; especially her affairs with much younger men, such as her engagement and unconfirmed marriage to Mister Lebanon of 2000, Omar Mehio. He was in his early 20s, and she was in her early 70s.

Sabah was also known for her generosity, elegance and class, and for her forgiving nature – qualities needed after several husbands were said to have taken financial advantage of her. But ultimately it was her zest for life for which she will always be remembered.

In April, 2008, she published a report with supporting photos announcing her marriage to Joseph Gharib, her hairdresser of 17 years. She later revealed it was an April Fool’s joke. Some even believed that the union made her the oldest bride in the Guinness Book of World Records.

“I recall a very vibrant energetic woman,” said Rabih Feghali, a resident of the UAE in his 30s, who is related to Sabah on his grandmother’s side.

Mr Feghali met the diva in the 1980s as a teenager when she came to Abu Dhabi to perform. She came to his father’s bakery, Arlequin, in Al Khalidiya, to meet his parents.

“To me she was like my grandmother, about that age, but she was full of life and laughter,” he said.

“She pushed the envelope in terms of lifestyle, fashion and art. She did what many wouldn’t dare, and she just lived her life her way.

“You liked her for what she was, a multitalented entertainer.”

She was the first Arabic singer to perform at New York’s Carnegie Hall and the Sydney Opera House.

In 2010, she was honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Dubai International Film Festival. Diff chairman Abdulhamid Juma said yesterday: “We all heard the bad news of the passing of the legendary singer and actress Sabah this morning. We honoured her at the festival four years ago, and we are very sad to hear the news.”

While the new generation of Arabs may have not known her songs and films, they knew of her through their parents and grandparents, as well as through her television appearances into her 80s. She retired only four years ago after an illness left her with paralysis in one of her arms and legs.

In her later years, financial problems left Sabah with nowhere to live. It was said these were compounded by her generosity to orphanages across Lebanon, while she would routinely give away dresses to those in need or to charity.

After the pop star Ragheb Alama stepped in, she thanked him on air. It emerged that he had met her as a child; she had welcomed him into her home and told him to pursue his dreams.

Yesterday he tweeted: “Our giants are leaving, our cedars are diminishing. Farewell our shahroura, our beloved, rest in peace.”

In February this year, a hospital photo of the singer went viral in the Lebanese media, showing the diva bloated and ill, and with no make-up. Al Bawaba media quoted her reportedly saying: “I’ve been waiting for death for a long time now. I want it. I want to know its secret. I want to know what comes after it.

“Everyone I’ve played with, lived with and sang with are gone; what’s left any more? They’ve even destroyed Lebanon. I’ve got to leave this life.”

“Sad news today. The legendary singer Sabah died. With her passing away, an entire beautiful past of Lebanon passes away,” tweeted the Lebanese MP Walid Jumblatt. “She was a great singer of a Lebanon that my generation knew and that will never come back.”

Condolences and sadness poured in for the ultimate diva, who often made headlines for her unconventional hairstyles, eccentric fashion and for keeping her figure, despite her age.

“RIP #Sabah — She showed us what it means to live your life to the fullest, the way you want it, not caring about what people think/say/do,” tweeted @SalmaIFouad echoing similar sentiments expressed by many.

“Somethings just happen! And when they do you feel empty. #sabah #RIP,” tweeted Lebanese TV personality @Zaven_K

The Lebanese singer Carole Samaha, who played Sabah in a 2011 TV drama Shahroura, posted a photo of her with Sabah on her official Twitter account saying: “I lived her feelings, her happiness and her sadness, and today she left, leaving a deep mark on my life, goodbye Sabouhti, Shahrourat Lebanon.”

Sabah will be buried on Sunday in her hometown following a funeral in Beirut. Finally, all those jokes about her immortality will be put to rest.

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Started: 2023
Founders: Abdulaziz bin Redha, Dr Samsurin Welch, Eva Morales and Dr Harjit Singh
Based: Cambridge and Dubai
Number of employees: 8
Industry: Sustainability & Environment
Funding: $200,000 plus undisclosed grant
Investors: Venture capital and government


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Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

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Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

A Long Way Home by Peter Carey
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Founder/CEO: Rami Salman, Rishav Jalan, Ayush Chordia

Based: Dubai, UAE

Sector: Technology, Sales, Voice, Artificial Intelligence

Size: (employees/revenue) 10/ 100,000 downloads

Stage: 1 ($800,000)

Investors: Eight first-round investors including, Beco Capital, 500 Startups, Dubai Silicon Oasis, Hala Fadel, Odin Financial Services, Dubai Angel Investors, Womena, Arzan VC



Family: I have three siblings, one older brother (age 25) and two younger sisters, 20 and 13 

Favourite book: Asking for my favourite book has to be one of the hardest questions. However a current favourite would be Sidewalk by Mitchell Duneier

Favourite place to travel to: Any walkable city. I also love nature and wildlife 

What do you love eating or cooking: I’m constantly in the kitchen. Ever since I changed the way I eat I enjoy choosing and creating what goes into my body. However, nothing can top home cooked food from my parents. 

Favorite place to go in the UAE: A quiet beach.

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Tips for job-seekers
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