When Fairuz took to the stage in Dubai on March 21, 2001, the sold-out crowd were especially grateful.
Not only were they overjoyed to see the Lebanese star, whose music sound-tracked some of the Arab world’s most tumultuous times, but they were also grateful that she chose to perform at the American University Auditorium instead of in front of the Giza Pyramids in Egypt.
According to Egyptian newspaper reports at the time, Fairuz turned down an offer for a return performance at the majestic site for a more intimate occasion organised by the Dubai Shopping Festival.
Fans from the UAE wouldn’t have been too surprised, with the singer accustomed to devoted crowds across the country.
According to newspaper Al Itihad, Fairuz made her debut UAE concert in 1979 as part of the opening ceremony for the Expo Centre Sharjah and returned to do more than 50 shows spanning nearly 40 years.
Sixty-six years old at the time and 10 years away from her last concert in Lebanon, Fairuz cut a regal figure at the American University Auditorium.
Backed by an orchestra, she performed a set of crowd favourites led by the opener Kifak Inta and late career hit, 1999’s Ishtaktellak. The show was shot for a future DVD release.
Fairuz saluted peers and legends by performing a sturdy rendition of Ya Khail by Lebanese singer Sabah, and Marakabna by the Rahbani Brothers, the duo of composers responsible for many of her key works and featuring her late former husband Assi Rahbani.
A new generation of fans can now watch the official concert film after Fairuz’s manager, daughter Reema Rahbani, released the full concert on YouTube in 2018.
There you will see a weathered performer still in complete command of her craft.
Adopting a less-is-more approach, she dressed in an elegant black dress and rarely moved from the microphone as she put all her concentration into delivering songs that moved hearts and nations across the Middle East.
For those complaining about the lack of stage banter, check the video closely.
From that knowing smile when taking to the stage and the dramatic Daak Khilki, where her eyes glimmered with intensity, to that bittersweet expression during concert closer Al Wadaa, Fairuz said it all on stage.
The artist continued to return to the UAE for the next six years, with a return date at the American University Auditorium in 2002 in support of the Dubai Autism Centre, a lavish 2006 concert in Abu Dhabi’s Emirates Palace and again in Sharjah in 2008.