Sabah (singer)

Sabah (Arabic: صباحṢabāḥ  Lebanese pronunciation: [sˤɑˈbaːħ]; born Jeanette Gergis Feghali, جانيت جرجس فغالي; 10 November 1927 – 26 November 2014) was a Lebanese singer and actress. Nicknamed Shahroura el Wadi[1] , شحرورة الوادي, (meaning the Songbird of the Valley, based upon her region of origin, Wadi Chahrour also called Ourrouar) in the Arab world, she released over 50 albums and acted in 98 movies as well as over 20 Lebanese stage plays. She had a reported repertoire of over 3,500 songs. A Lebanese TV series named Al-Shahroura “الشحرورة” was made about her in 2011. She was among the first Arabic singers to perform at the Olympia in Paris, Carnegie Hall in New York City, the Royal Albert Hall in London and the Sydney Opera House.[2][3][4] She is considered one of three Lebanese icons, along with Fairuz and Wadih El Safi, and was nicknamed "The Empress of the Lebanese Song" (Arabic: إمبراطورة الأغنية اللبنانية‎).

Sabah in the 1960s
Sabah in the 1960s
Background information
Birth nameJeanette Gergis Feghali
جانيت جرجس فغالي
Born(1927-11-10)10 November 1927
Bdadoun, Greater Lebanon
Died26 November 2014(2014-11-26) (aged 87)
Beirut, Lebanon
GenresArabic music, Traditional
Occupation(s)Singer, actress
Years active1943–2014


Sabah emerged at a time when the field of Arab singers was already crowded with formidable competitors. These included Najat Al Saghira[5] (born 1938), Warda Al-Jazairia (1939–2012), Shadia (1931–2017), Fairuz (born 1934) and others.

Sabah on the cover of Al Chabaka Magazine. April 1965

Sabah released her first song in 1940 at age 15. She soon caught the eye of Egyptian film producer Asia Dagher, who immediately signed her for three films. The first of these, El-Qalb Luh Wahed (The Heart Has Its Reasons), released in 1945, made her a star and she became known by her character's name — Sabah — which is Arabic for morning. She also acquired several affectionate nicknames, including "Chahroura" ("songbird") and "Sabbouha," a diminutive of Sabah. Among her most popular films were Soft Hands (1964), Ataba Square (1959), and The Second Man (1960), in which she played a cabaret singer who vows to avenge her brother's death at the hands of a smuggling ring. In her parallel music career, she recorded more than 3,000 songs, working with a string of legendary Egyptian composers, including the late Mohammed Abdel Wahab. She specialised in a Lebanese folk tradition called the mawal, and her most famous songs included "Zay el-Assal" ("Your Love is Like Honey on my Heart") and "Akhadou el-Reeh" ("They Took the Wind"). Sabah released over 50 albums and acted in 98 films during her career. Sabah's youthfulness and the joy she brought in her performances made her a living symbol of the "belle époque" and of the "joie de vivre" in the Levant and the Arab world.[6]

Personal lifeEdit

Sabah was born to a Maronite Christian family in Bdadoun in Wadi Chahrour, also called Ourrouar, a small town southeast of Beirut. She came from a troubled family; her father physically abused her and tried to steal her early movie earnings. Her first marriage was to escape her father's control. Her brother also killed her mother because he believed she was having an affair.[7]

She carried four different passports from four different countries: Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and the United States. She wedded 7 times, most notably to Egyptian actor Rushdy Abaza,[8] as well as Lebanese businessman Najib Chammas, Egyptian musician Anwar Mansy, Egyptian television presenter Ahmed Farraj, Lebanese politician Youssef (Joe) Hammoud and Lebanese author-director Wassim Tabbara. Her last marriage was to the much-younger Lebanese artist Fadi Lubnan. She had two children, Sabah Chammas (from her marriage with Najib Chammas) and Howayda Mansy (from her marriage to Anwar Mansy). Sabah was a medical doctor in the United States and Howayda, a relatively well-known singer, actress and socialite.

Sabah and her hairdresser Joseph Gharib, during April Fools Day joke, in April 2008. [2]

In her advanced age, she refused to leave the limelight, as well as her garish outfits. But she was unabashed: "I'm proud that I'm a village girl but I had a lot of ambition," she said in 2008. Chady Maalouf, head of programming at Voice of Lebanon Radio said, "She broke so many taboos. I don't know if she was even aware of it... She was the example of a star, she was totally complete in her appearance, behavior and voice. She shocked people all the time." It should be also added that she was known for her truly remarkable joie de vivre as she radiated to her public a sense of happiness and goodness in embodiment of a belle époque in the modern Arab world! [9]

She lived many love stories but she never found love. She said in one of her interviews that her ex-husbands usually called her "Mrs. Bank". They married her just because of her large fortune, and that's why none of her love relationships worked out successfully, to say nothing of how many times they cheated on her, e.g., Wassim Tabbara. Anwar Mansy allegedly was a poker addict and used to beat her as well. As for Najib Chammas, he wanted her to get away from the spotlights and become a housewife.[10]

In April 2008, a publication with supporting photos announced that she had married Joseph Gharib, her hair-dresser of 17 years. It was later revealed that she was only pulling an April Fools' Day joke on the public.[3]

After selling her house in Hazmieh, which was described by the Diva herself as "too big and cold for only one person", she moved to the neighboring Hotel Comfort in Baabda, Mount Lebanon, a hill city overlooking Beirut and the Mediterranean Sea, and later lived in another hotel next to Baabda. She suffered from many illnesses due to several thrombuses in her brain, leading to loss of control of her left hand and foot. Though her condition was severe, she maintained the utmost concentration, her memory remaining intact.

Sabah in Beirut in 2007

Until 2009, she performed both in concert and on television, including such programs as Star Academy (the Arabic equivalent of the United Kingdom's Fame Academy), where she sang her new single on stage opposite a line of mannequins displaying costumes from several of her early films and musicals. In the 1990s, she and her former husband Fadi Lubnan (Kuntar) made a documentary about her life, which aired on Future Television under the title "The Journey of My Life", (مشوار حياتي). She also developed a close collaboration with singer Rola Saad in remaking some of her old hits, such as "Yana Yana". The accompanying video, in which Sabah is shown as "the notorious diva" to whom her younger colleague pays tribute, has received wide play on Arabic music channels. Sabah was hosted on the TV show Akher Man Yalam on 31 May 2010. In the 2011 edition of the Beiteddine Art Festival, a show retracing the journey of Sabah as a singer and movie star was performed. In the title role, Rouwaida Attieh shared the stage with more than 40 singers and dancers to honor her works.

Sabah is the aunt of Brazilian congresswoman Jandira Feghali and her brother Ricardo Feghali, musician and songwriter in the highly acclaimed Brazilian band Roupa Nova.


Constant rumors involving Sabah's death had circulated days before she died. Amused by the rumors, Sabah said, "Even in my death, I'm making people busy."[11]

Sabah died on 26 November 2014, around 3:00 a.m., sixteen days after her 87th birthday, in her home at Hotel Brazilia from unspecified reasons. Clauda Akl, the daughter of her famous sister, actress Lamia Feghaly, published the sad news on her webpage at around 6:45 a.m., saying that Sabah wished before dying that people would dance the Dabkeh at her funeral, should not feel sad because she went to a better place, and should keep listening to her songs and always be happy no matter what, in the same way that Sabah always gave happiness to people. Sabah said: “I've lived enough”. After her death, her hairdresser Joseph Gharib said in an interview that during her last days, Sabah loved to wear red lipstick. She considered Joseph Gharib her son and he considered her his mother.

On Sunday, 30 November 2014, four days after Sabah's death, hundreds of thousands of people filled the streets to pay their respects. Her family, Lebanese officials, as well as many Arab delegates packed into St. George Cathedral in downtown Beirut to bid farewell to the famed singer, actress, and entertainer. The daylong proceedings took on a festive air as the crowds celebrated Sabah's taboo-breaking six-decade-long career. In front of the cathedral, the official Lebanese Army band played the national anthem followed by many songs from Sabah's repertoire, a first in the country's history. Fans clapped and sang their favorite Sabah songs. A troupe of dancers in traditional dress performed to the diva's music playing from loudspeakers. "I will call it a celebration and not a funeral," said Lebanese actress Ward El-Khal. "We feel today that we came here to share her feelings and to remember her. We will miss her."

Sabah mural on Assaf building in Hamra Street, Beirut

For the funeral mass, Sabah's flag-draped coffin stood near the altar with a giant picture of the singer as a younger woman with her signature ultra-voluminous peroxide-blond hair. After the service, mourners carried the casket aloft to a hearse waiting outside while people clapped, threw flowers and reached out to touch it and take photographs. Sabah's body was carried through many towns to the church of her hometown of Bdadoun, where she was buried.[12]

Televised biographyEdit

Al Shahrourah,[13] a TV drama based on her life, aired during Ramadan 2011. She was portrayed by actress/singer Carole Samaha. Sabah's reaction was mostly positive towards the series and she was happy that it was a success, though she commented about certain inaccuracies, such as the depiction of her father as wearing traditional Lebanese garb. [14]

Awards and legacyEdit

Sabah received many awards and honors during her lengthy career. Recent examples include:

  • She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Dubai International Film Festival.[15]
  • She was honored by the Egyptian cinema in Cairo.[16]
  • She was honored in Beirut with a statue.[16]
  • She was honored by the Lebanese Republic many times, e.g. by receiving the National Order of the Cedar medal.
  • A museum is being built in her village Bdadoun, which will contain her private letters, dresses, wardrobe accessories, rare old photographs of her and other memorabilia.
  • Her music is being taught in music classes in Lebanon.
  • She was honored by the Lebanese cinema and stage as well as Lebanese composers.
  • Months before she died, the Lebanese journalist Rima Njeim hosted a TV episode honoring her, which aired live on MTV Lebanon.
  • On 10 November 2017, Google celebrated her 90th birthday with a Google Doodle.[17]

In 2015, graffiti artists Halwani and the brothers Omar and Mohammad Kabbani commemorated Sabah in monumental murals on the sides of buildings in Beirut, paying tribute to the way she defied gender-based and other social taboos, challenging Lebanon's culture of sectarianism, and providing an alternative to images of political leaders and their sloganeering.[18]

Selected filmographyEdit

  • Iyam El Loulou written by Karim Abou Chakra (As well as Nousi Nousi a play written and directed by Karim Abou Chakra)
  • Kanat Ayyam (1970)
  • Nar el shawk (1970)
  • Easabat Al'nisa (1969)
  • Mawal (1966)
  • El Aydi el naema (1963) aka Soft Hands
  • El Motamarreda (1963)
  • Jaoz marti aka my wife's husband (1961)
  • El Rajul el thani (1960)
  • El Ataba el khadra (1959)
  • Sharia el hub (1958)
  • Salem al habaieb (1958)
  • Izhay ansak (1956)
  • Wahabtak hayati (1956)
  • Khatafa mirati (1954)
  • Lahn hubi (1953)
  • Zalamuni el habaieb (1953)
  • Khadaini abi (1951)
  • Ana Satuta (1950)
  • Sabah el khare aka good morning (1948)
  • Albi wa saifi(1947)
  • lubnani fi al gamiaa (1947)


Selected discographyEdit

Album Title Song Title Release Year
Alhan Bladi 1957
Shab Wistahla
Laish Bitizaal, Laish Bitghar
Qululi Limin
Ya Huwaidalak
Abu Al-Zuluf
Lubnan Al-dini Killa
Ghani ma Sabah 1957
Tayyib Tayyib
Khabbi Ounak Khabbiha
Miqaddar Min Allah
Shayif Ghazali
Ya Layla
Mawsam Al Ez (Musical theatre) "Sabah, wadih al safi, nasri shamseldi" 1960
Ain Al rumman (Musical theatre) "Sabah, Wadih Al Safi, Felemon wehbi, Soad Hashim" 1960
Fatinat Ajjamahir 1964
Sana Helwa
Jeeb el Mejwez
Ahla bi Hattali
El Batta
Jina Eddar
Ya Kerkadann
Sabah in ASh-Shallal ( Film ) 1964
Shams Al Shammous 1966
Allo Beyrout
Ya Beit Eddine
El Kalaa
Men El Sham Li Beirut
Sheftou Bel Anater
Al Warka khartasht shway
Dabkeh men hal wadeh
Atshana ya sabaya
Dawalib Al Hawa 1966
Ya Fahd Al abour
Ghani ya Monjaira ( Composed by Felemon Wehbi )
Haida al qasab ya asmar
Ahla w sahla ya samar
Ya rait La
Ismi Hala
Asfourak Tayr
Ghani Hala
Ajebkom Ya Ghahd Al abour
Sahia ya Jama'a
Atba ala atba ( Composed by Felemon wehbi )
wa han ya jama'a
Tir ya doulab el hawa
Ya bizrati aib alaiki
Yam al zinnar
Shou ya Fahd
Ya houmoum al ahali
Sabah Vol. 1 1967
Jary Ya jary
Al Kalaa
Ataba w Maana
Ydoum Izzak
Bayyaa al tiffah
Lizz El Koursi
Ya Msafir
Al Yadi El Yadi
Sabah Vol.2 1967
Al Basata
Helweh w mamshouka
Abou El Zolof
A weeha
Ya Aziz Aini
Ya Bou El darawish
Al zamakeh
Ahla w sahla w marhaba 1972
Yeslam lana loubnan
Ahla Bhal talli ahla
Habibi Mitlena
Mijana w ataba
Layla w layla
Addabke Oumu Addabki
A loubnan Lakouna
Loubnan el dini kella
Al manadil 1973
Al raff
Hobbi ilak
Hob Omr Jedid
Hakani Chab
Trkni men azabak
Kellon bihebouni
Al Mandil
Tir Ajnah el Hawa (Mawal)
Josi ma Bielfi
Dekt El Murr (Mawal)
Sabah in "Sit el kol" (Musical theatre) 1974
Abnou el kousour
Bar Tita
Massainakom massouna
Jani wa talb al sabah
Dakhlak La Toualikani (t3ale2ni)
aini ya aini
Ya dalaa Dallaa
wakayamhou dab tiyabi
al hawbar al haybar
zakfi ya chabab
Sabah in "Helwe Ktir" (Musical theatre) 1975
El Mjawazz
Oumo norkos
Marhaba ya habayeb
Kahil El Eyn
Rouhi Ya sayfiyye
Stenn Brenn
Sabah in Paris 1976
Saide Leyletna Saide
Zaafe Zaafe ya chabab
Dek el kaf
Ya Dalaa dallaa
La ou La
Sabah in Shahr el Asal Vol.1 ( Comedy Theater ) 1977
Shou esmak
Hiwar ya shabab
Abou Nayef
Hiwar Bhebak ya Sa3ti
Wehyatak 3al Ghali
Sharfi wa Ordi
Mawsam Shiti
Sabah in Shahr el Asal Vol.2 ( Comedy Theater ) 1977
Men Aboukra
Marhab Marhab
Hala Hala
Ahna Beit El Marhoum
Weynou Weynou
Ya habayeb
El Mirathat
Lamma Lyamk
Chou Ya Dalaa
Helwey Lebnan
Sabah 1977
Helwet Lebnan
Ya lebnan Dakhl Trabak
Zay El Amar
Alouli El hob Biyenbaa
Ya Maarmargi
Rouh Tjawaz ya abdo
Ya Habibi ya hayati
Lama a Tarik El Eyn
La ou La
Sabah – 10 Annees de succes 1978
Ah Ya Dini
Ali ya Ali
Alo Beirut
3al Nadda Nadda
3al Rozanna
Al Asfouriyat
Wassaltina Lnoss Lbeir
Ghaltan Bel Nomra



  1. ^ "الشحرورة صباح توارى الثرى في الضيعة", Skynews Arabia
  2. ^ Aïssa Djermouni, Algerian singer of Berber origin, performed at the Olympia in Paris in 1937; the Egyptian Umm Kulthum did it when she was 22 years of age
  3. ^ "Presence des musiques arabes en France : Immigrations, diasporas et musiques du monde" (PDF). Retrieved 6 July 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ ydha001 (19 June 2015). "Who is Najat Al Saghira? | najatalsaghira". Retrieved 6 July 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ "Remembering Sabah, An Iconic And Thoroughly Unconventional Arab Star". NPR. 26 November 2014. Retrieved 6 July 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  7. ^ Tsioulcas, Anastasia (26 November 2014). "Remembering Sabah, An Iconic And Thoroughly Unconventional Arab Star". NPR. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  8. ^ "Sabah – obituary". 1 December 2014. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 10 November 2017.
  9. ^ Diaa Hadid. "Sabah: Singer and actress who recorded more than 3,000 songs but whose lifestyle scandalised the Middle East". The Independent. Retrieved 6 July 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ "Legendary Sabah – Prestige Magazine". 27 June 2014. Retrieved 6 July 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  11. ^ "Sabah, Lebanese singing legend, dies aged 87". BBC. 26 November 2014. Retrieved 23 March 2019.
  12. ^ "Thousands bid farewell to Lebanese diva Sabah | News , Lebanon News". The Daily Star. Retrieved 6 July 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ "myTV – Al Shahroura". Retrieved 6 July 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  14. ^ "El Shahroura". IMDb. Retrieved 6 July 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  15. ^ "Dubai International Film Festival". Archived from the original on 9 April 2013. Retrieved 6 July 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  16. ^ a b Mike Sabbagh (18 August 2004). "Yahoo! Groups". Yahoo!. Retrieved 6 July 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  17. ^ "Sabah's 90th Birthday". Google. 10 November 2017.
  18. ^ Sinno, Nadine (9 March 2017). "A War of Colors: Beirut Street Art and the Reclamation of Public Space". ASAP/Journal. 2 (1): 71–104. doi:10.1353/asa.2017.0017. ISSN 2381-4721.
  19. ^ "Retrospective of Sabah's work at Dubai film fest – Emirates 24|7". Retrieved 6 July 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  20. ^ "Sabah Discography at Discogs". discogs. Retrieved 6 July 2017. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)