Friday would have been the 90th birthday of the Lebanese actress and singer Sabah, who delighted audiences in the Arab world for over six decades.
A Google Doodle commemorating the diva shows Sabah — an adopted name that means morning in Arabic — before fez-wearing crowds. It’s a scene that could have been lifted straight from one of her movies.
Born Jeanette Gergis al-Feghali in a Lebanese mountain village, the girl who would become Sabah had a troubled childhood. Her parents bullied and neglected her and one of her uncles “told my parents that I had a beautiful voice when I sobbed,” she said in a 2012 interview. Later, Sabah’s brother killed her mother, whom he accused of having an affair.
Sabah stuck out for Egyptian capital Cairo in the early 1940s. There, she began a career that would see her perform in more than 100 movies and sing over 3000 songs, earning her the nickname ‘Shahroura’, after a singing bird. She specialized in a traditional Arabic form of music called mawwal, and through her performances bought it around the world to Carnegie Hall, the Sydney Opera House, and the Piccadilly Theatre.
Sabah was known for her wicked sense of humor, revealing costumes, and joie de vivre. She married 10 times, according to an obituary in the Guardian, and in her 70’s dated Mr. Lebanon, who was then 25. Sabah died in 2014, aged 87.
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