Our Sabbouha

post 75/365



Beloved for her powerful voice, Sabah, actress and entertainer, was never far from the limelight during her six-decade career.

Sabah, born in 1927 whose real name was Jeanette Gergis al-Feghali, first came to prominence in the 1950s as star of Egyptian movies. During her more than six-decade long career, she released over 50 albums and acted in 98 films. She released her first song in 1940, aged just 13. The singer soon caught the eye of Egyptian film producer Asia Dagher, who immediately signed her for three films. The first of these, El-Qalb Louh Wahid (The Heart Has Its Reasons), made her a star. She was then known by her character’s name, Sabah, which is Arabic for morning, or ever after. But she also acquired several affectionate nicknames, including “Shahroura”, Arabic for “singing bird”, and “Sabbouha,” a diminutive of Sabah. Sabah was the first Arab singer to perform at Olympia in Paris, Carnegie Hall in New York, Piccadilly Theatre in London and the Sydney Opera House.

Among her most popular films were Soft Hands (1964), Ataba Square (1959) and The Second Man (1960). She recorded more than 3,000 songs, working with a string of legendary Egyptian composers, including the late Mohammed Abdul-Wahhab. Specializing in a Lebanese folk tradition called the mawal, the star continued to perform and make television appearances into her 80s. 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 married seven times, most notably to Egyptian actor Roshdi Abaza and Lebanese author-director Wassim Tabbara.

Sabah, this peroxide blonde with a throaty laugh and playful smile, for me, echoed the spirit of Lebanon. Before dying, she requested that people dance the Dabke at her funeral and that no one should be saddened because she left to a better place. Urging her fans to keep listening to her songs and to always be happy no matter what, she said: “I’ve lived enough”. If that is not the essence of Lebanon, I don’t know what is.

Well into her eighties she appeared with thick, tumbling blonde locks, sparkly dresses, red lipstick and heavy black eyeliner. She was known for her truly remarkable joie de vivre as she irradiated to her public a sense of happiness and goodness in embodiment of a belle époque in the modern Arab world.

Her voice, her infamous stage appearances, her joie de vivre, her tragic life all carried with an intoxicating smile, her hair, her dresses, her fashion sense, her mannerisms, her love for her public, her laugh, her love stories and their tragic endings, her refusal to leave the limelight, her force, and her will power are what demarcate her as a true star, a living legend, the last Diva to leave the world with a spark, the last real woman of a myriad of vicissitudes.

My favorite song for her is sa’at sa’at, just like Edith Piaff’s song, non, rien de rien, I believe this song, resonates her life in a couple of rhymes. It’s absolutely one of my favorite Arabic songs of all time. Below is my translation:

At times, at times

I love my life and I am enamored with effects

I love everyone, and what a feeling that is

And I feel a 100 tunes reside within me

A 100 tunes to fill the silence


At times, at times

Loneliness overwhelms me and on my tongue, those words are timeworn

And how unhappy I am

And the stars are distant

And how heavy the steps of time are

The clock’s ticking’s is solemn


At times, at times

I laugh and play like a spring bird

Like a breeze that comes and is only lost again

I am elated and I laugh even harder

And I love my life and I am besotted with the days that passed


At times, at times

Strange, oh so strange

The same things that bring me happiness, bring me misery

And I feel that my life has passed me by

Without me loving my life and being enamored with effects


At times like this

And at others like that

And how weird is the pulse of time

So strange, so strange the hours’ game

At times, at times  …

To my beloved Sabah and her undying smile…

This is link to sa’at sa’t:


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