BEIRUT (AP) — Hundreds of friends, family and fans packed into a Beirut church Sunday to say farewell to the famed Lebanese singer, actress and entertainer Sabah.
The daylong proceedings took on a festive air as the crowds celebrated the taboo-breaking six-decade career of Sabah, who died Wednesday at the age of 87. A military brass band played in the street outside St. George Cathedral in downtown Beirut, where fans clapped and sang their favorite Sabah songs.
Earlier, a troupe of dancers in traditional dress performed to the diva's music played from loudspeakers.
"I will call it celebration 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."
For the funeral Mass, Sabah's flag-draped coffin stood near the altar with a giant picture of the singer as a young woman with peroxide-blond hair. After the service, mourners carried the casket aloft — with people clapping, throwing flowers and reaching out to touch it and the photograph — outside to a waiting hearse.
Sabah is to be buried later Sunday in the village of Bdedoun, where she was born.
Over her glittering career, Sabah, whose real name was Jeanette Feghali, won the adoration of millions across the Arab world for her powerful voice and playful character. She performed in some 25 plays, four radio musicals, 85 films and sang 3,000 songs.
Amid her professional success, Sabah often set tongues wagging with her flamboyant life and her gregarious confessions to entertainment reporters. She frequently married and divorced — at least nine times.