Pop star Shakira is brushing up her Arabic for the biggest
New Year's Eve bash in the country. 'My family actually nicknamed me Little Fairuz,' says the pint-sized belly-dancing Colombian.
Her smile said it all as she arrived at Abu Dhabi airport yesterday morning. Determined to make a good impression Shakira bowed her head and humbly said "marhaba, marhaba" to a modest crowd gathered there.
Having already been warned that the Hips Don't Lie-singer would be tired after a long flight from New York, journalists weren't expecting much in the way of "quality" time with the singer.
But full of smiles and enthusiasm, the tiny diva did her best to ignore certain pushy members of her entourage and answered as many questions as the media could fire at her.
"I am just so happy to be here in Abu Dhabi. The concert will be very exciting and I'm pretty sure full of surprises for such a special night."
The five-time Grammy Award-winner blew kisses at photographers who snapped away as she left the Dar arrival lounge at around 9am.
Shakira, so famous Mattel even made Barbie dolls inspired by her, touched down in the capital ahead of what is being billed as the biggest New Year's Eve bash the city has seen.
With a Colombian mother of Italian and Spanish ancestry, and a father of Lebanese descent, Shakira, wearing a long black sheer caftan resembling an Arabic abaya, said she planned to sing in Arabic at the concert on Wednesday night.
"I will obviously sing in English and Spanish, but I have been brushing up on my Arabic so I can sing for my fans here."
Shakira added that ever since she was a child she loved reciting the songs, of the Lebanese singer Fairuz, despite her weak skills in speaking Arabic.
"My family actually nicknamed me Little Fairuz because of my obsession. To be honest, although my father was born in New York and I was raised in Colombia, I still feel just as much Arab as I do Latina."
The event at the Emirates Palace Hotel will be the first time the rhythmic singer will perform in Abu Dhabi. But don't expect your usual run-of-the-mill tour set, show and rountines. Shakira arrived yesterday, four days before the big night, in order to create and rehearse a brand new show exclusively for Abu Dhabi's New Year's Eve show.
"Because it's New Year, I would really like to do something a bit different, but the majority of the show is based on a show I have been doing for about a year now.
"I've heard it's an amazing venue and I'm very excited. I'd also really like to see a bit of the country and get out and explore."
Shakira announced her engagement to Antonio de la Rua, son of the former President of Argentina, in March 2001. But the couple hasn't tied the knot yet.
The singer, who recently became the first Colombian to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, remained tight-lipped about whether her beau has accompanied her to the UAE.
She swiftly changed the subject and talked of her Lebanese extended family. "Although my father and mother have never lived in Lebanon, my extended family is still there are I still feel in touch with my Arabic roots.
"Unfortunately, they won't be coming for the concert this time."
A New Year's Eve gig can only mean one thing — New Year's resolutions. A perfectionist by nature, Shakira said there are too many to even list.
"I wouldn't know where to start," she said with a smile and embarrassed giggle.
But she stopped in her tracks as she was walking to a car waiting to take her into the city, Shakira turned and said: "Wait. To finish my album — that has to be the first thing I do."
The Arabic way
Famous for her impressive belly-dancing, Shakira, which means grateful or full of grace in Arabic, claims her Lebanese grandmother taught her all of her Arabic dance skills, which she practiced and perfected in order to stay true to her Middle Eastern roots. The song Ojos Asi also has a verse in Arabic.
Shakira's cause and effect
She was recently ranked at No 48 on the list of Top 50 Most Charitable Celebrities by OK! magazine. It was reported Shakira donates approximately $55,000 (Dh202,026) to charity each year.
In 1997, Shakira founded the Pies Descalzos Foundation, a Colombian charity which provides schools for poor children across the country.
On April 3, 2006, she was honoured at a UN ceremony for creating the Foundation where she famously said: "Let's not forget that at the end of this day when we all go home, 960 children will have died in Latin America."
She is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and is one of their global representatives and was the youngest ambassador in history when she received the title on October 24, 2003.
The event of the year
Bringing the colour and heat of Rio to the UAE, Shakira's anticipated performance will be sandwiched between world-renowned DJs playing R&B, funky and south soul.
DJ Ali Ajami from the US, Gaetano Parisi from Italy and Enzoo from Lebanon will get the party started in a specially-designed party zone, La Rumba, just minutes from the big stage action.
La Rumba will open with Radio 1 broadcasting live from 6pm, offering revellers the chance to go live on air while Radio 1 DJs will spin tunes to pump up the crowd and kick things off.
The Hips Don't Lie songstress will sing the city into the New Year but the fun doesn't stop there as DJ Enzoo will keep things going back at La Rumba until 1am.
Don't miss it!
Shakira will perform at the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi on December 31.
VIP Package (Diamond ticket + La Rumba + VIP pre-event + VIP post-event + VIP parking pass): Dh 1,500
Diamond + La Rumba: Dh 995
Pearl + La Rumba: Dh 595
Coral + La Rumba: Dh 395
La Rumba only (doesn't include entry for Shakira): Dh 295
Tickets are available online at boxofficeme.
com and selected Virgin Megastore across the UAE.