Thousands of users across various social media platforms reacted to photos of French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to famed Lebanese singer Fairouz on Monday.
"Fairouz’s pictures are the group therapy Lebanon needed," said one Lebanese user on Twitter, while another wrote that "her smile made my day" and another asked to make "the day about her," with hundreds of respondents sharing their favourite Fairouz song.
Macron, who is visiting Lebanon, had dinner with the Arab diva at her home in Rabieh, north of Beirut, and made her a commander of the Legion of Honour, France's highest order of merit.
Most of the reactions hailed the presence of the living music legend and focused on praising the perceived simplicity of her clothing and décor.
Among the reactions were those of dozens of celebrities and artists from the Arab world.
Lebanese singer Assi El Helani hailed "the icon" while fellow Lebanese Nancy Ajram described her as 'Lebanon's laughter.”
Emirati singer Ahlam wrote that Fairouz "herself is the award," and Egyptian Sherihan described her as "the homeland and peace. You're the life."
"If Lebanon was a human, she would be Fairouz," a user tweeted, while another reacted saying that "this woman has done so much for the Lebanese music industry and [Lebanese] folklore."
Some others criticised the visit, however, with one writing that it was “foreign interference that brings back memories of the occupation.” Others saw it as “a symbol of unity.”
"Lots of conflicting feelings about this encounter," wrote one user, while another photoshopped the president out of the photos, commenting: "It is unfortunate that we get to see the legend Fairouz only with the disturbing presence of Macron, the worst France has to offer.”
‘I made a commitment to Fairouz’: Macron
Anger at Lebanon’s political elite over the country’s economic meltdown and the devastating blast at Beirut port last month was evident as Macron arrived at the home of the 85-year-old singer and musician.
She has been feted as a national treasure and symbol of peace, transcending factional and sectarian divides in Lebanon and beyond.
“I made a commitment to her [Fairouz], as I make a commitment to you here tonight, to do everything so that reforms are implemented and that Lebanon receives better. I promise you. I won’t leave you,” Macron told a protesting crown on leaving the singer’s house.
Macron described his meeting with Fairouz as “very beautiful, very strong.” “I told her everything that she represented to me, of a Lebanon that we love and that many are expectant of, a nostalgia that many have.”
Asked about his favourite Fairouz song, he named To Beirut, which local channels played while showing images of the blast and its aftermath.
The enigmatic singer rarely speaks publicly, but her lyrics fill the airwaves from Rabat to Baghdad.
“I love you in summer, I love you in winter,” she sings in one of her most famous numbers, released before Lebanon’s descent into its 1975-90 civil war, and when the nation was still famed as the Switzerland of the Middle East, attracting Hollywood idols to its fine restaurants and beaches.
Her songs were listened to across the religious and factional divide, whether Christian, Muslim or Druze, even as rival factions spilled each other’s blood on the streets.
Macron is visiting Beirut for the second time in less than a month to press for a new government made up of experts untainted by corruption and capable of rooting out graft, waste and negligence as well as rebuilding after the August 4 explosion that wrecked swathes of Beirut, killing 190 people.
Fairouz has drawn the admiration of other French presidents. Francois Mitterrand awarded her the Order of Arts and Letters in 1988 and Jacques Chirac gave her the Legion of Honour in 1998 at the chevalier rank.
Born Nouhad Haddad, Fairouz made her first European television appearance in 1975 on a French programme. Her 1979 song Paris, Oh Flower of Freedom, included the words “France, what do I tell you about my wounded country?”
During the civil war, Fairouz toured abroad, holding only one concert inside Lebanon -- on a stage that crossed the frontline of the then-divided capital.
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