DUBAI // The newly unhyphenated rapper Jay Z is the latest star performer for this year’s Formula One Grand Prix weekend in Abu Dhabi.
The artist formerly known as Jay-Z, who is married to the pop diva Beyonce, will headline the Yas concert on Friday, November 1.
Hundreds of fans queued up today at the Virgin Megastore in the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai, where free tickets were on offer to the first 200. The first 40 were also given a pair of three-day passes to the race weekend and shows by Amr Diab, Hussain Al Jassmi, Elissa, Depeche Mode and Muse.
Mathew Benny, 18, and his friend Aaron Desouza, 17, from India, travelled from Abu Dhabi and waited for more than three hours in the middle of the queue.
“I felt really excited when I heard it was Jay Z and I can’t wait to be there,” Mathew said. “I’m a big fan of Jay Z’s and one of my favourite songs is Empire State of Mind.”
Aaron said: “It was really all worth it. I’m a diehard fan of Jay Z’s, I love him.”
Trandel Khalil, 19, a political science student from Egypt and 92nd in the queue, said: “I’m so excited. I really didn’t expect it to be Jay Z. I thought it was going to be One Direction because there were a lot of rumours.”
Trandel travelled all the way from Cairo to try to win tickets, and she will now come back for the concert.
“It’s going to be during a break from university so I’m excited about that even more,” she said. “He’s such a big artist so I’m going to see if one of my friends back in Egypt wants to come with me.”
Some of the older visitors seemed less interested in Jay Z and more in other acts.
“I’ve been waiting for five hours and I made it to the top 40,” said Guillermo Nogueira, 35, an Argentine expatriate from Dubai.
“I’m actually looking forward to Depeche Mode – I’m 35 so I’m from the 1980s. I don’t even know who Jay Z is but I’ve learnt who he is today.
“I grew up listening to Depeche Mode when I was living in Doha in the 1980s. And I guess I’m going to see Jay Z for the first time too.”
As the last few fans rushed to reach the back of the queue, they were thrilled to have made it through.
“I got here 10 minutes ago,” said Byron Bell, 27, from Germany, who was 192nd in the queue.
“I expected to be here earlier but I got stuck so I was told there were only three places left and to run, run, run. I jumped off the escalator to make it and I really thought in the last few moments that I wasn’t going to.”
His Pakistani friend Nadia Khan, 28, had been in the queue for 45 minutes.
“I’m a huge fan of Jay Z’s,” she said. “If it was One Direction, I wouldn’t be in line but I didn’t expect this many people to know about this.”
It will be the pair’s first Jay Z.
“I was hoping for Jay Z,” Byron said. “It’s one event to be expected in the UAE and it’s about time.”
Mike Fairburn of Flash Entertainment, the concert organisers, said: “The idea was to try and involve the fans a bit in the announcement and try and get them excited about the artist.
“We’re capturing their reactions, interviewing them and sharing that content with people throughout different channels to try and generate a bit of interest and excitement in things.
“Involving the fans is quite important to us.”