Many international fans are happy to hop continents to see Madonna perform in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
Globetrotting fans hop continents to see Madonna
Despite there being more than 80 dates on Madonna's MDNA Tour, not every city has the fortune of her performance being a short car or taxi ride away. The entertainer's shows at du Arena on Yas Island on Sunday and Monday mark only the second and third of the tour, and they are drawing out some of her fiercest fans - who think nothing of boarding planes and flying in from throughout the region and beyond - to see her in action. Meet eight of them:
1. Fermin Reynozo, 36, back office supervisor at an electrical company
Coming from: Buenos Aires
Flight time: 21 hours (multi-stop)
Reynozo - who may well be the fan travelling the farthest to attend Madonna's shows - doesn't mind the epic flying time from Argentina to the UAE, a journey made longer by the two-hour taxi ride from Dubai to Abu Dhabi. With the hundreds of Madonna songs stored in his iPod, he will be more than ready when she steps on the Yas Island stage. "Favourite Madonna song? That is a hard one," he says. "Rain, Vogue, Music, Deeper and Deeper, Miles Away, I'm A Sinner and lots more." With this year's leg of the MDNA Tour finishing in Argentina on December 22, Reynozo will be the rare Madonna fan witnessing the tour at both its beginning and end. "It's quite amazing to combine exotic cultures and destinations with her music," he says. "As a fan for more than 25 years, touring is the opportunity to feel freedom, to fly, get younger and to feed my soul with light and love."
2. Richard Stagg, 41, fashion designer
Coming from: London, United Kingdom
Flight time: seven hours
Stagg says his forthcoming Abu Dhabi trip is more than a chance to see Madonna. "My best friend lives over there," he says. "For me, it is just a great way to kill two birds with one stone." This will be Stagg's fourth visit to Abu Dhabi, trips he often plans to fall in line with Yas Island concerts. "It makes sense, really," he explains. "That way when I come here I always have a great time. Last time I was here I saw the grand prix concerts and that was fantastic." A regular gig-goer in London, Stagg enjoys watching concerts in Abu Dhabi. "It is much more organised and less stressful," he says. "It is also much cleaner." While not a big Madonna fan, he hopes Borderline is included in the set-list. "She is just an iconic performer," he says. "It would be great to see her."
3. Nouf Al Pachachi, 29, marketing manager
Coming from: Manamah, Bahrain
Flight time: one hour and 10 minutes
Al Pachachi did a double-take upon hearing Madonna was coming to Abu Dhabi. "I couldn't believe it," she recalls. "Here is a person who I grew up with, listening to her music and for her to come over here is amazing." Al Pachachi, who lists La Isla Bonita as her favourite Madge tune, plans to make a weekend trip out of the concerts and intends to stay at Yas Island "and see what's around". This will be Al Pachachi's second trip to the UAE for a concert; the last was Coldplay's New Year's Eve spectacular at the Corniche. "It is a very exciting time," she says. "It's amazing that we are getting all these legends coming here. You see them on television or hear about their concerts, but you never think they would come here."
4. Nermeen Negm, 29, consultant
Coming from: Cairo, Egypt
Flight time: four hours and 35 minutes
As a young girl, Negm and a childhood friend spent hours practising the choreography seen in Madonna's Vogue music video. "I just remember us there, trying to get our arms and our legs to work like in the video," she recalls. Like many fans, Negm says she's impressed by Madonna's consistency as well as her ability to remain relevant to pop culture. Negm first saw Madonna perform during the Sticky & Sweet Tour in London in 2009, but she remains tepid about later releases. "The Hard Candy album, I was not a fan," she states. "I've heard some of the new album and didn't like much of the latest samples." For Negm, 1998's Ray of Light symbolises Madonna's most impressive transformation as an artist. "She was leaving behind erotic, daring and outrageous girl behaviour to show a more mature side that has to do a lot with family and staying close to people you love and God," she says. "[That] was the peak of my fan love."
5. Gaby Charbachy, 26, fashion designer
Coming from: Beirut, Lebanon
Flight time: three hours and 15 minutes
Charbachy didn't have to think about it. As soon the concert details were released, he jumped online to purchase tickets before booking his flight. "Vogue is my favourite song," he says. "She is a legend, so in this case it really is not a sacrifice when it comes to the money or time." While Charbachy has visited the UAE before, this will be the first time he will be flying in solely to watch a concert. He is planning more musical getaways. "Before, it was very rare to see these kinds of big concerts in the region and to be honest, none of the artists who were touring here ever made me consider travelling," he says. "But now in the past four or five years we are getting big artists coming, especially in the Emirates, so I can see myself returning here more and more."
6. Ronaldo Bautista, 40, IT manager
Coming from: Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Flight time: two hours and 40 minutes
Madonna is more than a superstar for Bautista. Instead, he refers to her as simply "The Queen". When pressed on a favourite song, he is stumped. "There are so many to pick from," he says. "But if I have to choose only one it will be Like a Prayer." While he is looking forward to sampling the other entertainment on Yas Island, there is only one party he is interested in. "Just Madonna," he states. "It's one of my dreams to watch The Queen perform live."
7. Nadia Al Kalawi, 31, managing director of Styles magazine
Coming from: Kuwait
Flight time: one hour and 40 minutes
While Al Kalawi is thrilled to hear the songs from Madonna's latest album MDNA, she hopes the old tunes also get an airing. "I am a big fan of her 1980s period," Al Kalawi says. "Songs such as Crazy for You and Lucky Star, these are just classics." Al Kalawi is not a stranger to Yas Island concerts. She also made the short trek from Kuwait to see the likes of Metallica and David Guetta. However, on this occasion, Al Kalawi is planning to come with an entourage. "There will be 15 of us," she says. "They are friends and colleagues and we plan to have a short holiday while we are at it."
8. Murry Evans, 40, marketing executive
Coming from: Doha, Qatar
Flight time: one hour
After seeing news about the forthcoming concert online, Evans made a beeline for tickets and tips his hat to the pop star's marketing savvy. "She knows her audience and she creates music to appeal to that audience," he says. "Besides being an outstanding artist, she's definitely a brilliant businesswoman." This will be the first time Evans will visit the UAE for pleasure, making it a five-day mini-break with friends. Unable to pick a favourite song, Evan describes the artist as "timeless, mysterious and passionate". She will, he reckons, "push the boundaries a bit, but also be respectful of local culture and customs". For Evans, there is no better match than Madonna and the Middle East. "She's always recreating and challenging herself, much like the wonderful region," he says. "I think it will be amazing. I've seen her show on DVD, I have all of them, but have never seen her live. I can't think of a better place."
* With additional reporting by Megan Detrie and Anealla Safdar