Shock, numbness, overwhelming sadness. Those were some of the emotions that fans in the UAE expressed upon learning of the death of the musical icon Whitney Houston.
"I heard the news on the radio and was really shocked. People were speculating that she's been very depressed in her life and [maybe] had a drug overdose. I rushed to work to investigate the reasons because I wanted to know more," said Lama Mazen Al Taher, a 34-year-old Palestinian who is an IT Service Delivery Lead at Abu Dhabi Aircraft Technologies.
"One of my favourite songs is I Will Always Love You, which we used to sing to my youngest sister before she was born, and she actually sang it when she was very young," she added.
The daughter of renowned gospel-singing mother Cissy Houston, cousin of Dionne Warwick and the goddaughter of Aretha Franklin, Houston's soaring vocals captivated the hearts of millions across the globe before various substance abuses led to her career's decline.
Over the course of a tumultuous 25 years, more than 170 million records have been sold, among them seven number one hits. Houston was also honoured with over 400 awards, according to the Guinness Book of Records, including six Grammys, 30 Billboard awards and 22 American Music Awards. She released seven studio albums, her latest, I Look to You, in 2009.
Falling for Houston
"She was such an icon... I loved her voice and the great range she could reach. So many artists have tried to emulate her, but no one can come close. I always followed her news. I've been so upset since I found out about Whitney's death on Facebook that I've been singing her songs to my daughter Jude, both to calm me and in tribute to her," said Heba Al Hattab, a 32-year-old homemaker from Egypt.
"I've been a fan since I was 15 years old," said M.S. a 22-year-old Emirati. "One of my earliest memories was watching her in The Bodyguard and falling in love with her, her style, her voice. In recent years it seemed like she was going through a phase where everything was against her, but I really believe that if she was given a year or so to re-focus, she would have gone back to being the Whitney we know and love. I never had the chance to see her live, but I always watch clips of her live performances online," she added.
Someone who did see Houston perform is Ann Pearce, from the UK. She was living in Abu Dhabi in 2004 when Houston performed in Dubai on Valentine's Day. Houston, however, was not at her best. "I don't want to speak ill of the dead and my thoughts go out to her family.
"Watching Whitney live was something I'd waited a long time for. But it wasn't quite what we were expecting. She was physically unable to produce what we expected having grown up listening to her all those years ago. She wasn't able to reproduce even her simple songs. I have such great memories of her songs and that's what I'll remember now."
By Nathalie Farah