US pop icon Madonna hit the stage running at Abu Dhabi's Yas Island Stadium in her first-ever concert in the Gulf, days after launching a world tour in Israel.
An estimated 25,000 fans cheered and screamed as the 'Material Girl' finally appeared on stage more than two hours late, wearing a skin-tight black outfit from her 'Girl Gone Wild' album.
Sunday's concert was the first of two Abu Dhabi performances. The second, announced after tickets for Sunday's event sold out within hours, will be on Monday.
Brandishing an assault rifle for her hit 'Revolver,' the superstar saluted the emirate of Abu Dhabi, the second stop in her MDNA world tour. "Ladies and gentlemen... It's too damn hot!" Madonna later told the audience, which braved temperatures exceeding 30 degrees.
Tala and Omar Zaru, fans from Jordan, were also celebrating their 13th wedding anniversary and Omar's 41st birthday. "Celebrating our two special occasions with Madonna can't be bettered," said Tala.
Madonna began her much anticipated tour in Tel Aviv last week, calling from the stage for Middle East peace. "As you know, the Middle East and all the conflict that occurs here and have been occurring for thousands of years, they have to stop," she said. "You can't be a fan of mine and not want peace in the world."
"So start today – every single one of you; if there is peace here in the Middle East, there can be peace in the whole world."
During her performance on Thursday in Tel Aviv, Madonna called for peace in the Middle East and raised awareness about the ongoing conflicts raging throughout the region. Saudi satellite news station Al-Arabiya, however, reported that the Tel Aviv show was criticised for presenting violent imagery.
The pop star was even criticised by some international newspapers. Al-Arabiya cited prominent US entertainment magazine the Hollywood Reporter, which wrote: "For a show originally billed as a 'Concert for Peace,' the opening night of Madonna’s world tour in Tel Aviv featured a disproportionate amount of violence," including the use of weapons and religious imagery.
Furthermore, following Madonna's Tel Aviv show, a small group of 170 members organised an anti-Madonna campaign on Facebook, calling to stop the pop star from visiting Abu Dhabi and cancel her show. Not many people, however, heeded the call.
According AFP, the concert received mixed reviews by audiences. The majority appeared not to mind that she kicked off her tour in the self-proclaimed Jewish state. "We're a peaceful people," said Lebanese fan Patricia Chebli, 37. "Culture is for everybody. I don't mind that she went to Tel Aviv."
The tour – Madonna's first since her wildly successful 'Sticky and Sweet' tour in 2008/09 – is now expected to move on to Europe and the Americas, with concerts planned in some 80 countries. It is scheduled to wrap up in Australia early next year.
© Copyright Al-Ahram Publishing House