Summer festivals bring much needed joy to Arab region

Sunday 07/08/2016
Jordanian dancers performing during opening ceremony of Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts

BEIRUT - In many countries, summer is a season for holidays, outings and outdoor cultural events that bring in a refreshing break from the routine. It is no different in the Middle East and North Africa.
From Tunisia to Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and the Gulf countries, dra­ma, art, music and dance festivals are taking place, showcasing Arab and international artists and gen­erating a festive mood in a region overshadowed by war and sectarian violence.
The line-up includes well-estab­lished international events such as Lebanon’s Baalbek festival in the world-famous Roman metropolis and Beiteddine festival in a 19th-century palace in the Chouf Moun­tains. The events are two of the Levant’s most important annual cultural celebrations, hosting an ar­ray of music and dance genres.
The Jerash Festival for Culture and Art in Jordan transforms the ancient city north of Amman into a bustling cultural hub, bringing together Jor­danian, Arab and foreign artists and troupes. The festival’s agenda this year features 40 performances of folk dance troupes representing Cir­cassian, Spanish and Chinese cul­tures, according to a statement by organisers.
The festival’s president, Amman Mayor Aqel Biltaji, was quoted as saying the event enhances Jordan’s reputation as a stable and secure country in a turbulent region.
The Jeddah Ghair Festival is one of the biggest tourism events of the year in Saudi Arabia. It includes fireworks, gold and jewellery fairs, raffle drawings and concert per­formances by Saudi singers, in ad­dition to folk art, traditional food displays, exhibitions and literary and scientific evenings. Events are held in shopping malls, commu­nity centres, beaches and parks to promote Jeddah as a city for inter­national and domestic tourism in the Gulf region.
At the other end of the Arab world, Tunisia’s International Festi­val of Carthage steals the show over several weeks in July and August, featuring many performance gen­res, including classical music, folk dance, theatre, film and ballet.
The historic Tunisian town of El Jem and its iconic Roman amphi­theatre of Thysdrus come to life for several days with the International Festival for Symphonic Music.
Egypt’s summer is no less vibrant. There, theatre is celebrated through the National Theatre Festival featur­ing 40 shows, including Arabic ad­aptations of international theatrical works staged in 15 venues around Cairo.
In addition to dispensing festive joy in the Arab region, summer fes­tivals double as platforms for shar­ing culture and arts.