Summer festivals bring much needed joy to Arab region
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.