The Baalbeck International Festival, one of Lebanon’s most popular and acclaimed cultural events, kicked off on July 8th and will run until August 18th.
The lineup of artists this year includes Georges Khabbaz, the Lebanese actor, writer and comedian known for his dark humour.
His play 'Ila Iza’, meaning ‘Except if’ is amongst the highlights of this year’s festival.
The piece tells the story of residents living in an old building on the verge of collapse, along with their lives as they know them.
The inhabitants come from varied religious backgrounds and their opposing views cause numerous rifts within their small community.
“Unfortunately, there is an outdated look to the different people in our community,” says Khabbaz.
Geroges Khabbaz speaks to Inspire Middle East at Baalbeck
Located 90 kilometers east of the Lebanese capital Beirut, the Baalbeck Festival is held in one of the best-preserved and largest Roman temple complexes in the world.
The imposing ruins and the main stage, which have witnessed many performances throughout the centuries, served as inspiration for Khabbaz.
“The greatness of this place is reminiscent of its stone history, the days of the Romans or its artistic and cultural history,” he says, “Because we know exactly who stood on this stage, from great international artists to locals.”
Capitalising on the grandiosity of the site, the director chose to use a 3D-mapping projection onto Baalbeck’s Roman columns as part of his mise-en-scène.
Geroges Khabbaz’s play ‘Ila Iza’ on stage at Baalbek
Since its creation in 1956, the Baalbeck International Festival has hosted a wide array of performances, from Arabic music legends like Fairuz and Umm Kulthum to Spanish tenor Placido Domingo and British singer-songwriter Sting.
The event was first launched by the then-Lebanese President Camille Chamoun, who wished to showcase local talent and also attract international performances to the region. This goal remains central to the festival today, according to its President, Nayla de Freige.
“The highlight is the importance of the Lebanese artists together with the international ones, bringing the event to an international level with Lebanese participation,” she explains.
The festival’s president Nayla de Freige speaks to Euronews’ Daleen Hassan at Baalbeck
Romanian musician Florian Radu is performing in Baalbeck for the first time and points to the festival’s unique multiculturalism.
“In the orchestra you have different people, they are from different countries, different cultures and here they all meet to play the same music,” he says, “The feeling when I play - it's really special - it just happens here, I can't feel it in Romania.”
Florian Radu performs at Baalbeck
This year’s edition of the festival, which has already witnessed an homage to Umm Kulthum and performances by French rock star Matthieu Chedid and Lebanese musician Ibrahim Maalouf, will also feature American singer-songwriter Ben Harper during its grand finale on August 18th.
SOCIAL EYES: BAALBEK’S CULTURAL TREASURES
Lebanese dancer Lodi shared this image of her limbering up before taking to the stage in Baalbeck.
Anastasia from the Ukraine posted this shot of her soaking up the atmosphere of what she called ‘the historic and inspiring open skies’ of Baalbeck, ahead of her live performance at the festival.
Nagi from Lebanon looked on from the audience as the French rock star Matthieu Chedid and Lebanese trumpet player Ibrahim Malouf performed a tribute to Fairuz.