The 32nd Jerash Festival for Culture and Arts, a unique gathering of local, regional and international talents, delivered on its promise to transform the ancient Greco-Roman city north of Amman into a centre for global culture.
More than 25 local, Arab and international singers, ten folklore and traditional dance troupes and a host of local and Arab writers and poets figured into this year’s programme.
Despite the earlier than usual late-July start, which led to criticism from tour guides over alleged disruption of tourist movements in parts of the city, and the scorching heat, thousands of fans converged on Jerash to enjoy a richer and more varied programme that appealed to different tastes.
Jordanian Minister of Tourism Lina Annab commended the efforts in making this year’s event a success and unique in its diverse presentations.
“The Jerash festival has always been one of the leading cultural events in Jordan and over the years it has gained many followers and dedicated fans that come to Jordan from all over the world to enjoy its various activities,” Annab said.
“I can easily say that the festival has contributed to placing the kingdom on the global tourist map due to its colourful and enjoyable events that encompass local, regional and international talents in singing, dancing and poetry,” she said, stressing that “the festival sends a message that Jordan is a safe place to visit despite the regional turmoil.”
The Jerash festival attracted more than 100,000 visitors from the region and beyond in 2016, festival officials said.
The traditional torch lighting ceremony announcing the start of the festival was attended by thousands of locals and tourists who gathered at the heart of the ancient city.
The first week of the festival included concerts by Jordanian singer Omar Abdallat and Lebanese singer Wael Kfoury, who sang to a full house at the Southern Theatre.
The festival included a seminar titled “Jerusalem in the hearts of Jordanians” to celebrate Amman’s status as the Capital of Islamic Culture 2017. The Jordanian capital was selected by the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) for its rich heritage and contributions to Islamic culture.
Circassian culture was clearly visible in this year’s festival with traditional and folklore songs and dances.
“As a Circassian, I feel very proud that I am able to present my traditions and folklore history at such an event and the best thing is that I am receiving positive reviews with people coming and asking questions about the meaning of dances or songs,” said Toujan Qayet, a member of the International Circassian Cultural Academy.
“Today, there are more than 100,000 Circassians living in Jordan and we need to preserve our identity, traditions and customs and let the people know more about our history and this Festival plays a big role in that regard.”
Basil Shatara, 33, a Jordanian living in Australia, said he travelled to Jerash almost every year to enjoy the festival and walk the city’s street of columns or the “Cardo.”
“There are a variety of entertainment activities that fits everyone in the family,” he said. “Where else can you enjoy such a combination of singing, dancing and homemade activities in one place? I feel that this year a lot of effort went into ensuring everything goes smoothly.”
Performances by Lebanese singers Nancy Ajram, Walid Tawfiq, Ragheb Alama and Fares Karam in addition to dance troupes from China, Argentina, Armenia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and India were on the 2017 festival schedule.
“Part of the idea of visiting the festival is that you have a variety of activities that fall under the concept of pure art and culture and I am interested in everything related to culture, such as Chinese culture,” said university student Mireille Abasi.
“This year, the festival is featuring big names in the art scene, especially the ones who we believe can make an impact and watching Lebanese singer Wael Kfoury perform to a full house is really something big and we are very happy.”
Jerash festival activities were July 20-30 at the Greco-Roman city. The festival was to continue July 31-August 6 in Amman.
The Jerash Festival was founded in 1981 by Jordanian Queen Noor. It was cancelled on several occasions due to regional conflicts, including the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 and the war between Hezbollah and Israel in 2006. It resumed in 2011.
Roufan Nahhas, based in Jordan, has been covering cultural issues in Jordan for more than two decades.
Copyright ©2017 The Arab Weekly.