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Taxes Threaten Lebanese Summer Festivals - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Beirut- This year, the announcement of Beiteddine Festival caused a feeling of surprise. Before announcing the scheduled events and names of artists, Nora Jumblat, the president of Beiteddine Festival Committee, clearly said that this may be the last edition of the festival.

In a press conference held at the Tourism Ministry, Jumblat said: “before I read the schedule, I would like to tell you an important matter concerning Beiteddine and all the festivals. Creating happiness is not an easy mission, and therefore, the festivals industry is not as easy as some may think. For the past 32 years, we decided to confront war and violence with diversity. After the end of the war, we faced a new kind of challenges caused by economic and political hardships.”

Jumblat revealed that the challenges grew lately as a result of increased taxes on festivals. “Ticket prices have surged by 35 percent, which may compel us to stop organizing festivals, and undermine Lebanon’s tourism and cultural role and its openness to the world’s cultures,” she added.

Jumblat said that festival caretakers informed officials about these problems in 2008, but things kept getting worse.

Interestingly, both ministers of tourism and culture who were attending the press conference didn’t comment on what Mrs. Jumblat said.

Ghattas Khoury, the minister of culture, only announced that his ministry plans to rehabilitate Beiteddine Palace in cooperation with the ministry of tourism, which will be responsible of lighting the palace.

For his part, the minister of tourism hoped Lebanon would enjoy a prosperous tourism season, and stressed the importance of Beiteddine-like festivals, because they reflect a positive and civilized image that will help attract tourists.

The divergence of opinions among the three speakers reflected a remarkable contrast, especially when Jumblat said: “Allow me to announce the festival’s program, hoping it would continue in the coming years; this festival kicked off in the middle of wars, but unfortunately, it may “surrender” under financial burdens.”

After the surprising introduction, Jumblat announced a new smart program that aims to balance affordable costs, the audience’s desires, and the fine level maintained by Beiteddine over three decades.

The festival’s opening will be with Palestine’s Frank Sinatra, the talented Omar Kamal known with his exceptional singing performance in both Arabic and western languages. During his performance, Omar will be accompanied by his band and the Lebanese Orchestra.

On July 5, Jordi Savall will take his fans on a musical trip from Africa to the Far East. Savall is considered a diva in the Middle Ages’ music, Baroque music, and the Spanish musical heritage. This event will see the participation of many artists including the talented oud player Waed Bou Hassoun and Lebanese actor Badih Abou Chakra who will be the reader/ the rawi of the voyage.

On July 21, the Tunisian singer and writer Emel Mathlouthi, internationally known as “the Voice of the Arab Spring” will be in concert. Emel sings in many languages besides Arabic, like French, English, Kurdish, and Turkish.

Kathem Al-Saher’s concert has become a tradition in Beiteddine festival. The Arab Caesar will sing on July 28 and 29 and August 3 and 4.

The festival is set to conclude with a concert by Magida El Roumi on August 12.

It will also feature the “Kamal Jumblat Exhibition (1917-2017)” and a fashion show by Samia Saab to feature a line of Lebanese traditional designs.

Sawsan Al-Abtah

Sawsan Al-Abtah

Sawsan Al-Abtah is a Lebanese journalist and columnist for Asharq Al-Awsat.

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