AP

Lebanon’s Baalbek festival back, despite economic collapse

Jul 18, 2022, 5:09 AM | Updated: 5:53 am

French Pianist Simon Ghraichy performs next to French-Iranian dancer Rana Gorgani during a concert ...

French Pianist Simon Ghraichy performs next to French-Iranian dancer Rana Gorgani during a concert in the ancient northeastern city of Baalbek, Lebanon, Sunday, July 17, 2022. Lebanon's renowned Baalbek Festival is back, held in front of a live audience for the first time in two years amid an ongoing economic meltdown. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

BAALBEK, Lebanon (AP) — Lebanon’s renowned Baalbek festival is back, held in front of a live audience for the first time since 2019, despite the country’s economic meltdown and the coronavirus pandemic.

French pianist Simon Ghraichy performed in front of a full house on Sunday night in what organizers described as a night of hope for Lebanon’s revival. The annual festival in the ancient northeastern city of soaring Roman columns has long attracted celebrities from around the world.

It had taken a major hit as a result of Lebanon’s ongoing, nearly 3-year economic crisis and the pandemic, which had forced organizers to broadcast live from the site without an audience in 2020 and 2021.

Inside the city’s mesmerizing acropolis, French-Iranian oriental dancer Rana Gorgani twirled to Ghraichy’s piano playing.

“I’m so proud to be here in this place full of history and beauty,” Ghraichy, who is of Lebanese and Mexican heritage, told The Associated Press.

Since 1956, the Baalbek International Festival has hosted icons from Lebanon and the rest of the world, including world-renowned artists like French singer Charles Aznavour in 1999, English musician Sting in 2001, France’s Johnny Hallyday in 2003 and tenor Placido Domingo a year later. It was also home to concerts by Lebanon’s diva Fayrouz and Egypt’s Umm Kulthum.

The festival suffered a 23-year hiatus during Lebanon’s civil war and resumed in 1997. Both residents and tourists attended in large numbers every summer. This year, the festival comes at a challenging time as Lebanon struggled with an unprecedented economic crisis, described by the World Bank as one of the worst in modern history.

For many among the audience — which also included Lebanese officials and foreign dignitaries — the evening was a welcome escape.

“Baalbek is back, and we want Lebanon to return to the way we used to know it, which is the Lebanon of art, culture, openness, and moderation,” said former lawmaker Henri Helou.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Colorado River settlement center of new Navajo Nation push...

Associated Press

Tribes say their future is at stake as they push for Congress to consider Colorado River settlement

Navajo officials are celebrating the signing of legislation outlining a proposed Colorado River settlement that would ensure water rights.

40 minutes ago

Arizona doctors California abortions...

Associated Press

Arizona doctors can come to California to perform abortions under new law signed by Gov. Newsom

Arizona doctors can temporarily come to California to perform abortions for their patients under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

23 hours ago

Father convicted of first-degree murder in northern Arizona...

Associated Press

Arizona man convicted of first-degree murder in starvation death of 6-year-old son

A northern Arizona father was convicted of first-degree murder Thursday in the 2020 starvation death of his 6-year-old son.

1 day ago

Former President Donald Trump sits in a courtroom next to his lawyer Todd Blanche before the start ...

Associated Press

Trump hush money trial enters new phase after defense rests without testimony from former president

Donald Trump's hush money trial is now closer to the moment when the jury will begin deciding the former president's fate.

3 days ago

UoA student convicted of first-degree murder after killing professor...

Associated Press

Former Arizona grad student convicted of first-degree murder in 2022 shooting of professor

A former University of Arizona grad student was convicted of first-degree murder after fatally shooting a professor on campus two years ago.

3 days ago

Rudy Giuliani bankruptcy filing defamation lawsuit...

Associated Press

Ex-NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona’s Kelli Ward plead not guilty in fake elector case

Giuliani appeared remotely for the arraignment that was held in a Phoenix courtroom. His trial will take place in October.

3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Lebanon’s Baalbek festival back, despite economic collapse