6 Must Visit Annual Events In Lebanon
Lebanon is a country that continually faces economic and political challenges. Yet year after year, season after season, it never seizes to surprise with the sheer number, and variety, of its year-round festivals and events, whether in Beirut or across the country.
As the Beirut and Beyond International Music Festival kicks off in the capital this week, we look at six ways Beirut continues to be an artistic and cultural hub for some of the best Middle East and international talent.
Beirut Fashion Week
One of Beirut’s highest profile events in recent years, fashion week has become a platform for established Lebanese and international designers, as well as some of the best local talent emerging from the city’s universities and colleges, to showcase their designs every April.
The Beirut Fashion Awards, now part of the week’s events, aims to provide a visible platform for gifted young designers and set them on sustainable careers in the industry.
Expect Beirut Fashion Week’s popularity to soar in the coming years.
Beirut and Beyond International Music Festival
Photo credit: Beirut and Beyond International Music Festival
A new kid on the block, Beirut and Beyond International Music Festival is a haven for independent artists in Lebanon and the Middle East, as well as an annual destination for established international acts.
Established in 2013 in partnership with the Oslo World Music Festival, it quickly became a welcome addition to the festival circuit in the region with its emphasis on artistic integrity and creativity.
The only sporting event on this list, but in its own way the Beirut Marathon, launched in 2003 and annually taking place in November, is as illuminating as any of the city’s cultural events.
Beirut is a city that still carries the painful scars of a 15-year civil war almost three decades after the conflict ended. And it shows.
Running the 42km marathon in the shadow of some of the city’s new and old buildings – via, among others, neighbourhoods like Hamra and Gemmayzeh before finishing at Martyr’s Square - while also taking in the views of the Mediterranean on Beirut Corniche, is one way of reminding yourself of how far it’s come since.
Baalbak Music Festival
Arguably Lebanon’s most famous cultural event, the Baalbeck International Festival has been a platform for theatre, pop and classical music and opera since 1955, a time when tourists from all over the world flocked to a country famed for its style and creativity.
Umm Kulthum, legendary Lebanese singers Fairuz and Sabah, rock band Deep Purple, Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Placido Domingo and Sting are just a few of the artists that have graced the festival in the Beqaa Valley.
Though the Lebanon Civil War disrupted the festival for years, it was reborn in 1997 and continues to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every July.
Beirut Design Week
Photo credit: Beirut Design Week
Only established in 2012, Beirut Design Week has quickly grown into one of the biggest of its kind in the Middle East, with tens of thousands of visitors annually enjoying the best that Lebanese and international creative minds have to offer.
The festival, which takes place in June, aims to promote “intercultural exchange, design education, social impact, and design entrepreneurship”, and whether highlighting projects in Downtown Beirut, Gemmayzeh, Achrafieh, Hamra or other parts of the city, it appears to be succeeding at an unrivalled rate.
Tyre International Festival
Away from Beirut, this is one for lovers of not just traditional arts, but history too.
An art, music and poetry festival that launched in 1996, the Tyre International Festival takes place at Qala’at Al Shaqif (Beaufort Castle) every July, and highlights the work of some of Southern Lebanon’s finest talent as well as international artists.
The ancient Phoenician town of Tyre is now a UNESCO classified heritage city, and suffered major turmoil during the Lebanese civil war. It remains the perfect romantic backdrop for the mixture of established acts and up and coming artists that the festival attracts.