Founded in 1956, the Baalbeck Festival promotes culture, tourism, and peace. Amid the Greco-Roman ruins, Maurice Béjart, Ziyad Sahhab, Jean Cocteau, Ibrahim Maalouf, Lisa Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, and even Jean-Michel Jarre came to perform for an audience that keeps growing year after year.
According to Maurice Béjart, the Baalbeck Festival has acquired its letters of nobility slowly but forcefully. For him, this ancient city is not made up of ruins, “they are living things” that bring us inner richness. For Jean Cocteau, “Baalbeck is the best place to put on great shows”.
We go to Baalbeck as a pilgrimage to cultivate hope.
During the health crisis, the Festival was held online and offered a melting pot of jazz, rap, hip-hop, electro, and Hindi rock: “Sound of Resilience” garnered more than 11 million views.
For this 2023 live edition, the president of the Festival, Nayla de Freige, gave us some of her time to answer our questions.
What is the mission of the Baalbeck Festival?
When the Baalbeck Festival was created in 1956, under the leadership of the President of the Republic Camille Chamoun, the mission was to promote Tourism and Culture in Lebanon. The site of the Roman Acropolis of Baalbeck, in the best-preserved Roman temples in the world, offered an exceptional place to present the shows.
This mission continues. We offer international shows, local creations, an exchange between East and West, and cultural dialogue. Our shows are very varied to attract an audience that comes from different backgrounds.
What is the theme of this new edition?
After the pandemic and faced with the political, economic, and social crisis that the country is going through, we have favored Lebanese artists who were also in the midst of an existential crisis.
This year, thanks to the support of two European embassies, Italy and Spain, and the support of the Ile de France region, we are relaunching our mission, which plans to invite big international names. We can also count on sponsors of the diaspora and of Lebanon. State sponsorship, which was important in the past has become non-existent, the Lebanese banks which traditionally were big sponsors no longer help.
I would like to thank our big partner the CMA CGM company.
While resuming our international dimension, we will also have the pleasure of welcoming wonderful Lebanese artists, as always.
How did the Festival adapt to change, sometimes brutal since its creation?
We are in full resilience, even resistance. We are not giving up, we are adapting.
A memory to share with our readers?
I have so many strong memories that it’s hard to talk about just one. We have experienced moments of wonder, and great emotions with exceptional artists. We experienced moments of anguish when the Syrian war was taking place 40km from the Festival.
We were close to despair with a country that is collapsing, but we preferred to choose the cultural fight and continue against all odds because culture is our oxygen.
How do you envision the future of the Baalbeck Festival?
The Baalbeck Festival is now 66 years old. It had to stop several times, to relocate, to finally return to the temples very quickly. It is an institution that evolves and adapts to continue its primary mission, to remain a cultural torch for Lebanon.
The 2023 shining stars of Baalbeck are Roberto Bolle & Friends, the Al-Kindi ensemble which will celebrate its 40th anniversary, and Imany with a voodoo cello. In the meantime, click play below, and put the volume up to have a glimpse of what Baalbeck can sound like with the live performance of Ghenwa Nemnom.