Lonely Planet Writer

Beirut is holding a cultural festival to show tourists that the city knows how to party

The new Beirut Cultural Festival aims to be more than just a fun it event; it wants to bring people back to its vibrant city.

The Beirut waterfront during the festival.
The Beirut waterfront during the festival. Image by Beirut Cultural Festivals Facebook

The festival wants to “maintain the prestigious image of Beirut in the world”, as well as celebrate the huge diversity of influences in Lebanon’s capital city, an important celebration in a country bordering a war-torn Syria. The festival will continue at various points in the year throughout the city, though this edition will run through until 22 May.

The food market.
The food market. Image by Beirut Cultural Festivals Facebook

Underneath its message of hope and diversity, the festival has not been without its problems. It was originally scheduled to take place in September 2015 in Nejmeh Square, at the heart of the city. However, protests over the capital’s months-long garbage crisis continued to cause unrest and eventually the decision was made to change the location away from the city centre. Despite the initial setbacks, the opening ceremony was very well-received and the organisers hope the event will kick-start a year-long initiative of cultural events and help put Beirut back on the traveller’s map. Currently, the country’s visitor numbers are still just over half of what they were before the outbreak of the Syrian civil war in 2011.

 

The festival opened with The Story of Beirut, a history of the city told through music, dancers and actors, as well as ordinary citizens standing up to tell their stories. As well as music, the festival will have a F1 Motor Show closing ceremony – another first for Lebanon – motor village and a food festival running throughout the five days.