AMMAN — The 32nd Jerash Festival of Culture and Arts officially opened on Thursday with the lighting of the torch by Prime Minister Hani Mulki in the centre of the historical Greco-Roman city.
Under the patronage of His Majesty of King Abdullah, this year’s festival will feature performances by several renowned Arab singers, local, Arab and international troupes, and poetry recitals, in addition to exhibitions of arts, handicrafts and local products, according to the organisers.
The Jerash festival is held in the ancient Greco-Roman town of Jerash, 48km north of Amman, known in the past as Gerasa.
During the opening ceremony, Aqel Biltaji, head of the festival’s higher committee, said that the programme for the “world-renowned event” mirrors the national vision.
The festival will include a seminar titled “Jerusalem in the hearts of Jordanians”, in light of Amman as the current Capital of Islamic Culture, as well as coinciding with the anniversary of the death of the late King Abdullah I at the Al Aqsa Mosque compound in 1951.
The festival’s committee has widened national participation, to include local community institutions, voluntary societies and youth clubs, Biltaji said.
The committee, in partnership with the Planning and International Cooperation Ministry, has provided stalls for local communities to showcase and sell food and handicrafts, through the “Iradah” programme, the festival organiser explained.
For his part, Jerash Greater Municipality Committee President Mueen Khasawneh said that the festival aids in Jerash’s development, as it supports the promotion of the city and provides an opportunity for the local community to benefit socially and economically.
“It is a message for the world that Jordan, under its Hashemite leadership, will remain an oasis of peace and stability,” said Khasawneh.
The opening ceremony, attended by the festival’s Executive Director, Mohammad Abu Summaqa, also included an operetta titled “Ya Biladi”, performed by Jordanian singers accompanied by a band from the Jordan Armed Forces-Arab Army.
Jordanian singer Omar Abdullat also sang a selection of traditional, patriotic and love songs.
The Jordan Times interviewed a number of local and foreign visitors, who expressed their delight in attending the festival and enjoying the “exceptional” atmosphere of the ancient city lit at night.
Belal Ajour, a local, said the festival is an annual event that he grew up with and he and is keen to attend the performances.
“Every summer, the festival is a chance for Jerashi people to attend performances of various cultures from all over the world,”added Ajour.
A tourist from Australia, who preferred not to be named, said that she “seized the opportunity” to visit Jerash at night, to enjoy a walk in the Roman colonnaded street and look at the showcased local products, especially the traditional food.
The festival’s administration has released a 3D video that illustrates the location of the festival and how it can be reached from different cities, as well as the locations of 10 free car parks.
Information regarding the festival’s programmes is available at www.jerashfestival.jo and www.facebook.com/Festival.Jarash/.
The festival was cancelled three times, in 1982, 2006 and in 2008 for three years. In 2011 the government revived the festival.
As one of the leading cultural events in Middle East and North Africa, Jerash Festival was first held in 1981, established by Her Majesty Queen Noor under the coordination of Yarmouk University.
Last year, the festival attracted over 100,000 visitors, according to organisers.