From world-famous international book fairs to colourful music festivals, the Middle Eastboasts an enormous range of events, fairs and festivals taking place throughout the region in 2015. Here we list the top 10 art and culture events perfect for experiencing the Middle East, spanning literature, art, dance and cinema.
Egypt | Cairo International Book Fair
28 January – 12 February 2015
The oldest and most prestigious book fair in the Arab world, the Cairo International Book Fair is one of the most important literary events not only in the Middle-East, but in the whole world. In 2006, the fair was one of the largest book fairs, coming second only to the famed Frankfurt Book Fair. Moreover, the fair holds special importance for the Arabic literature market, as three fifths of Arabic language books printed are published by Cairo based publishers. The fair includes public events such as lectures and readings, as well as stalls for authors and publishers to promote their material, and is a chance to meet some of the biggest names in international publishing and fiction in the beautiful surrounding of historic Cairo.
General Egyptian Book Organization,Nile Corniche, رملة بولاق, Cairo Governorate, Egypt
UAE | Abu Dhabi Film Festival
The Abu Dhabi Film Festival, formerly known as the Middle East International Film Festival, showcases some of the most important cinematic works, originating both from within the region and internationally. The festival is known for featuring and promoting some of the most successful films produced each year. In 2014, nine films shown at the festival went on to compete at the 2015 BAFTA awards, while four of the five nominations for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film were similarly screened at the festival.
Abu Dhabi Film Festival, Sheikh Zayed Road, Behind Ministry of Labor Office – Lime Green Building no. 1 – Abu Dhabi, UAE, +971 2 401 1900
UAE | Art Dubai
18-21 March 2015
Art Dubai is a finely curated exhibition of some of the world’s finest art galleries, ranging from the well established to the newest start ups. The event is split into three programmes: Contemporary, Modern and Marker, which each year focuses on a different theme or geography. Galleries from around the world send in applications which are closely reviewed by the Art Dubai Selection Committee and narrowed down to a list of around 100. All art forms, from painting to drawing to installation are considered. The event intends to promote and support both artists and galleries, creating a diverse community of artists, curators and gallery owners, each of whom reflects the highest curatorial and artistic quality in the art world. With such range in culture and media, Art Dubai is the perfect destination to discover the most unique and cutting-edge producers of art today.
Art Dubai, Mina A’Salam, Jumeirah Beach Rd, Dubai, UAE
Jordan | Al Balad Music Festival
The Al Balad Music Festival aims to provide a platform for Middle-Eastern and Arab musicians to showcase their skills and promote their music. The festival also aims to establish and strengthen intercultural ties between the various countries of the Arab world through a shared love of music. During the festival, both performers and fans can discover new artists, encounter new genres and experience the artistic scene and culture of an entirely different country, all on the streets of Amman. The festival takes place over an entire week in June in various venues, all filled with excited participants and a vibrant, carnival atmosphere.
Al-Balad Theatre, Amman, Jordan
Lebanon | Beirut Art Fair
17-20 September 2015
The Beirut Art Fair was only established in 2010, but has already become one of the key events in the international arts scene. The fair provides a space for artists and galleries to exhibit their work, be it painting, drawing, graphic design, installations pieces or performance, to establish a name for themselves, and to mingle with and be inspired by other artists. The fair also allows collectors to browse some of the newest and most cutting-edge works in contemporary art from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, and is thus the perfect event for not only arts enthusiasts, but for those who wish to immerse themselves in new cultures.
Lebanon | Beiteddine Art Festival
Held in the stunningly picturesque Beiteddine Palace, a beautiful, ornate 19th century building located in the Chouf mountains, the Beiteddine Art Festival has become one of the leading cultural events in the Middle East. First held in 1985, during the terrible Civil War, the festival became a symbol of the people’s resilience against the horrors of war and the power of cultural unity and creativity against violence and tragedy. Since its inception the festival has grown from strength to strength, and today showcases a variety of performances, from operas and concerts to theatre and art exhibitions. Today, the festival welcomes over 50,000 visitors, as well as numerous star performers – recent years have seen performances by Gad Elmaleh, Joss Stone and Kadim Al Sahir.
Beiteddine Palace, Lebanon
Israel | Karmiel Dance Festival
July 28 – July 30 2015
Held annually in mid-July in the small town of Karmiel since 1988, the Karmiel Dance Festival originally began as a way to celebrate the historic art of Israeli folk dancing, but has since expanded to include all forms of dance, from modern to jazz to classical. The festival is attended by thousands, both performers and eager audience members, to celebrate the art of dance through over 80 separate shows held at different venues throughout the town. The festival also includes various exciting competitions, workshops and public dance sessions, making it the perfect destination for any dance enthusiast.
Morocco | Marrakesh International Film Festival
Heading into its 15th year, the relatively young Marrakesh International Film Festival has quickly become a key player in the film industry of both the Arab world and the wider international market, showcasing some of the year’s most noteworthy films both as world premiers and as part of its competitions. Competitions are judged by a panel of important figures in contemporary cinema. In 2013, this included such prestigious names as Martin Scorcese, Marion Cotillard and Golshifteh Farhani. The festival also runs the Cinécoles Short Film Prize, a competition designed to promote new talent among students in Morocco’s film schools and academies, thereby bringing up-and-coming film makers to the attention of thousands of audience members and industry professionals.
Qatar | New York Times Art for Tomorrow Conference
14 – 16 March 2015
The inaugural New York Times Art for Tomorrow Conference is set to be held over two days at the W Doha Hotel and Residences in the heart of Doha. The conference will bring together a variety of industry experts, from artists and museum directors to city planners and financiers, in order to discuss the future of the art industry and its place within the wider world. Talks will cover a wide variety of topics, including the consideration of art spaces within urban planning, the intercultural and economic potentials of art fairs and festivals, and Qatar as a case-study for modern cultural tourism.
W Doha Hotel, West Bay, Doha, Qatar, +974 4453 5000
Palestine | Palestine Festival of Literature
Widely known as PalFest, the Palestine Festival of Literature seeks to improve awareness of Palestine and its culture through an engaging, thought-provoking festival experience which brings together the best of UK, US and Arab literature. The festival counts amongst its patrons Mahmoud Darwish, Emma Thompson, Phillip Pullman and Chinua Achebe, each of which have committed to reaffirming ‘the power of culture over the culture of power’. Each year, several eminent literary figures tour some of Palestine’s most important cities, including Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Ramallah, for a series of readings, lectures, workshops and performances, attended by thousands.