After having its 2020 iteration disrupted by the coronavirus pandemic, Jordan's Jerash Festival will return this month with a line-up set to transform the historic city into a bustling cultural landmark.
The annual event, now in its 35th season, will take place between this Wednesday and October 2.
There will be a few differences between 2019 and now, however. People with proof of having taken a Covid-19 vaccination will be allowed to buy tickets to the performances, festival director Ayman Al Samawi told The National, and seating will be at half capacity at all venues as part of safety precautions.
“We are very happy that there will be a Jerash festival this year. It was a bold decision by the state,” said Al Samawi. “God willing the festival will pass full of joy and hope, and deliver a message to the world that Jordan can do festivals and deal with this pandemic.”
The government had announced that no more than 2,500 people will be allowed into the main Roman theatre in Jerash, known as the Southern Theatre, while the attendance at the smaller Northern Theatre will be limited to 1,500 people.
Culture Minister Ali Al Ayed said 70 Jordanian artists will be performing at the festival this year and that folkloric and other bands from Palestine, Mexico, Croatia, Azerbaijan, Korea and Sweden will also perform. There will be also a modern art symposium taking place in the main colonnaded street of the site.
Majida El Roumi will headline on the opening night. The Lebanese singer published a teaser photo on her Twitter page last week, showing her rehearsing with an orchestra ahead of the concert.
Najwa Karam will be performing on the festival’s second day. The Lebanese singer, who has been a luminary of Arabic pop music for more than three decades, is expected to present live her new singles, including Saher Ouloub, which she released in August.
Georges Wassouf will then perform on Friday. The Syrian crooner, known for his gravelly voice, shared a photograph of Jerash’s Greco-Roman columns on his social media pages, writing: “We missed you Jerash.”
Iraqi singer Saif Nabeel, Syrian artist Hussein Al Deek, as well as 17 Jordanian talents including Diana Karazon, winner of the inaugural 2003 SuperStar music competition series, are also on the line-up.
Most of the headlining acts of the festival will perform in the Southern Theatre. The largest in Jerash, the Roman theatre was built in the first century and accommodates about 4,000 spectators.
The festival will encompass several historic sites around Jerash, including the Temple of Artemis and Cardo Maximus, an 800-metre-long walkway flanked by around a thousand columns.
Among Jordan’s most visited attractions, Jerash has some of the world’s best-preserved Greco-Roman architecture, earning it the nickname Pompeii of the East. Though tourists flock to the Jordanian city year-round, Jerash experiences a surge in its population during the festival, attracting tens of thousands of visitors.
The festival was founded in 1981 by then Queen Noor Al-Hussein and is among the biggest cultural events in the Middle East and its bill often features some of the most recognisable names in Arabic pop.