In the summer, Lebanon’s oldest archeological sites don’t get a break like everyone else. In fact, they work extra hard, serving as stages for some fantastic concerts on mild summer nights. From north to south, the ruins of ancient civilizations are mounted with sound and light equipment, and transformed into striking theaters.
Over the years one of the most popular of these festivals has been the Baalbeck International Festival, which was launched in 1956 and is held in the city of the same name in the Bekaa Valley.
Crowds flock in for delicious local pre-show snacks and overpriced souvenirs, and enjoy fantastic local and international performances amped up by the dramatic historic backdrops. The ancient city of Baalbek houses not only the largest temples ever built, but also some of the best preserved Roman ruins in the world. Festival organizers have made use of several of these temples, staging shows on the steps of the Jupiter Temple, the courtyard of the two temples, on the steps of the Bachhus Temple and inside the Bachhus Temple for “smaller” 700-person concerts.
Enter: safety concerns.
Last summer’s security issues had forced organizers to move performances to Beirut (which kind of defies the purpose of such a festival in the first place, but definitely beats having no festival at all). While last year’s venue, an old silk factory, was still cool, half the reason for attending these shows is the unique venue.
But this year, the festival has (for the most part) returned to its rightful place. All but one of the performances this year are held in Baalbeck itself. From its opening night extravaganza (a special tribute to Baalbeck itself by some renowned Lebanese singers, musicians, dancers and other artists), to the Jazz but more-than-Jazz musician Richard Bona, the shows have been well attended, and upcoming shows are selling out.
There are pictures to prove it – if there’s no photos, it didn’t happen.