By Serene Serhan
Deputizing for King Abdullah II, the Jordanian Minister of Tourism Akel Biltaji launched the 19th Jerash Festival on Wednesday with a hint of sadness in the air following the crash of a military aircraft that claimed the lives of thirteen Special Force troopers.
As customary, the Jerash Festival torch was lit at 7:20 in the evening to the tunes of the 35 strong Royal Armed Forces Brass Band.
“Twenty years ago, Queen Noor [the wife of the late King Hussein], aided by the students of Al-Yarmouk University, established the festival. Today, countries compete to participate here,” said Festival Director General Akram Masarweh.
According to Masarweh, 20 countries are participating with over 51 Arab and international performers. “This will be the first year that the festival hosts a caricature and handicraft exhibition,” said the director.
Mayor of Jerash, Walid Etoum, gave tribute to the 13 Jordanian Elite Troup members who perished in the plane crash on Tuesday. In view of this tragic crash, the performances of Rum Band were postponed until the closing ceremony.
“Today [Wednesday], Jordan buries the men who died serving their country,” said the Mayor adding that, "this festival has taken the name of this city [Jerash] to all parts of the world.”
Following the launching ceremony, Biltaji, Princess Wijdan Al-Ali and Senator Leila Sharaf inaugurated the caricature and handicraft exhibitions, where Princess Wijdan was spotted enjoying a number of cartoons by Jordanian cartoonist Imad Hajjaj.
Other cartoonists exhibiting their works in the Zeus Cave in Jerash throughout the festival are Egyptians George Bahjouri and Mustafa Hussein, Baha’a Bukhary from Palestine, Salman Al Malek from Qatar as well as Hajjaj and Jalal Al Rifa’i from Jordan.
Some of these exhibits, for example those by Bahjouri and Bukhary, are local or Pan Arab political cartoons, whilst others depict selected Arabic scenes and have a social or humanitarian theme.
The final event of the opening ceremony in the North Theater was a recital of their work by the poets of Suleiman Ouesis and Omar Farra.The Jordanian poet Ouesis was born in 1943 and writes colloquial Arabic with an emphasis on patriotic and social topics. Farra, a popular Syrian poet, is known for his poetry on social issues, especially the role of women in the Arab World.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )