Last of the summer music: stars rocking Roman ruins across the Middle East

Published September 21st, 2013 - 12:01 GMT

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Marcel Khalife
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Image 1 of 8: Marcel Khalife's poetic passions: “Magical nights at the Amman citadel” gave us the Lebanese lute legend and an audience rich in his cult-following. The Arab musical icon charmed Amman fans with classic tunes on tap and did not disappoint the Palestinian heritage in Jordan’s temple venue with his staple Mahmoud Darwish homage anthems.

Mashrou’ Leila
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Image 1 of 8: Mashrou’ Leila: This band of merry-men brought the Bacchus tradition to Amman’s ancient theater and rocked the Roman ruins to the screams of hyper fans mad for their Leba-idols. Hamed Sinno proved his personality was as magnetic as his voice -- the moustachio’d hipster was sport enough to let teen girls foist themselves up on him on stage.

Julio Citadel
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Image 1 of 8: Julio owns Citadel columns - Tango beats, symphony strings, and traditional Arabic melodies made the 2013 Amman Citadel Nights more than just one “night to remember.” World renowned Spanish artist Julio Iglesias serenaded an audience of more than 3,500 with romantic latin rhythms as one of the main headliners of this year’s festival.

Jerash Festival 2013
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Image 1 of 8: Jazzing up Jerash: They’re shooting for the stars hoping to secure Shakira next year but this year saw Nancy Ajram light up the Roman ruins with her vixen voice. Nancy and peer Arab headliners -- Kathim Al Saher, Carole Samaha, Ayman Zbib, Najwa Karam, Assi El Helani, and home-grown Diana Karazon -- brought joy to Jordan's Jerash spectators.

Jerash Festival 2013
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Image 1 of 8: Coming over all Roman Goddess: Lebanese songstress Dina Hayek’s Jerash performance was worthy of a notable mention, literally! And so it came to pass... a surprised Dina was celebrated and honored with an award by the head of the festival to the tune of thousands of fans cheering her on.

Beittedine Festival
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Image 1 of 8: Beiteddine's palatial venue: Tucked into lush mountainside Lebanon, this Ottoman palace south of Beirut reverberates with the sound and music of the annual Beittedine art festival, and 2013's acts were fit for a king and his court! US jazz legend Dee Dee Bridgewater and Kadim Al Sahir played their funky music at this year’s summer spectacular.

Baalbeck Festival
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Image 1 of 8: Baalbeck goes Beiruti: Despite calls to cancel for neighbor-in-war, Syria, the Baalbeck festival held its Lebanese spirit -- the talent show did go on. Some of August’s 2013 acts though were relocated from the traditional Roman amphitheater to metropolis Beirut where grand pianist Eliane Elias brought some Brazilian 'festival' to the city-stage.

Byblos festival
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Image 1 of 8: Byblos beats: Byblos, or Jbeil, a world ancient city, frames the backdrop for the Byblos Festival. Yanni, that traveling Greek star, is no stranger to the impressive cocktail of music set in an ancient ruin. Known for his TV special Live at the Acropolis, Yanni wowed fans with his virtuosic craft and instrumentals in this peak summer performance.

Every year, thousands of music lovers and worshippers of stone temples (not Pilots or Rolling Stones, or even 'stoners', but the preserved ancient ruins and theaters in use as venues for performance) attend music and art festivals amongst the rubble and ruins of ancient civilizations across the Middle East. As the dusty vestiges of each old city are transformed into magical settings, it is as though particularly inspired performers have been resurrected into Roman Gods and Goddesses.

2013 could be called “one for the ages,” filled with star-studded festivals year-round, culminating in some peak summer- time performances. As these celebrations of talent draw to a close with Amman's Citadel Nights curtain call last week, we take a look at some of the highlights of the summer's classic stoney venues - from Baalbeck's Roman sun temple to Amman's Roman theater.

International, regional and local artists took to the stage in the classic historic venues, bringing old and modern tunes to audiences young and old. Jordan’s Jerash Festival for Culture & Arts drew a whopping 100,000 crowd in the course of the event.

As the end of festival season is upon us, we reflect on how these traditional events have brought alive - with pulsating beats - the ancient audotoriums of the Middle East. Some cities may rock out grand venues as the Royal Albert Hall or impressive sports stadiums but here in the Middle East we do it in classic Roman-Greco style -- pump up the pillars!

When ruins come back to life - a roundup of musical stars taking on the Middle East's ancient venues. 

 

 

 

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