The Jbeil village of Ehmej will come alive with music once again this week when the third edition of its annual tourist festival opens. This four-day concert program will provide daily opportunities for revelry with local artists performing. Pop star Ramy Ayach is set to raise the curtain Thursday, followed by shows featuring Fares Karam, Haifa Wehbe and Wael Kfoury.
The festival is organized by the Ehmej Municipality under the supervision of Mayor Nazih Abi Semaan. Hosted by caretaker Tourism Minister Fadi Abboud and the Ehmej Development Association, the music festival will take place on a 700-meter stretch of Ehmej highway.
The weekend’s festivities offer a perfect escape from Beirut’s traffic, heat and humidity, and friendly villagers promise to welcome guests with love and hospitality.
Singer-songwriter Ramy Ayach, the festival’s first performer, has been entertaining Middle Eastern audiences since 1997. Ayach is well-known for several famous songs, such as “Sawa,” a duo with Maya Diab; “Habbaytak Ana;” and “Albi Mal.”
Fares Karam will headline Friday night with his famous modernized dabke style. Known for his songs “El-Tannoura” and “Neswanje,” Fares was awarded the golden prize and a high level appraisal as a Lebanese traditional singer from Arts Studio for the year 1996-1997.
The beautiful Haifa Wehbe promises to delight the crowd Saturday night. “Ana Haifa,” “Baba Fein” and “Harami Gloub” are among Wehbe’s best-known releases. The singer’s onstage charisma and allure have rocketed her to fame and distinction.
Wael Kfoury, Sunday’s concluding act, is a Lebanese singer and musician. He was awarded the gold medal for the best male singer from Arts Studio for the year 1992-1993. Wael has released many popular songs, such as “Bhebbak Ana Ktir,” “Bihin” and “Ya Dalli Ya Rouhi.”
The entry fee to the festival is LL10,000, which will provide access to the performances. The festival also offers a large selection of food.
“Prices are affordable for everyone,” said an organizing committee member. “There will be 80 kiosks [manned] by the villagers, selling all kinds of food, sandwiches, saj [and] fruit.”
In addition to the food and music, arak from a local distiller will also be available for imbibing.
Seats in the auditorium area range from LL20,000 to LL40,000, while music enthusiasts keen to attend all four nights of the festival can buy a pass from the municipality, allowing them access to all four performances for just LL20,000.
Reserve seating along with a dinner of Lebanese mezze and grill is available for $80-$120 per ticket, depending on the location of the seats.
Free transportation is available for all four nights of the festival, departing at 6 p.m. from the Army checkpoint next to St. Charbel-Annaya.
For parents wanting to enjoy the concerts with their kids, the festival has provided a small children’s play area.
The festival aims to put Ehmej on the tourist map and promote Lebanese culture, the organizer explained.
“We aspire to identify Ehmej’s artistic identity,” she said, “and to gather the village dwellers all together.”
The Ehmej Festival runs Aug. 22-25 along Ehmej’s main road. Shows are scheduled to start at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale at Virgin Box Office and at the Ehmej municipality. For reservations call 03-845-800 or 09-504-025.'
By Vanessa Daccache
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