The Greek is back! Yanni returns to Jordan amid controversy over extortionate Aqaba concert

Published February 19th, 2017 - 12:13 GMT
Yanni performed in Jordan in 2016. (Facebook)
Yanni performed in Jordan in 2016. (Facebook)

Renowned Greek composer and pianist Yanni will hold a concert in Aqaba in April as planned, with the performance expected to boost tourism in the port city and bring in "good" profits, organisers said on Saturday.

Organised by the Friends of Jordan Festivals (FJF), the event is scheduled to be held in Aqaba on April 16, FJF Executive Director Souha Bawab said.

Bawab told The Jordan Times that Yanni's concert last September in Amman was attended by over 4,000 people, around 30 per cent of whom were from other countries.

She said the concert in Aqaba, 330km south of Amman, is expected to attract a large audience, as it will be held during the Easter holiday. 

While refusing to disclose the total cost of the concert, Bawab said it is "costly", as the event requires high-end logistics and set-up. 

Some Jordanian social media users have expressed dismay over "leaked" documents which revealed that the Aqaba Special Economic Zone Authority (ASEZA) will support the concert with JD100,000.

Etaf Roudan wrote on Facebook that a simple, JD100,000-development project could provide decent salaries for five young people for three years. 

Commenting on the issue, ASEZA Chief Commissioner Nasser Shraideh said the event is part of the authority's efforts to promote Aqaba and the golden triangle (Aqaba, Wadi Rum and Petra) as an international destination in a "new spirit", especially in light of regional unrest. 

"ASEZA supports the concert within special arrangements that will allow us to recoup the financial support we provided," he said, expecting revenues of around JD500,000.

He added that a group of private companies have expressed willingness to provide support to the event, which will enable ASEZA to retain the funds, as well as making it back through ticket sales. The names of the supporting companies will be announced soon, he said.

Shraideh noted that such cultural and musical events stimulate other economic sectors, such as trade, transportation, restaurants and cafés in Aqaba.

Al Rai newspaper on Saturday quoted an informed official as saying that Prime Minister Hani Mulki had requested that Shraideh consider the JD100,000 payment as borrowed money, to be paid back from concert revenues.

The unnamed source told Al Rai that when Mulki was informed about ASEZA's contribution to the hosting of the concert, he told Shraideh that ASEZA must not provide further financial support to the event. 

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