Nawal El Zoghbi and Shams to perform at the first Babylon International Festival since 2003


Some of the biggest names in Arab pop music have traveled to Iraq to mark the start of the 15th Babylon International Festival, marking the return of the annual event after nearly two decades.

Lebanese singer Nawal El Zoghbi, Egyptian singer Hany Shaker and Kuwaiti singer Shams are among the pop stars who will perform at the festival, which began on Thursday.

Iraqi favorites, including Salah Hassan, Shatha Hassoun and Maher Ahmed, are also expected to appear. The festival will feature performances by folk groups from around the world, a fashion show as well as other cultural, literary and artistic activities.

The festival, which was launched in 1987, turns the site of the ancient city of Babylon in central Iraq into a vibrant cultural attraction. It is making a comeback after a 19-year hiatus that began with the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. While many hail the return of the event as a step forward on the Iraqi cultural scene, the festival has its detractors too. .

Several religious groups protested against the chanting events of the festival, saying they did not respect the sacred history of the city and its shrines.

Sky News Arabia reported that a group posted a public letter on social media, urging festival organizers and sponsors to cancel the singing performances. Demonstrations by students and religious groups were also organized along the roads leading to the ancient city and the festival site.

In order to appease protesters’ demands, Hassan Mandeel, governor of Babylon, issued a directive to cancel the festival’s singing events.

But the show will continue.

Following the wave of protests and Mandeel’s directive, Ahmed Al-Rubaie, director of the Babylon International Festival, declared that “no one can hinder the activities of the festival”.

Al-Rubaie said crowds of artists, singers and musicians from all over the world flocked to Babylon to participate in the festival, and the cancellation of the singing activities “would spell disaster.”

The Iraqi Artists’ Union also confirmed that the festival’s singing events are still to take place. Jabbar Jodi, the union leader, told Rudaw Media Network that the cancellations were “rejected”.

“The union has a clear position on this issue,” he said. “Lyrical activities continue at the festival.

Updated: October 28, 2021, 2:48 PM


Darcy J. Skinner