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10 Best Art And Culture Events In The Middle East
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10 Best Art And Culture Events In The Middle East

Picture of Chloe Hay
Updated: 9 February 2017
From art exhibitions in wooden boats to poetry readings on the beach and 72-hour long dance parties, the countries of the Middle East have a captivating array of one-of-a-kind arts and culture events to tempt visitors to their shores. Be sure to pack a paintbrush and a pair of dancing shoes as participation is encouraged. Here are 10 of the best cultural events, from Israel to Iraq.
Middle East
Doha at night | © Nuroptics/WikiCommons


Art | Palestine International Festival


Each year Palestine hosts an international music and dance festival in the West Bank city of Ramallah in a bid to break the cultural siege the country is trapped under. Local and internationally acclaimed acts perform side by side to entertain huge audiences with drum ensembles, vivacious dancing, orchestra recitals and beautiful harmonies. Previous years have seen artists from Spain, Tunisia, China, Chile, Paraguay and the UK take to the stage with highlights including Stomp, the Pavocci Group and the Jal Jallaluh Group, as well as talented singers Rasheed Taha and Suad Massi.

Ramallah, Palestine


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Dance | Lebanon Dance Festival

28 – 31 August

As the biggest dance festival in the Middle East, the Lebanon Dance Festival promises to be four days of round-the-clock dancing in the city of Byblos. Buy an all-inclusive ticket to watch dance shows, participate in workshops and party all night long, as visitors can dance salsa in the indoor venue, kizomba on the sands and tango on the seafront. Each year the festival attracts world class dancers including four-times world champions from Brazil Rafael and Carine, eighteen-times world champion from Cuba Alien Ramirez and ‘world footwork champion’ from Spain, Fady Fusion. From the bachata to breakdance, the cha-cha to the pachanga and reggaeton to rumba, this festival has every type of dance covered.

Byblos, Lebanon


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Photography | Aleppo Photography Gathering

15 – 30 September

Now in its 12th year, the Aleppo Photography Gathering is one of Syria’s main cultural attractions. Displaying stunning images by both local and international photographers over a two-week period, the festival is the perfect excuse for tourists to discover a lesser-visited land. Alongside the photography exhibition there is a series of lectures and workshops for the true enthusiasts to enjoy as well as an entertaining programme of musical concerts. Photographers from countries as far-flung as Australia, Denmark and the USA exhibit their contemporary and documentary-style photos at the Syrian gathering, and emerging artists will have the chance to get their photos professionally critiqued.

Aleppo, Syria


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Art | Art Week Amman


Set in the hilly area of North West Jordan, Art Week Amman sets out to ‘bring art back to the people’. Through a schedule of exhibitions, social events, panel discussions, talks and workshops visitors are encouraged to learn more about art and to test out their own creativity. Many of the artworks on display are also on sale so if visitors fall in love with a piece, they can take it straight home with them to give pride of place on their wall. Workshops offered cover a variety of mediums, tastes and skill levels including fashion illustration, graphic design and digital art as well as instruction in more classic art forms.

Amman, Jordan


Culture | Israel Festival

End of May – beginning of June

Set in the holy city for Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the Israel Festival in Jerusalem is a celebration of international culture and performing arts. Founded in 1861, the festival has grown into a global affair attracting artists from all over the world to perform alongside popular Israeli creatives. Ticketed shows include an array of jazz concerts, operas, classical music recitals, theatre productions, ballets and modern dance performances. There are also a number of free events put on around the city and across the country including street theatre, children’s shows and a nightly jazz club.

Jerusalem, Israel

Culture | The Holiday of Holidays

Fridays and Saturdays throughout December

Showing just how easy it should be for people of different religions to live side by side, each year in December the town of Haifa in Israel celebrates the Holiday of Holidays. This is the blending of Hanukah, Christmas, Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha culminating in one huge street party that continues each Friday and Saturday of the month. Locals step out into the streets to eat from food stalls, watch street performers and browse the outdoor art exhibits. The majority of the events take place in the Wadi Nisnas neighbourhood but celebrations can be discovered all over Haifa.

Haifa, Israel


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Film | Baghdad International Film Festival


With the aim of bringing an unprejudiced new multicultural cinema to Iraq, the themes of the Baghdad International Film Festival include freedom, democracy, human rights and justice. Works by filmmakers of an array of nationalities, ethnicities and cultures are shown on the same screen in a competitive festival. The six categories producers can enter are: long fiction, short drama, documentaries, Arab women filmmakers, human rights images and new horizons. Only the latter category is reserved solely for Iraqi filmmakers. Last year’s winners include Sahim Omar Kalifa’s Baghdad Messi for best short drama and Hadi Mohaghegh’s A Look Towards the Sky for best documentary. A programme of workshops, exhibitions and discussions runs simultaneously alongside the festival.

Baghdad, Iraq


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Food | The Speciality Food Festival

9 – 11 November

Celebrating all things gourmet, Dubai’s Speciality Food Festival is set to take over food-lovers’ taste buds this November. With celebrity chefs creating innovative new signature dishes daily and guests being blindfolded in a gourmet guessing game, there’s a corner of the Dubai World Trade Centre to keep everyone entertained. Aside from speciality products and ingredients, the Barista Bonanza Coffee Championship, the Sweets and Snacks festival and SEAFEX, the region’s best seafood event, will all occur simultaneously. There will also be an awards show recognising the most exciting new speciality food products and a celebrity chef book signing.

Dubai, UAE

Art | Abu Dhabi Art Fair


Bringing pieces from a selection of the world’s finest modern and contemporary art galleries together under one roof, the Abu Dhabi Art Fair is an unmissable event for true art enthusiasts. Artworks are curated into extravagant exhibitions across several venues including some on traditional dhowson the water. A series of talks and screenings accompany the exhibitions as well as a programme of art workshops aimed at both adults and teens wishing to learn a new craft. Street performances, poetry readings and cultural city tours are also put on to keep visitors entertained from dawn until dusk.

Abu Dhabi, UAE

Beirut, Lebanon | © VOA/V. Undritz/Flickr


Culture | Cultures of Brazil Festival

1 – 8 November

As part of the year-long Qatar Brazil cultural exchange programme, Qatar will host a week-long celebration of the colourful Brazilian culture at the MIA Park in its capital city, Doha. The programme seeks to build strong relationships between the two countries by sharing community, sport and culture. During this week-long festival, some of Brazil’s most renowned musicians will fly over to perform on the city’s stages and entertain the Qatari locals. A ‘Copacabana Sidewalk’ will be constructed complete with Brazilian street food stalls and beach football. There will even be a mini-carnival with floats designed by local children passing through the street as onlookers dance behind.

By Chloe Hay

Discover More of The Culture Trip’s Guide to Middle Eastern Culture:

Bahrain | A Cultural Guide to the Kingdom

Iran | Art in a Country of Political Strife: The Ten Best Contemporary Galleries in Iran

Israel | The Ten Best Contemporary Art Galleries in Israel

Lebanon | 10 Contemporary Art Galleries in Beirut You Should Visit

Qatar | Doha’s 10 Best Art Galleries and Museums

UAE | Art Dubai and the Ten Best Contemporary Art Galleries in Dubai

UAE | A Selection of the Best Small Arts Spaces in Dubai

UAE | Abu Dhabi’s Must-See Art Galleries: Contemporary Art in UAE