BEIRUT: Beirut, the city that is known for its cosmopolitan spirit and its appreciation for different cultures, held the Nations Day Festival for three days last weekend at Zaitunay Bay.
Organized by Beirut Golden Awards and held under the patronage of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, the festival, with its colorful theme of diversity, did not fail to attract hundreds of tourists. It revealed the unique aspect of every country it represented and invited many to have a taste of a country without even having to be there.
The bay turned into an arena of cultures, brought by creativity and appreciation, to the visitor’s reach. Booths representing different countries decorated with flags, ornaments, dishes of traditional food, embellished that eye-catching vicinity of Beirut; and the tourists were traveling from one booth to another, with excitement, curiosity, and joy sweetening their trip.
“I am awestruck by how bustling and lively the festival is,” a British tourist, Anna Newton, said, adding that “the Lebanese sure do know how to have fun, regardless of the stiff political situation around them.”
Some were quite appreciative of having their cultures introduced to others, such as Karina Ackermann, a diplomat at the Uruguayan Embassy in Lebanon, who felt joyous at having her culture brought to her and to those around her.
One booth that attracted a significantly large number of visitors was the Romanian one with its traditional handbags, kitchen utensils, trays, dolls, and various house ornaments.
Oftentimes, cultures are misunderstood or stereotyped by the media; this event, however, shed light on cultural specifics that were unknown to many; as the vice president of the Romanian Levant Association, Daniella Ersu, put it: “Romania should not be only known for Dracula; we are here to show that our culture if much richer than that,” while addressing the curious throng of visitors around the Romanian booth.
Furthermore, the director of the Turkish Cultural Center, Reha Ermumcu said: “We want to show how close the Lebanese and Turkish cultures are to each other. This is mainly due to their shared history, and geographical proximity.”
Then, the Turks performed a well-known traditional play titled “Karagoz,” which both the children and the adults at the event enjoyed.
Some Lebanese visitors found the event worthy of attending, as it took them out of a bubble and reminded them of the world outside. To use the words of the Lebanese attendee Najwa Farhat: “We sometimes get so overwhelmed with our day-to-day problems in Lebanon, that we forget that there lies a whole world outside Lebanon.”
In addition, the Lebanese Institution for the Blind participated in the festival to “show people that we can overcome hardships and make something useful of our lives, regardless of our inability to see,” as said by Ismael Aslan.
Even for Alia el-Qadi, who was on her first visit to Lebanon, was met with the spark of the city and reminded of the Lebanese-American painter and writer Rabih Alameddine, who once said that that “Beirut is the Elizabeth Taylor of cities: insane, beautiful, falling apart, and forever drama laden.”
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