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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - JEDDAH: As the arts and culture initiative Balad Al-Fann progresses, Jeddah’s historical Al-Balad district is attracting locals, residents and tourists to enjoy beautiful nights in the historic alleys and streets of the old town.
The theme for Balad Al-Fann, which runs until March 9, is “Past Forward,” and the historical district is brimming with projects that combine light and sound, music, theatrical performances, exhibitions, and a number of local eateries and cafes.
Balad Al-Fann, which is organized by the Jeddah Historic District Program, is hosting a variety of cultural programs including a “Common Ground” arts and crafts program; the “Sinbad: I Can See Land” exhibition; Sama’a (Sonic Recall); Al-Mualaqat Street, where famous pre-Islamic poems are being presented in an innovative way; the “Matters through Matter” exhibition; the “Hot Cities” exhibition; the International Jazz Program; and the Royal Institute of Traditional Arts exhibition, along with comedy workshops and artistic plays.
The director general of the Jeddah Historic District Program, Abdulaziz Al-Issa, said Balad Al-Fann was launched to promote Al-Balad as an important cultural destination and a major creative hub for businesses and entrepreneurs.
Zawiya 97, a hub for the Saudi creative and traditional arts scene, incubates creative endeavors of all sizes near Jeddah’s iconic Nassif House. The hub’s CEO, Ahmed Angawi, told Arab News: “We at Zawiya 97 celebrate unity, diversity, and the arts as the heart of cultural enrichment. The ‘Common Ground’ program (is) inspired by our cultural heritage and architecture as a universal language of civilization.”
Guests can meet artists at their studios, view their works, and participate in the creation of various products and art pieces. The artists will contribute to the community by sharing their knowledge and expertise.
Angawi added that Zawiya 97 is also organizing its first photographic exhibition — “Nass Al-Balad” (People of Al-Balad): “The exhibition sheds light on the human element of historic Jeddah and the continued impact of its community and its people,” he said. “‘Nass Al-Balad’ is a celebration of them … documenting their stories, crafts, traditions and talents, and ensuring that they are passed down to future generations. It also aims to raise awareness of the importance of arts and crafts.”
In her presentation about the “Sonic Recall” program at Balad Al-Fann, Tara Al-Dughaither, curator and founder of the artistic research, documentation and production platform Sawtasura, explained: “To me, art is a way to express and deliver ideas, feelings and experiences … ‘Sonic Recall’ is a program that falls under the umbrella of audio sound.”
Suhaib Al-Hogbani, a Saudi visitor from Riyadh, told Arab News that the atmosphere in Al-Balad was “entertaining,” adding that the area has changed a lot and there are now many events to attend.
“These alleys and narrow winding streets make us live an experience,” Al-Hogbani said. “It is so nice to see artists near Nassif house working in their studios and visitors can engage with them.”
Naseem Rida, a Jeddah resident from Syria who was visiting Al-Balad with his family, stressed that Al-Balad is a nice destination for all members of the family.
“We found it very exciting and entertaining and it is the place to be these days,” he said.
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