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Edinburgh festival: 10 best events with Middle East connections

Our picks for not-to-be-missed performances with Middle East connections.
Jennifer Jajeh will perform her solo show I Heart Hamas: And Other Things I'm Afraid to Tell You at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Courtesy Edinburgh Festival
Jennifer Jajeh will perform her solo show I Heart Hamas: And Other Things I'm Afraid to Tell You at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Courtesy Edinburgh Festival

National Youth Orchestra of Iraq classical concert

Set up only four years ago by the 17-year-old Zuhal Sultan in Baghdad, this astonishing, burgeoning orchestra recruited members through social networking sites. On their first-ever appearance in the UK, they showcase the rising talents of the Iraqi star Khyam Allami and the Scottish composer Gordon McPherson, creating a new oud concerto for the visit. While in Edinburgh, the young musicians, many untrained, will also receive their only musical tuition this year from a team of international artists.

August 26, www.nyoiraq.com; www.edfringe.com

Grit puppet show

The Fringe is unflinching in tackling difficult issues in innovative and unusual ways. Three puppeteers from the Scottish company Tortoise in a Nutshell use rod and shadow puppetry with an especially composed score to ask what it's like to grow up with an absent father who spends most of your childhood working in war zones. Grit spans three decades, from the first Gulf war to the siege of Sarajevo, Uganda, Cambodia and present-day Homs in Syria, through the eyes of a schoolgirl trawling through her dad's role as a war photographer.

Daily until August 25, www.tortoiseinanutshell.com; www.edfringe.com

Should Literature be Political? debate

The Edinburgh International Book Festival, which runs alongside the Fringe, is always as much about ideas in the air as words on the page. This debate, chaired by the Turkish author Elif Shafak, questions whether novelists ought to write about causes they believe in, or if they should be above the problems of the day. Ahdaf Soueif, the Egyptian author of The Map of Love and witness to last year's events in Cairo, joins in the discussion.

August 17, www.edbookfest.co.uk

Homayun Sakhi Trio classical concert

The Edinburgh International Festival has been slightly eclipsed by the more popular Fringe, but it still brings the best worldwide classical music to the churches and concert halls of the Scottish capital. The Kabul-born virtuoso Homayun Sakhi is arguably the greatest living exponent of the Afghan rubab, the double-chambered lute that's at the heart of Afghanistan's Pashtun klasik tradition. This is a rare chance to hear the highly expressive music as Sakhi plays alongside Salar Nader on tabla and Abbos Kosimov on doyra.

August 17, www.eif.co.uk/homayunsakhi

Big in Dubai stand-up comedy

You might think it's a joke - and it is. Stars of the Dubai comedy scene chance their arm in Edinburgh. "We don't pay tax so expect 40 per cent more laughs," they joke, a gag that might not amuse the highly taxed audience. Two Brits, an Arab and an American brave the boos and guffaws for an evening of international stand-up comedy. And it's free.

Daily until August 11, www.edfringe.com

Youssef Ziedan author event

The book festival takes its international title very seriously, providing a great opportunity to see authors from around the world. This year, the winner of the 2009 International Prize for Arabic Fiction and scholar of religious scripts Youssef Ziedan is reading from and discussing his recent novel Azazeel. Set in the fifth century, it tells the tale of a monk's journey from Upper Egypt to Syria during a time of social upheaval.

August 23, www.edbookfest.co.uk

A Little Perspective with Imaan stand-up comedy

There should be a few big laughs here. The Lebanese-Australian comedian Imaan Hadchiti and his sister are the only two known cases of Rima Syndrome, a genetic condition causing small stature yet retaining normal proportions. Hadchiti stands at 107cm (three feet, six inches) tall, but his jokes are on us. His comedy routines focus on the way people react to him. Hadchiti claims his first television role was a possum. Now that's a tall story.

Daily until August 26, www.edfringe.com

After the Rainfall multimedia theatre

The Fringe is often about youth, showcasing a new generation of artistic and theatrical talent. Each year something unexpected emerges. The young ensemble Curious Directive, whose aim is to get their audiences to examine the world through the lens of science, was one of these, winning a Fringe First in 2011. This year the company hopes to win again with its new show, After the Rainfall.

Created with scientific experts including a zoologist and a social media pioneer, it uses myrmecology (the study of ants) as a prism through which to view the present day. Spanning 70 years and settings from the Suez Canal to the British Museum and a Cumbrian mining town, it explores how a younger generation relates to ideas of empire, colonialism and communication. Fringe style, it's got a little bit of almost everything in it - multimedia video, original composition, dynamic movement, scenography and even sand art - in what it dubs "science-inspired theatre".

Daily until August 27, www.curiousdirective.com; www.edfringe.com

Glory Dazed theatre

Conflict has always been a rich source for playwrights. This darkly comic, acerbic play examines the effect of war on a soldier returning from Afghanistan as he tries to win his estranged wife back. The story is made even more poignant because it was developed by London's famous Old Vic theatre in conjunction with ex-servicemen prisoners. The play is written by Cat Jones, a playwright who works at Her Majesty's Prison and Young Offenders Institute Doncaster.

Daily until August 26, www.edfringe.com

I Heart Hamas: And Other Things I'm Afraid to Tell You theatre solo show

Jennifer Jajeh feels overwhelmed by all the bad news. The continuing conflicts in the Middle East, the threat of global terrorism, and the never-ending negotiations between Israel and Palestine don't sound at all funny, especially since Jennifer is a single, Christian, first-generation Palestinian American woman who chose to return to her parents' hometown of Ramallah at the start of the Second Intifada. In this honest solo show, she tackles auditions, bad dates and military checkpoints as she navigates the thorny terrain around Palestinian identity. Weaving together humour, storytelling, multimedia and live theatre, Jajeh explores how she becomes Palestinian-ised, then politicised.

Daily until August 25, www.edfringe.com

Updated: August 5, 2012 04:00 AM