Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 28 January 2020

Baalbeck: Lebanese diva Jahida Wehbe returns to Beqaa Valley to sing on historic stage

The singer's performance marked the Baalbeck Festival's penultimate night

Friday night marked the second-to-last performance for 2019's Baalbeck Festival, which closes on Saturday, August 3. Tonight's star is Omar Bachir, who will perform oud from around the world.

But Friday night was all about Lebanese legend Jahida Wehbe: the poet, singer and composer was joined on stage by Omar Bachir and his band and flamenco dancer Lea Llinares in a Spanish-Lebanese performance called Andalucian Nights.

The festival's spectacular stage is wedged between the temples of Jupiter and Bacchus, among the largest and best preserved Roman temples in the world.

More on Jahida Wehbe

Born in the Beqaa Valley, Wehbe took the academic route to show business – she completed degrees in psychology and studied vocalism and the oud at the Lebanese National Superior Conservatory of Music.

Wehbe told us in 2017 that her classical Arabic and ­operatic repertoire is about more than entertainment: “I want to reach people and ­instruct them to illuminate a dark spot in them. I consider this music from a spiritual aspect”.

“Music should offer ­something. There are many entertaining songs on the market – music that moves the body and entertains people. We too seek to entertain people, but through the thought and feelings.”

The Baalbeck festival started in 1956, and in the 1960s and 1970s, legends such as Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Umm Kulthum and Fairouz, performed there, drawing in many tourists from the Gulf. But today the festival faces economic pressures. Its revenue comes from ticket sales, sponsorship and government subsidy – all of which are under pressure.

“There are challenges and we have to fight, but it’s very important that we preserve the standard of the festival,” Nayla De Freij, chairwoman of the Baalbek International Festival, told Reuters in April.

Updated: August 3, 2019 11:10 AM