For two consecutive days, the pulse of one of the most ancient streets of Beirut took place at the “Gemmayzeh Almashi and Albalcon” festival. This name came to refer to the exhibition of “Antika” crafts and artifacts and handicrafts that took place in the street that bears the festival’s name. As for the concerts that concluded its activities today, it was blew up from the balcony of one of its heritage buildings. The idea is new and was brought to him from Dubai by one of the sponsors of the festival. These concerts were performed by artists Maya Diab, Joseph Attia and Jad Choueiri.
Elevated music quickly guides you to the festival venue. You park your car in the closest street parallel to Gouraud Street, which is Pasteur, and your tour begins.
A cultural and artistic event that accompanies you from the first few meters of the exhibition. Children holding hands, and women watching straw hats. Exhibitors working like a beehive, and colorful balloons waiting to be bought by children, compose the first scene of the festival.
Three companies organized the festival: Garage Souk, Ahla Fawda, and Wetty Cane. So I worked to restore life to Beiruti Street, which was destroyed by the port explosion. But he was able to erect again with his buildings, buildings and people. He opened his arms to receive life, visitors and exhibitors who came from various Lebanese regions to celebrate him.
Wael, whose company implemented the idea of the festival, says that the main goal of this activity is to support Beirut and its people. He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We have implemented similar projects in Georgia, Poland and the United Arab Emirates, and for the second time we are in Lebanon. In 2018, we entered the Guinness Book of Records with an artwork from Beirut that was based on the use of recycled waste.
And you continue your journey in this street that crowds left and right with small shops in the form of wooden huts, some of which offer Lebanese products such as mortar, accessories, and wooden and iron industries, and others offer the cultures of Lebanese villages and others from Malaysia, Japan and Indonesia. She turns around and explores them, and is surprised by the number of women who run most of these industries.
Marie Baz, a painter who displays her work at the festival, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “This type of activity subconsciously takes us out of the atmosphere of gloom in which we live. I always participate in similar exhibitions, and in addition to my oil paintings, I display hand-drawn tools and utensils.
For her part, Laila Atallah points out that, through her work in sewing and embroidery, she contributes to securing the livelihood of dozens of women in Lebanese regions. “We collect scraps of fabric left by fashion designers or sewing factories. And we distribute it to many women in Lebanese villages so that they can design pillow covers, bags and colorful dresses from it, so we contribute to the empowerment of Lebanese women and reduce the accumulation of fabric waste on the other hand.
Hand-painted wood tables painted in bright colors stop you here, and designs of ornaments, hats and embroidered towels invite you to see them up close there. And complete your tour with the sound of music resounding in the atmosphere of the festival, providing you with positive energy and joy, especially as a group of young musicians and singers present it directly. She accompanies festival visitors from eleven in the morning until midnight.
In front of a green space titled by a sign that reads “Let’s plant Beirut,” Nada Kaddoura, who is in charge of the “Cedar Care” association, spoke to us, saying: “We are contributing to the intensification of green spaces in Beirut through an agricultural nursery that we called (Bab Al-Ward Nursery). Its mission is to take care of the crops that cover some areas of streets and roads. We take care of it, prune it and water it to keep it green. We do all these activities free of charge, thanks to the donations of some and the proceeds from sales in our showrooms.
In one of the corners of the exhibition, you will notice toys made of cotton threads and other crochet hooks. A woman in her thirties sits in front of a wooden “stand” on which her works are displayed, and you watch her knit one of them directly in front of you. Lillian Hanna told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We use a special thread that we import from Turkey to make these toys manually. It appeals to both children and adults.”
As for Elham, who sells wooden tables and chairs suitable for gardens and the outdoors, she explains about her industry: “I am helped by some carpenters who hand me pieces with measurements that I determine, so I draw on them and paint them in bright colors in a workshop that I set up in my house. These pieces give life wherever they are and provide their owner with positive energy that is reflected in all family members.
Soap making is also attended at the festival. It smells of jasmine and roses, and its uses vary between skin care and daily use. Nada, who comes from the Chouf region, points out that her work in the soap industry is family, and her children and husband participate in it.
The most correct hobby is artistic designs made of colored aluminum. He says, “I have loved design since I was a child, and I have a shop on Al-Hamra Street. And I came here to participate in reviving life in the street of Tarabina on its legacy and its old markets.”
Zahra Fakhreddine, another woman from southern Lebanon, runs a workshop making hand-embroidered straw hats. She says: “I buy these ready-made hats and embroider them at home with a needle. As for the written phrases, I draw them with a feather. These straw and cloth bags attract school and university students, especially foreign tourists.
The Gemmayzeh Almashi and Balcony Festival concludes its activities today, Sunday, with a concert by Lebanese stars. And the street itself is on a date with a similar activity on May 19, 20 and 21, entitled “On Gemmayzeh Road.”