Nothing like a street parade to bring live art to the masses. The medieval al-Muizz
Street in Cairo has last week vibrated not only to the exciting beat of drum parades
by bands from the four corners of the world donning colourful folk garb, but to the
thrill of Egyptian audiences who thronged the street to cheer the bands on and join
in the dance and song. It was the fourth drum festival come to life in Cairo.
Tonight, the romantic 10th century Saladin Citadel that stands on Muqattam Hill
east of Cairo will witness the finale of the fourth round of the International Festival
for Drums and Traditional Arts. Participating in the seven-day festival that roamed
the streets in the heart of medieval Cairo were 137 bands from more than 20
countries. Together, they sent the message, ‘Drums Dialogue for Peace’.
The festival set off in a spectacular opening a week ago from Saladin Citadel’s Bir
Youssef Theatre thrilling an audience of 5000 spectators, while some 3000 more
waited impatiently at the gate hoping to get a chance to be allowed in. The
melodies and drums of the various participating bands resounded together in
harmony, even as each tune reflected the culture and folklore of every participating
Throughout the week, the drum shows were performed in several venues
throughout Egypt, invariably drawing excited audiences especially when the shows
went on street parades.
“We want to make people happy”
The festival was first launched in 2013, the fruit of the efforts of the Entissar
Abdel-Fattah, expert of cultural and artistic affairs at the Egyptian Culture
Ministry. The ministries of culture, tourism, planning, foreign affairs, youth and
sport, and antiquities, all teamed up to with the Hewar Foundation for Peoples Arts
and Cultures to make the festival a reality on the ground; Mr Abdel-Fattah remains
the festival director.
Minister of Culture Helmy al-Namnam and Minister of Antiquities Khaled al-
Anani opened this year’s festival at the Citadel; attending were a number of
officials, ambassadors, media professionals and intellectuals.
The festival brought together troupes from places as far apart as China, Saudi
Arabia, Pakistan, Lithuania, Nigeria, Switzerland, Romania, Malysia, South
Africa, Cote d’Ivoire, Algeria, among others. India was this round’s guest of
honour. Egyptian groups from various regions such as Toshka, al-Gharbiya, al-
Sharqiya, Sinai and Assiut participated in the festival’s events.
A number of historical and cultural sites in Egypt were chosen to host the sidelines
festival. These included Saladin Citadel, Qubet al-Ghouri, al-Muizz Street, Prince
Taz’s chateau, al-Hanager Art Centre, the Cairo Opera House’s al-Midan Theatre,
and the Benha, Bahteem and Port Said cultural palaces.
“We want to make people happy,” Siham Ismail, the festival executive manager
Drums for peace
“Drums have been historically famous as wartime instruments. But here in Egypt,
representatives of some 20 countries have beaten drums for peace,” Rabie Abdel-
Nasser who is among the organising team of the festival told Watani. According to
Chao Young of the Malysian group, rhythms are the best way to spread peace;
“We are proud to play music for peace,” he said.
Ossama Gamil, the festival’s assistant director told Watani that the Festival for
Drums and Traditional Arts aims at connecting peoples of the world and drawing
them together. “I was overjoyed when an elderly woman who attended some of the
festival’s activities told me ‘After I watched different performances of different
nationalities I feel like I have gone around the world without actually leaving my
seat’. This, in a nutshell, is what the festival is all about.”
A huge bazaar featuring folkloric products and handicrafts reflecting the different
cultures of the participating countries was held on the sidelines of the festival, in
addition to a photo gallery featuring photos of the festival since its inception in
25 April 2016