Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival: 11-27 July 2008

The 2008 festival formed part of Liverpool’s European Capital of Culture celebrations and was the richest and biggest programme to date.  Around 27,000 people enjoyed 41 events, with artists drawn from Merseyside, the UK, and internationally. Scroll down for more on the programme, or watch the video above to get a flavour of the festival.

Official Festival Launch

Arabise Me

presented by Ziyarat
Fri 11 July, 7.30pm-late | The Bluecoat
After taking London’s V&A Museum by storm in 2006 with their first Arabise Me event, Ziyarat take over the Bluecoat for this year’s festival launch. Bringing you an eclectic arts prgramme of music, live art and dance, that will dazzle you with the burgeoning talent of the Arab region followed by a DJ performance and party. Supported by Liverpool Culture Company as part of the European Capital of Culture Programme.

Family Day

Sun 13 July, 12-4.30pm | Palm House, Sefton Park | Free
Experience true Arabic hospitality at the ever popular Family Day; an afternoon of creative activities for the whole family. Enjoy live msuic, dance, workshops, stalls and food in the beautiful surroundings of Sefton Park’s Palm House. Highlights of the day include: Arabic Bazaar with stalls and food from across the Arab world. Bedouin Jerry Can Band, semi-nomadic musicians, storytellers and coffee grinders from the Egyptian Sinai desert perform songs and poetry about ancient Arabian tribes, fables of trusty camels, warnings of the dastardly deeds and tales of unrequited love. Say’un Popular Arts, a group of eight musicians from the southern Yemeni region of Hadhramaut, perform Hadhrami and Bedouin songs on traditional instruments with vibrant percussion accompaniment inspired by African dance rhythms.
This event is funded by the British Yemeni Society, The Yemani British Friendship Association in Sana’a, The British Council and Yemen Embassy. Sponsored by Yemen Airways. Coordinated by Paul Hughes-Smith. 

Visual Art 


New Ends, Old Beginnings

Sat 12 July – Wed 3 Sept | The Bluecoat and Open Eye Gallery | Free
Can Altay, Ziad Antar, Lara Baladi, Cevdet Erek, Tarek Al Ghoussein, Chourouk Hriech, Randa Mirza, Michael Rakowitz, Hrair Sarkissian, Sharif Waked and Tarek Zaki.
The diverse cities of the Arab region include sites of ancient civilisation, as well as some of the most youthful urban establishments in the world. Their heritage and contemporary culture are varied and complex. While cities such as Baghdad struggle to protect their museums and architectural heritage, others like Abu Dhabi are in the early stages of promoting a new urban cultural legacy by creating a space for the arts from scratch.
New Ends, Old Beginnings investigates the Arab region though artists’ responses to local and everyday culture, a perspective that the world’s media often overlooks or avoids making visible.
Comprised of photography, video, sculptural installation and performance, New Ends, Old Beginnings is curated by November Paynter and produced in partnership between the Bluecoat, Open Eye Gallery and Zenith Foundation. Funding has been provided by the Arts Council England, Liverpool City Council, Liverpool Culture Company, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation and the Henry Moore Foundation.



Every day, 10am – 6pm | The Bluecoat | Free
A series of fun family activities to do while you explore the New Ends, Old Beginnings exhibition, the garden and the rest of the Bluecoat. Learn along the way with creative experiments and find new ways of learning together.
Your ‘selection box’ will contain 6 activities hand picked by the participation team at the Bluecoat, with something for everyone.


with Yorkshire Bank, Superlambanana
Throughout June, July, August | The Bluecoat

A changing monthly creative activity
In April, the Shine challenge was to design an Arabic inspired Superlambanana. The winning entrants took part in a design masterclass and their giant Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival inspired Superlambanana is being exhibited in the Bluecoat front courtyard as part of the Go Superlambananas trail.


E-Space Lab

What’s happening in Damascus and Liverpool right now?
Fri 11 – Mon 14 July, 10am-6pm | The Bluecoat | Free

e-space lab is a public art laboratory, using digital technology and the world wide web to connect with Merseyside’s sister cities of Shanghai and Gdansk. For the festival it is extending global links to Damascus, this year’s Arab Capital Culture.


Coal, Frankincense & Myrrh: Yemen & British Yemenis

Fri 11 – Sun 27 July | The Picton Reading Room, Central Library | Free
Tim Smith
An exhibition of Tim Smith’s photographs  of Yemeni communities in Liverpool, South Wales and Sheffield during the early 1980s, photographs in Yemen between 2005 and 2007 and work being carried out amongst Yemeni communities in Britain today. Introductory texts, maps and extracts from oral history interviews accompany the photographs.



Sat 12 July, 7.30pm | Liverpool Philharmonic Hall | £12.50 / £14.50 / £19.50 / £25 / £30
Khaled took Algerian rai, mixed it with western music and created the voice of Algerian youth in the 70s and 80s. Now the ‘King of rai’ is a superstar in the Arabic world, with an almost surreal level of popularity. In 1992 his single Didi sold over a million copies in European, Arabic and Asian countries, making him more popular than Michael Jackson in India.


Bedouin Jerry Can Band

Performances and music workshop. Family activity, open to all.
Mon 14 July, 1.30pm | World Museum Liverpool | Free
BJB are a semi-nomadic band from Egypt who blend Simsimiyya, a traditional 5 string Egyptian lyre, with desert flutes and reed pipes. See BJB perform infectious Bedouin rhythms on junk percussion then join in as they lead this performance workshop.

Reem Kelani

Wed 23 July, 8pm | The Bluecoat | £15 / £12
One of the foremost researchers and performers of Palestinian music, Reem Kelani’s critically accliamed music includes elements of classical Arabic music, folk and jazz.
‘Kelani’s voice is a technical marvel, capable of transforming deeply felt emotion into a range of pulverising hollers and keening wails’  The Guardian


Middle Eastern Dance Bonanza

Performance curated by Caroline Afifi
Thu 17 – Sun 20 July | The Bluecoat
Four days of Middle Eastern dance (popularly known as ‘belly dancing’) including evening performances of the traditional art form (Sahlalla) and contemporary interpretations (Shifting Sands), a one day conference on the politics of the dance (Bellies on the Brain) and a full day of workshops, from masterclasses with leading artists to a free family beginners’ session.


Thu 17 & Sat 19 July, 8pm | The Bluecoat | £14 / £12
Headlined by the extraordinary Egyptian dance, Djamila Hanan, performing for the first time in the UK, this wonderful evening of traditional Middle Eastern dance includes both female and male dancers and the fifteen strong Adara Company. Look out of Houda Amrani, Khaled Mahmoud, Shafeek Ibrahim, Fereshteh Hossieni and Caroline Afifi. Anticipating a high demand we’ve repeated the programme over two nights.

Shifting Sands

Fri 18 July, 8pm | The Bluecoat | £12 / £10
An evening of performances by artists exploring new territories in Middle Eastern dance. Headlined by Raksan, performing her acclaimed piece, 46, this showcase event also features the dazzling work of Venus Saleh and Wendy Buonaventura. 

Bellies on the Brain

Sat 19 July, 10.30am – 5pm | The Bluecoat | £30 / £25 (does not include the evening performance)

Introduced by Caroline Afifi and with a keynote presentation, Oriental Dance: Egypt’s Shameful Profession from Middle Eastern Dance expert, Julie Anne Elliott (Shira) as well as seminars led by a number of the Bonanza’s artists, this promises to be an intelligent and provocative look at the global explosion of ‘belly dance’ and the diverse and complex issues surrounding this popular art form.


Sun 20 July, 11am – 5pm | The Bluecoat | Day ticket £45 / £30
11am – 12pm, Free Workshop
Join Shafeek Ibrahim for Nubian Grooves, a free family beginners’ workshop that will get you belly dancing in no time!
11am – 1pm, Djamila Hana Masterclass
£20 / £12 or included with the Day Pass and Weekend Pass. For experienced dancers, this masterclass will focus on advanced Middle Eastern dance technique.
11am – 1pm, Raksan Masterclass
Day Pass or Weekend Pass holders only. For adventurous dancers keen to use the tools of Middle eastern dance to create personal new works
2.15pm – 3.30pm, Khaled Mahmoud
3.45pm – 5pm, Fereshtesh Hosseini

Midnight Club

Fri 25 July, 8pm | St Anthony’s of Padua Church Hall | £19 (not suitable for children under £12
An Egyptian evening of Shaabi dance and music, a Middle Eastern buffet with the Nile Band and guest dancers including Caroline Afifi. Live music comes from the Egyptian singer Mohammed and Lebanese songs from Michael.


BAFTA Goes To The Arab World on tour at LAAF

The Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival film programme at FACT and Liverpool Philharmonic Hall is produced in partnership with the Bluecoat, FACT, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Mona Deeley of Zenith Foundation, and in association with BAFTA. Funding has been provided by NorthWest Vision and Media.

Out of Coverage

Fiction Feature film
Mon 14 July, 6.15pm | FACT | £6.70 / £4.70 FACT members
Directed by Abdullatif Abdullhamid, Syria, 2007, 100 mins. With English subtitles, certification to be confirmed.
Amer has a busy life, caring for his own family whilst helping his friend Zuhair’s wife and daughter during his absence in prison. When it looks like Zuhair, a political prisoner, is about to be released, Amer and Zuhair’s wife realise that they have feelings for one another.

Under the Bombs

Wed 16 July, 6.15pm | FACT | £6.70 / £4.70 FACT members
Directed by Phillipe Aractangi, Lebanon, 2007, 95mins. With English subtitles, certificate 15.
A visceral expression of anger and pain from the Lebanese director seeing his country ransacked by war. Aside from two actors the refugees, journalists, soldiers, religious people and militants, all played their own roles. A fictional story of a mother’s search for a son and of two people brought together by death and destruction.

A Screening of 3 Shorts From and On Iraq and Lebanon

Thu 17 July, 6.30pm | FACT | £6.70 / £4.70 FACT members
Includes a Q&A with the direcotr of Independent Film and Television College in Baghdad. Certification to be confirmed. 
Three shorts representing how conflicts are experienced by ordinary people or represented by filmmakers living through them.
A Stranger in His Own Country by Hassanain Al Hani from Independent Film & Television College, Baghdad, Iraq, 2007, 10min.
A Candle for the Shabandar Cafe by Emad Ali from Independent Film & Television College, Baghdad, iraq, 2007, 23mins.
The Singing Barber of Mosul directed by Katia Saleh, Lebanon, 2006, 21mins.

Eye of the Sun | Ein Shams

Mon 21 July, 6.15pm | FACT | £6.70 / £4.70 FACT members
Directed by Ibrahim El Batout, Egypt, 2007, 90mins. With English subtitles, certificate to be confirmed.
From once being the sacred capital of Egypt marked by the visit of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, Ein Shams has become one of Cairo’s poorest neighbourhoods. Through the eyes of Shams, an eleven-year-old-girl who lives there, the film captures the sadness and magic that envelops everyday life in Egypt.

Paloma Delight | Delice Paloma

Wed 23 July, 6.15pm | FACT | £6.70 / £4.70 FACT members
Directed by Nadir Mokneshe, Algeria, 2007, 128mins. With English subtitles, certificate to be confirmed.
When it comes to surviving in today’s Algeria, no scam is too daunting for Madame Aldjeria. But the purchase of Carcalla Springs, the dream that should allow her clan to start a new life, proves to be one scam too many.

Chaos | Heya Fawda

Sun 27 July, 3pm | FACT | £6.70 / £4.70 FACT members
Directed by Youssef Chahine and Khaled Youssef, Egypt, 2007, 124mins
This is likely to be Youssef Chahine’s last film – one of the most important directors of Egyptian cinema. Hatem, a fearsome and corrupt police officer, is infatuated by Nour, the only woman who refuses his demands. Her love for Cherif, a brilliant and honest deputy public prosecutor, drives Hatem to turn their lives into a nightmare.

Arabic Arts Festival Media Workshop

Sat 19 July, 11-4pm | FACT | For young people aged 14-17 | Free
Media specialists help you to create an audio-visual mash up of images, text, soundbites, news footage and ads. Explore the past and present of Arabic culture. Bring any images, instruments, sounds from your home collection.

Gala Screening of Lawrence of Arabia

Tue 22 July, 6.30pm| Liverpool Philharmonic Hall | £6.50
Directed by David Lean, UK, 1962, 227mins. Starring Peter O’Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness
Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival and BAFTA celebrate the centenary of David Lean’s birth, one of the society’s founding members, with an introduction to the screening of his seminal award winning film. Egyptian actor Omar Sharif gained international stardom from the film, which he considers to be one of his greatest.

Yemen Film Weekend

A Stranger in Her Own City
Sat 19 July, 12pm | World Museum Liverpool | Free
Directed by Khadija Al-Salami, Yemen, 2005, 39 mins
13 year old Najmia lives in the old town of Sana’a in Yemen. For her, openly showing her culrs is a living challenge to centuries of ancestral tradition. Insolent and carefree, she does not wear a veil.

A New Day in Old Sana’a
Sat 19 July, 1pm | World Museum Liverpool | Free
Directed by Bader Ben Hirsi, Yemen, 2005, 90mins
A young photographer, Tariq, must choose between his love and his duty of his aristocratic family. He can either run away with his lover, an orphan from the lower class, or go through with his arranged marriage to the daughter of a judge.

The Last of the Dictionary Men
Sat 19 July, 3.30pm | World Museum Liverpool | Free
Directed by Tina Gharavi, UK, 2007, 24 mins
Over the course of 100 years, thousands of seamen from Yemen settled in the small coastal town of South Shields just as they did in Liverpool and Cardiff, and made it their home. The successful integration of the Yemeni community can offer an example to the nation. Today only 13 seamen from this first generation survive.

Al-Ritaj Al-Mabhoor
Sun 20 July, 12pm | World Museum | Free
Directed by Hamid Al-Oqabi, Yemen/France, 2006, 35mins
Al-Ritaj is based on a poem by the Kuwaiti poet Abdul Aziz Al-Babteen. It is atmospherically shot in several cities in Yemen including historical Zubaid, ancient Sana’a and Dar Al-Hajer in Thaher valley

Sun 20 July, 1pm | World Museum Liverpool | Free
Directed by Sami Saif, Denmark, 2001, 85mins
A grief stricken Sami loses his mother and brother and begins a journey in pursuit of his estranged father. This film is a personal and compelling drama filled with humour and strong emotions.



Fri 18 July, Sat 19 July, 7.30pm | Unity Theatre | £8 / £6 concessions
Cloud Nine Theatre Productions

A political, satirical, fast paced and comic play set during the 1930 Yemeni seamen’s riot in South Shields. It presents the story of a young Yemeni seaman and a South Shields  girl as the tensions between their two communities grow.
Sponsored by UNISON North West

Literature and Talks

Introduction to Modern Arabic Literature

Lecture by David Tresilian. Sat 12 July, 1pm | The Bluecoat | Free
Modern Arabic literature remains little known and poorly understood despite growing curiosity among European readers. This short talk will offfer a unique overview, focusing on developments over the last fifty years.

Fadia Faqir & Sulaiman Addonia

Sun 13 July, 6pm | The Bluecoat | £5 / £3
Two fascinating authors with Arabic backgrounds will read from and discuss thier writing. Fadia Faqir is a Jordanian/British novelist and human rights activist. Sulaiman  S.M.Y. Addonia was born in Eritrea and spent his early life in a refugee camp in Sudan before arriving in the UK.

Book Launch: Somalia: A Forgotten Issue

Wed 16 July, 4pm | The Bluecoat
A celebration of the publication of Ismail Al Haj Jama’s Somalia: A Forgotten Issue by the Liverpool Somali Cultural and Heritage Association. This event provides an opportunity for all to learn more about Ismail Al Haj Jama’s work, a fascinating and accessible overview of contemporary Somali history.

Sihr Halal

Thu 24 July, 7.30pm | The Bluecoat | Free
No people in the world manifest such enthusiastic admiration for literary expression as the Arabs. Come and be moved by the rhythm, rhyme and music of spoken word and experience the effect that the Arabs call ‘lawful magic’ (sihr halal). Early booking is essential. This event is hosted by Roger Phillips and is being recorded for broadcast by BBC Radio Merseyside.

Drivetime Show

Fri 11 July, 5-7pm
Claire Hamilton will be bringing her Drivetime show live from the launch of the Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival 2008



A Taste of Arabia

Tues 15 – Weds 16 July, 10am-1pm | John Archer Hall | £3
Arabic food demonstration and tasting session.

A Taste of Palestine

Sun 20 July, 1-5pm | Al-Ghazali Centre | Free
Experience Palestinian music as you sample the deliciaous tastes of the Arab Levant. With recipes to take home and the chance to buy Palestinian produce.


Liverpool Arabic Arts Festival 2008 was supported by:

Funders:  Arts Council England, Liverpool City Council, Liverpool 08: European Capital of Culture, Heritage Lottery Fund, NorthWest Vision & Media, Lloyds TSB Foundation, UK Film Council, British Council, Anna Lindh Europ-Mediterranean Foundation, The  Yemeni British Friendship Association in Sana’a, The Yemen Embassy
Sponsors:  Yemenia Airways, UNISON
Partners:  The Bluecoat, Arts For Palestine, BAFTA, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool Arabic Cente, FACT, Cloud Nine, OpenEye Gallery, National Museums Liverpool, Everyman Playhouse, BBC Merseyside, Ziyarat, Unity theatre, Liverpool Central Library.