The annual India by the Nile festival is back this month for the fourth year in a row, bringing contemporary and classical Indian arts, wellbeing techniques, food and other insights into Indian culture to an Egyptian audience.
The festival will take place from 23 April to 7 May, and India's ambassador to Egypt, Sanjay Bhattacharya, has said that this year's edition will see new activities and locations.
"We would like the success of the cultural activities to spill over to other aspects of life as well,” the ambassador said at a press conference last week, adding that the festival will include events in Cairo, Alexandria, Ismailiya, Port Said, Sharm El-Sheikh and Beni Suef.
The ambassador invited all Egyptians, from students to businessmen, to share the excitement.
The festival is organised by the Indian embassy and the Maulana Azad Centre for Indian Culture (MACIC) in Cairo, in partnership with Egypt's Ministry of Culture, the Cairo Opera House, Bibliotheca Alexandrina and Teamwork Arts company, with the support of a number of sponsors.
This year, the festival will offer a large array of events, starting with Women of Substance, an event which will take place on 23 April at Cairo’s India House.
Aiming to acknowledge the role of women in the society, the event will feature ten prominent Egyptian women who will share their success stories and achievements.
Throughout the festival, a photography exhibition by Harun Kumar titled Colours of Life will be a visual starting point for discussion about environmental and social issues, such as street children and underprivileged children.
Its launch in Cairo will be followed by a seminar on NGO engagement, designed to exchange social and community practices.
Undeniably, for the majority of audiences and followers of India by the Nile, music and dance performances presenting India’s rich culture are the most anticipated events.
There is no need to underline Bollywood's strong positioning in Egypt. A large segment of the Egyptian population follows Bollywood soap operas and films on the television channels, and they can never get enough of the colours and emotions.
Bollywood devotees still remember a visit by Indian megastar Amitabh Bachchan to Cairo during last year's festival.
Although this year no stars are expected, a performance titled Love Story, directed by Sanjoy Roy, will bring Bollywood's essence with performances scheduled to take place at the Cairo Opera House (26-29 April), Sharm El-Sheikh’s Soho Square (1 May) and Alexandria’s Sayed Darwish theatre (3-4 May).
And as per the festival’s regular practice, the choreographer and artistic director of Love Story, India-based French dancer Gilles Chuyen, will conduct the Bollywood dance workshops at Midan Theatre which is located in front of the Hanager Arts Centre in the grounds of Cairo Opera House.
On a more classical note, Dona Ganguly and her 13-strong dance group will bring from the Indian state of Odisha the graceful lines, symbolic gestures and spectacular costumes of the traditional Odissi dance.
“We want to show there is something beyond Bollywood in Indian culture,” the ambassador said during the press conference.
There are eight types of classical dance in India, and Odissi is one of them, representing the way Indians used to dance two millennia ago.
In fact, Odissi dance closed the first edition of India by the Nile, back in 2013, when Nrityagram Dance Village performed this captivating art in Cairo and Alexandria. The following years hosted other classical dance forms such as Kathak.
Communicating with Egyptian young people is one of the key points of the festival, so the renowned band Indian Ocean will be addressing the tastes of the young with their fusion rock performance.
The Indian band will perform in four different Egyptian cities: at Gomhoria Theatre on 25 April and at Ain Shams University on 27 April, both in Cairo; in Ismailiya on 28 April, and at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina on 30 April.
Successfully mixing classical Indian raga music with contemporary music mainstream trends since 1990, Indian Ocean made their way through Bollywood and beyond towards independence from the movie industry, reaching the status of the highest-selling Indian band ever.
To experience the Indian culture from within, the Food Fiesta will be open at the Four Seasons in Cairo. Acclaimed chef Vikram Udaygiri will be presenting an Indian cuisine buffet based on traditional recipes embellished with novelties such as molecular gastronomy.
The fiesta will take place from 24-30 April.
With all kinds of yoga gaining popularity in Egypt, an extensive schedule of wellbeing events is planned in the framework of India by the Nile this year. These include a variety of activities, ranging from a seminar on alternative medicine at MACIC centre in Zamalek, to an open air yoga event at Al-Azhar Park on 30 April, which marks World Health and Meditation Day.
Other wellbeing events will be held on 29 April at the Children’s Civilization and Creativity Centre in Heliopolis, and on 1 May at the Bibliotheca Alexandria.
Indian experts will also participate in the World Healing and Meditation Day at the Al-Azhar Park event on 30 April, while a seminar on alternative medicines will be held on 28 April at MACIC in Cairo.
A new addition to this year’s festival is a business seminar that will be held on 27 April, with the attendance of the representatives and experts of the business community of both countries.
They will meet at the Indian embassy in order to explore the opportunities for investment and collaboration under the umbrella of the ongoing Make in India campaign.
Except for the Bollywood extravaganza performance, most of the festival activities will be free of cost, or with admission by online registration.
Opportunities to experience Indian culture in Egypt do not come to a halt once the festival is over. Among the other upcoming events featuring Indian art is the International Festival for Drums and Traditional Arts, scheduled to take place in May, during which a percussion group from South India will give yet another flavour of their home country.
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