Under the helm of Cairo Opera House manager Magdy Saber and Egypt’s Vice Minister for Tourism Ghada Shalaby, thousands of spectators gathered at the opening of the popular event, which was also attended by ambassadors and cultural representatives from Jordan, Oman, India and the Czech Republic.
The opening ceremony began with a minute of silence to mourn the causalities of the massive fire that broke out early on Sunday at the Coptic Orthodox Church of Abu Sefein in Giza’s Imbaba district.
Then, the Cairo Opera House paid special tributes to 10 cultural figures “who contributed to enriching the artistic scene in Egypt and the Arab World”, including musicians such as the late conductor Kamal Helal, violinist Mahmoud Othman, opera singer Mustafa Mohamed, poet Ibrahim Abdel-Fattah, conductor Mohamed Abdel-Sattar, director Karima Badr as well as cultural executives Howida Eid, Ragab Abdel-Wahab, Mamduh Mokhtar and the late Mohmoud El-Sherbiny.
The opening hosted performances by Al-Anamel Al-Sagheera Orchestra, led by conductor Raji Al-Mokadem, Amman Citadel, and Egyptian singer Hisham Abbas.
The 90s pop star Abbas performed some of his all-time favourite hits like Matbattalish, Lammetina, Oul Alaya Magnoun, Hamada Ezzo theme, Einy, Ah Men Eineha El-Soud and other songs memorised by fans who sang along with the lyrics.
The festival will host dozens of concerts by many renowned Egyptian and Arab star singers like Hany Shaker, Ali El Haggar, Nawal El Zoghbi, Dina El-Wedidi, Mohamed Mohsen, Nouran Abutaleb, Tania Saleh, Nesma Mahgoub, Lena Chamamyan, as well as bands like Black Theama and Wust El-Balad, and Sufi chanters like Yassin ElTohamy and El-Hadra Troup, among others.
With most of the concerts aired live on Alhayah TV channel, the festival is continuing until 31 August, and will be closed with a concert by Omar Khairat.
Due to Sunday's shocking church fire in Imbaba, which killed 41 people – including many children due to the presence of a nursery inside the church – the opening of the festival was postponed, as it was initially planned to kick-off on Sunday.
The delay of the event, which was among the first decisions taken by newly-appointed Culture Minister Nevine El-Kilany, caused adjustments to the festival’s programme, with some concerts cancelled, including those by Massar Egbari and Cairo Steps.