A lot to choose from: On the multitude of Egypt’s art and culture festivals

The second half of 2022 brings an increased presence of artistic activities to many Egyptian cities. The current months are characterized by an immense number of festivals, many of which overlap with one another.


The situation is not new to the Egyptian cultural scene, which witnessed the return of creative dynamism since the dusk of both 2021 and the Covid-19 pandemic.

 In an article published at the end of 2021 entitled “From drought to avalanche,” I pointed to the many changes that took place in post-Covid-19 realities. 

There is no need here to reiterate the list of festivals mentioned in the article or the intensity accompanying them, which continued into the first months of 2022.

The summer has already witnessed many events such as the 9th International Festival of Drums & Heritage Arts (May), the Suez Music Festival (June), the 15th Egyptian National Theatre Festival (July-August), the Cairo Opera House Summer Festival (July-August), the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Summer Festival (July-August), and the 30th Citadel Festival for Music and Singing (August), as well as other events filling the stages of Cairo and Alexandria and expanding to other cities. 

This intensity continues in September through November, with many festivals occurring during the second half of the year. A number of  these festivals were held in the first half of the year. Their shift to fall 2022 is partly due to the Covid-19 pandemic which affected the scene and had a strong impact on planning and budgeting. Another element to be taken into account is Ramadan, which in 2022 coincided with April and which tends to attract audiences to events of a more spiritual nature. 

Whether state-motored or independent initiatives, the audiences enjoy the luxury of choosing from a huge variety of events, from film to theatre, and from music to dance.

In the fall of 2022, September opened with the 29th Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre (1-8 September), the festival being held at its appointed time. Presided over by Gamal Yakout, CIFET staged a number of Egyptian and international plays, and also included workshops, seminars and the Experimental Theatre Club, aiming to shed light on work by young theatre makers from various Egypt’s governorates.

Theatre continued to be in the spotlight with Cairo International Days for Monodrama (CIDM), launching its 5th edition between 12 and 16 September. Held under the helm of the festival director and founder Osama Raouf, this year’s CIDM saw the participation of 14 countries bringing their works to theatre stages.

Cairo’s historical spaces offered their stages to the International Sama’a Festival for Chanting and Spiritual Music between 17 and 24 September. The festival is dedicated to presenting spiritual music from Egypt and the world. In its 15th edition this year, the festival was founded and is presided over by Intessar Abdel Fattah with Seham Youssef as managing director.

Meanwhile, the Mediterranean coast presented the Alexandria International Theatre Festival (23-29 September) which until recently was known as the Theatre Without Fund Festival. Taking place across numerous stages of Alexandria, its 12th round was dedicated to the renowned late Egyptian actor Samir Ghanem. Founded in 2008 by theatre director Gamal Yakout, the festival is currently managed by Ibrahim El-Forn with artistic directors being Ahmed Samir and artist Islam Wassouf.

An interesting take on arts and culture was displayed at Animatex Festival (25-29 September), Egypt’s largest event covering the many aspects of the animation field. Spanning the many halls of the Tahrir Cultural Centre of the American University in Cairo, the festival showcased a plethora of animation works from Egypt and the world, in addition to industry related seminars and workshops. Founded in 2020 by Youhana Nassif & Samaka Studio, Animatex has become an important platform for all those interested or working in this art form. 

Then came Cairo’s She Arts festival, (30 September – 4 October) which marked the continuation of a huge creative dynamism in Egypt. Founded and managed by Neveen Kenawy in 2021, the festival’s programme focuses on women’s creativity in various artistic disciplines. In its second edition this year, the event filled the stages of Tahrir Cultural Centre with a larger and more diverse programme than the one we witnessed in its inaugural year.

Alexandria hosted the Film Festival for Mediterranean Countries between 5 and 10 October. Organised by the Egyptian Association of Cinema Authors and Critics, headed by its president El-Amir Abaza, the AFFMC screened a total of 90 films from 29 countries in its official competitions, unofficial competitions, and parallel programmes.

This intensity was immediately followed by a number of other festivals, some of which continue throughout October. 

The third edition of the Micro Theatre Festival (MTF) took place 8-12 October in both Cairo and Alexandria, showcasing 16 plays directed and staged by Egyptian artists in addition to online Zoom workshops and seminars with international theatre practitioners. Headed by theatre academic and actress Nabila Hassan, this is the only festival in Egypt dedicated to this unique art form.

The theatre does not forget the youngest members of its audience, hence the 12th edition of the Hakawy International Arts Festival for Children which runs between 6 and 15 October. Hakawy offers plays and workshops for children in Cairo and Alexandria. The event is founded and directed by Mohamed El-Ghawy, who dedicated its 12th edition to Fouad El-Mohandes (1924-2006).

Among the October highlights is the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF), which showcases a large number of groundbreaking performances and exhibitions featuring artists from around the world between 9 and 30 October. This is the 10th edition of the downtown-centered multidisciplinary event, held as always without compromising its rich programming, proving D-CAF’s sustainability in navigating the cultural scene. This is in big part due to the festival’s founder and artistic director Ahmed El-Attar. 

Let’s not forget about India by the Nile (9 – 21 October), one of Egypt’s few festivals dedicated to presenting foreign arts to local audiences. Following the cancellation of the 2021 edition due to Covid-19 pandemic, the festival’s 9th round made its steps back to the scene. Managed by Ila Gupta, the festival showcases the best offerings from Indian culture. While this year’s programming is limited to a few shows, the festival’s programming of eight years speaks for its strength, variety and high quality and well-chosen events.

A change of culture comes with the 10th edition of the Ibero-American Film Week, which takes place in Cairo and Alexandria on 13-20 October. The programming reveals 16 Ibero-American countries showcasing their cinematic riches and stressing the close connections Portuguese and Spanish share with the Arabic language, as well as with Mediterranean and Atlantic states.

The national component will be emphasised with Alexandria’s Theatre Freedom Festival dedicated to presenting shows by practitioners of Egyptian theatre. The festival will take place between 21 and 29 October across the coastal city’s stages.

This festival happens in concurrence with the University Student Theatre Festival, 22-28 October, showcasing plays from many educational institutions in Cairo.

Music will step in with the 31st Arab Music Festival and Conference scheduled to take place in multiple venues in Cairo, Alexandria and other governorates between 20 October and 3 November, hosting dozens of concerts for some of the most well known Egyptian and Arab singers, bands and instrumentalists, alongside seminars and young talents’ competitions.

And while October is already filled with events, this year it will miss the Gouna Film Festival, an event which throughout five editions attracted the cinema industry and cinephiles to the Red Sea resort. The festival’s sixth edition was originally planned to take place between 13 and 22 October, yet based on the decision announced by its management in June, the festival has been put off and its future remains unknown.

October will see, however, the Cairo Jazz Festival with the 14th edition opening on the 27th and continuing until 4 November at the Tahrir Cultural Centre. Founded and managed by Amr Salah, the festival celebrates jazz in all its forms through concerts and workshops. The festival has just revealed its detailed programming promising a wide range of Egyptian and international acts.

Meanwhile, November will see the 5th edition of Breaking Walls, a festival dedicated to contemporary dance. This annual event presents site-specific performances along with a showcase of films related to dance and theme-related theatre performances and exhibitions. The preliminary dates of the festival are 1-30 November (with the  film component extending to December). The final date is yet to be confirmed, with the programming to be announced.

Speaking of November, we should highlight the 44th Cairo International Film Festival (13 – 22 November). Presided over by renowned actor Hussein Fahmy, with Amir Ramses as artistic director, the CIFF announced its first batch of film titles in its line-up, including 10 films that will have their MENA premiere. 

Meanwhile, the theatre scene does not lag behind. Sinai will see Sharm El-Sheikh International Theatre Festival for Youth  scheduled to take place between 25 and 30 November. Launched with the aim of providing opportunities to young theatre practitioners while decentralizing the artistic scene and reviving tourism in South Sinai, the festival is founded by and presided over by Mazen El-Gharabawy, with Ingy El-Bastawi as artistic director.

With the coming of December, the festivals’ intensity will decrease. The article provides the highlights while many more festivals or series of events continue to take the country by storm. As the audiences already have a lot to choose from, we will continue updating the readers with all cultural offerings. 


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