Deidre Dowling & Michael Maguire
The Cast and Crew of Riverdance were recently invited to perform at the prestigious International Festival of Byblos. This fascinating city is reported to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world; it has been conquered by at least nineteen different civilisations and boasts some of the world’s most fascinating ruins, which are literally part of the city. The architecture of the Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, the Crusaders and so many more are woven in to the fabric of the city.
Dancing the show in high temperatures over the sea with high winds was challenging. The odd gust of wind certainly kept everyone on their toes, and big smiles on our faces (even at more serious points of the show). Backstage was very hot, but luckily we had a couple of air conditioned cabins, which seemed freezing after coming off stage. There was a great troupe of Riverdancers in Byblos, who spent all their time together exploring the city, sunbathing and enjoying the vibrant nightlife.
It was humbling to know we were performing 100 yards away from ancient ruins including remarkable castles, fortifications, homes of these ancient civilisations and a Roman Amphitheatre. The crew and everyone backstage worked hard, on what were essentially ancient coastal caves and rocks, to produce a great set with quality sound and lighting in difficult conditions. It was an honour to perform the show in such a culturally and historically important city. We performed the show in the open air directly on the beach in front of over seven thousand-years of history to a capacity crowed and standing ovations from enthusiastic audiences.
Byblos is famous for the discovery of the oldest written alphabet dated around 1250 BC. An inscription on the sarcophagus of King Ahiram, written by his son Ithobaal, warned of curses against any who disturb the final resting place of the King. The Phoenician alphabet, which contained 22 letters, inspired the Aramaic alphabet, which was the ancestor of the modern Arabic and Hebrew scripts. The Greek, Latin, and modern alphabets also include characters from the Phoenician alphabet. The name ‘Bible’ in fact comes from the city’s name Byblos.
The people of Byblos are warm and welcoming and made every effort to make us as comfortable as possible. They are proud of their amazing and unique history and happy to tell the amazing stories that shaped this city. Our guide in the ancient ruins of the old town, Zahid, showed us artefacts that were over five thousand-years-old. The oldest part of these Phoenician ruins is an ancient eight thousand-year-old path, which is believed to be the main path to the beach from this ancient settlement of fishermen.
The manager of the Hotel Ahriam, Karim, generously gave me a personal gift of an authenticated two thousand-year-old small perfume pot, from his museum, which is under construction at the Hotel. The beauty of the architecture, history and location of Byblos is difficult to overestimate and it was a privilege to perform here. The Cast and Crew all enjoyed a fantastic week and want to sincerely thank everyone who was involved in bringing us to Byblos as well as every member of the audience.
Deirdre Dowling and Michael Maguire
Time In Focus Photography