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We had an amazing evening of magical storytelling and music on Monday 17th July 2017 with a performance of Damascus Stories at International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Manchester.

The Diwan Foundation have adapted for performance the stories of award-winning Syrian novelist Ulfat Al-Idlibi. She is well-known in Syria for her enchanting short stories of love, marriage, families, politics and revolution in Old Damascus which capture a world that is fast disappearing.

Two outstanding performers created this evening for us: Alia Alzougbi told the stories while Louai Alhenawi provided the musical accompaniment. Both artists currently reside in the UK.

The stories we heard during the evening were:

Yousef Eid – A visit to the fortune teller known as the Hajjab, to fulfill wishes and read the future, taking us into 18th century Damascus.

The Drunkard – It is typical for people to go on the straight and narrow for the duration of the Holy month of Ramadan, only to return to their wayward ways soon after.

The Angel of Luck is persuaded by the Angel of Mercy to grant the wishes of three young girls at the prime of their youth. Years later, he goes back to check on them.

The Agha – Contrary to what the 24-hour rolling news would have you believe, rebellion against oppression has existed in the Arab world long before the Arab Spring.

Louai Alhenawi

Louai is a Syrian musician, teacher and composer. He specialises in the ney (Arabic flute), Arabic percussion (dabuka, daff and riqq) and Middle Eastern music. Louai graduated from the eminent Damascus Conservatoire in 2001. Since coming to the UK in 2002, he has performed extensively, recorded and toured worldwide with many artists including Oojami, Terry Hall, Natacha Atlas, Shakira and others. He also leads and composes for his group Al-Farabi, performing spiritual and Arabic classical music.

Alia Alzougbi

Alia is an actress, storyteller, dancer and workshop facilitator based in the UK. She is part-Lebanese, part-Syrian and grew up in several countries in the Middle East. Alia has performed at various festivals, galleries, museums and stages across the world. She uses storytelling as a tool to create platforms for introspection, reflection and discussion. Alia is a BAFTA Scotland nominated performer who was awarded the Best Storyteller Award by The Fringe Report in 2011.


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