Zahlé - Culture

Culture

Zahlé's culture has long revolved around its signature crop, the grape, and its products, wine and arak. Arak, in particular, has traditionally been served in cafés at virtually any time of the day. Together with the town's gorgeous natural settings, it might have provided with inspiration many of the fifty poets and writers who were born Zahlé over the past century, leading to its designation as "the City of Wine and Poetry". A graceful personification of this nickname stands at the town's entrance: a statue of Erato, the Muse of love poetry, holding a bunch of grapes.

Zahlé's most important cultural event is the "Festival of the Vine", traditionally held each September, during which concerts, plays, poetry evenings and artistic exhibitions are organized daily over the course of two or three weeks. The final Saturday evening features the crowning of the "Maid of the Vine", the local beauty queen, and the next afternoon, the festival closes with arguably its most popular event: a parade of floats held on the town's main avenue. The floats are entirely decorated with flowers according to a central theme.

The other central aspect of the local culture is religious devotion. Zahlé is still a very Catholic and conservative town, and many of its inhabitants display a pride with their religious identity which comes close to fanaticism. Church attendance is high, although it often constitutes a form of social, rather than religious, gathering. It is customary to pay visit to 7 churches on Good Friday. Holidays also endorse a very social character, being a time to visit friends and relatives.

Prophet Elias (Elijah) is the town's patron saint, whose feast on July 20 is traditionally celebrated with fireworks. Another notable holiday is Corpus-Christi, celebrated on the first Thursday of June with a large-scale procession, with a torch-lit parade being held on the previous evening. The Corpus Christi celebration dates back to 1825, when the town was spared the ravages of bubonic plague.

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