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Egypt's Al-Nitaq Festival
The Al-Nitaq Festival of Art takes place annually during February or March in the vibrant city of Cairo. It showcases visual art, music, film, theatre and poetry in venues throughout the city. The Nitaq is a unique event in the city and provides an inside look at the artistic culture of Cairo. In a city with such a rich history, it can be hard to find time to appreciate the modern culture and society. This event acts like a window into the more modern cultural scene and should not be missed.

A quiet excitement permeates the downtown area during this gala. Visual art, especially multi-media installations, dominates the scene. The event brings art to life, joining with the pulse of the city and of art lovers who provide the impetus for this festival. A stream of local aficionados and interested tourists flow through downtown galleries and cafes, creating a small community of artists and appreciators which lends an ambiance to the city.

During the festival, the historic Townhouse Gallery and other small, privately-owned spaces showcase local artists, while cafes and cultural centres are transformed into theatres for drama, music and poetry readings. Aside from visual art, visitors can enjoy films and lectures about Egyptian life and culture, poetry from local writers, as well as traditional and international music.

Al-Nitaq was Cairo's first arts festival and was initiated by three private galleries, namely, the Espace Karim Francis, the Mashrabiya Gallery and the Townhouse Gallery. These three continue to be pivotal participants in the festival. The fair first ran in 2000 and 2001, but was abandoned for several years due to complicated cultural politics. Happily, it was resumed in 2007, and will go on for its fifth showing in 2009.

Private galleries have provided the momentum and space for innovation in Cairo's art scene, which is dominated by state-run galleries. Most of the funding for art comes from the Ministry of Culture, but the state sector tends to favour traditionalism in artistic styles. This is evident in the contrast between the larger state-run Biennele art festival, and the smaller but more vibrant Al-Nitaq.

The Nitaq festival is a celebration of new ideas and alternative medias. It stimulates motivation and funding for new styles and approaches to art. Here you can become acquainted with up-and-coming as well as established Egyptian artists. Many artists who participate in Al-Nitaq later go on to showcase their work internationally. The festival provides great exposure for local artists and supports Cairo's art scene.
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Orson Johnson writes for Holiday Velvet, a website providing Paris accommodation, France and Venice accommodation Rentals.
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