The Women Behind the Al Bustan Festival

by LBTAdmin

For almost 30 years, the Al Bustan Festival has been wowing audiences with its rich cultural program of performance art, which is largely put together by a talented team of women. We go behind the scenes and speak with Laura Lahoud, the festival’s vice president, to hear how it all started and what keeps this exceptional event going.

Boris Berezovsky

How and why was the Al Bustan Festival established in 1994?

My mother, Myrna Bustani, founded the festival in 1994 as a contribution to the cultural renaissance of Lebanon after 20 years of civil war. She has always been passionate about classical music and always dreamed of holding a classical music festival at the Al Bustan Hotel.

Joyce El Khoury

As the festival’s VP, what was the greatest challenge in organizing this year’s edition?

Against all odds, we took the decision to go ahead. Everything indicated that we should not do it; there were so many obstacles. However, we just got on with it and solved one problem after another.

Renaud Capuçon, Victor Julien-Laferrière and Guillaume Bellom

The challenges are, as you know, the social and economic crisis, the collapse of the banking system, the difficulty in finding sponsors, the pandemic and, more recently, the Russia-Ukraine war, which has also affected us. We wanted to keep the price of the tickets low so that as many people as possible could attend, meaning that we could not rely on ticket sales to cover our costs.

Glass Marcano

What are some of your fondest memories of the festival?

The general rehearsal of the Lebanese Philarmonic Orchestra conducted by young Venezuelan conductor Glass Marcano is something I will never forget. We invited 350 underprivileged children from different Lebanese schools to attend the rehearsal. At the end of the concert, the conductor called on stage a few children to conduct, and I will forever remember how happy they looked.

L’Espace Al Bustan Spa

How has Al Bustan managed to maintain such an excellent reputation and remain relevant throughout its history?

I think it is unique as it’s a family-owned hotel and not part of a chain. It has the most amazing view over Beirut, and we try to pamper our guests as much as possible.
The Al Bustan Festival is an amazing cultural event to attend in winter. You cannot find many hotels where you take the lift, go down to the theater and find such high-quality concerts with internationally renowned artists.
Furthermore, it is quite eclectic. Our art collection is on displayed throughout the property, with sculptures in the garden; few hotels own a donkey and a parrot! The cherry on top is L’Espace Al Bustan, a jewel of a spa that’s housed in an old Lebanese house under the most majestic pine trees.

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