Two Israeli music festivals are set to take place in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula within days, sparking outrage among social media users in Egypt.
The two festivals, Nabia Festival and Grounded Festival 2022, are being held days apart close to Egypt’s border with Israel, with both predominantly targeting Israeli.
Nabia Festival, which will take place between 17 to 20 April 2022, is being held at Tolip Taba Resort and Spa with more than 40 foreign musicians, mostly Israeli, featuring in the line up. This is the first time the Nabia Festival is being held, with its website stating that the festival will be a ‘psychedelic’ experience.
“We invite you all to become the first tribe that will take part in this massive psychedelic community that is currently starting to unite around the festival, receive the blessing of knowing where it all began and to plant a molecular seed inside this big tribal collective that will grow and expand into the infinite unknown kingdom of possibilities,” states Nabia’s website.
Meanwhile, Grounded Festival 2022 by organizers We Grounded is being held further away from the Egyptian-Israeli border at Syn Beach Club in Nuweiba Club Village. Organizers are also offering special packages with accommodation at the nearby Time Coral Resort. According to the Grounded Festival 2022’s website, Nuweiba Club Village and Syn Beach Resorts were initially built in the 1960s as an Egyptian Navy base, before being transformed into a “vacation village for Israelis” in the 1960s during the occupation by Israel of the Sinai Peninsula.
Unlike Nabia Festival, Grounded Festival has had previous editions, all of which were previously held in Israel. The last Grounded Festival was held in 2019 in Eilat, just across the border from Egypt’s Taba.
Both festivals, which are organised by Israelis and which target Israelis, are being held just days out from Sinai Liberation Day. Egypt marks Sinai Liberation Day on 25 April to celebrate the day Egypt regained control of the Sinai Peninsula in 1988.
News of the festivals first started spreading in Egypt when the official page of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) in Egypt tweeted its condemnation on 13 April. BDS Egypt has called for people to boycott Tolip Taba Resort and Spa for hosting the Nabia Festival.
With news of clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian worshippers at Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in Jerusalem this week during Ramadan, Egyptians on social media have expressed outrage and called for the Israeli music festivals to be banned.
Despite signing a formal peace treaty in 1979, Egyptians have continued to express anti-Israeli sentiment in light of the continued Palestinian struggle for liberation. Unlike recent developments in the region, which have seen countries such as the United Arab Emirates normalize relations with Israel across political, economic, social and cultural spheres, such normalization is rare in the social and cultural spheres in Egypt.
Nevertheless, Egypt’s ties with Israel continue to grow in the political and economic space. In late 2021, EgyptAir launched flights between Tel Aviv and Cairo. Prior to this, the only flights between Ben Gurion Airport and Cairo International Airport were operated by Air Sinai, a subsidiary of EgyptAir, discreetly. The flights operated in unmarked aircrafts, without the Egyptian flag.
Further, despite Egyptian sentiment towards Israel, Israeli tourists continue to flock to Egypt, contributing to Egypt’s tourism industry. In 2019, more than one million Israeli tourists visited Egypt, largely visiting the Sinai Peninsula.
It remains to be seen whether these two festivals will go ahead in light of the outrage, marking the start of a different form of Israeli tourism in Egypt, or whether they will be clamped down upon by authorities.