The Middle East’s first-ever Renaissance fair brings together several growing niche communities into one fantasy-filled event.
Attendees of Tales of Sun and Moon, the Middle East’s first Renaissance fair, come dressed as crusaders, Faitroun, Lebanon, Sept. 22, 2018.
FAITROUN, Lebanon — Wearing tunics, capes, corsets and kilts, hundreds trekked to the Lebanese mountain village of Faitroun, 20 miles from Beirut, to participate in the Middle East’s first ever Renaissance fair, Tales of Moon and Sun. To many a bizarre event, Tales of Moon and Sun is the culmination of multiple growing subcultures and hobbies in the country, ranging from board games to camping.
A Renaissance fair emulates 15th century Europe through elaborate costumes, events such as archery and traditional food. Many Renaissance fairs also revel in anachronisms and fantasy, with Viking raiders and metal-clad crusader knights standing side by side with wizards and elves. The fairs are rare outside the UK and the United States.
But Tales of Sun and Moon, held Sept. 22-23, has introduced Renaissance fairs to the Middle East. The event was organized by Maze of Tales, a company that runs Beirut’s popular Escape the Room, a venue where groups have to solve a series of puzzles and riddles to break out of a locked room. The game aspect was woven into the weekend event.
“We are creating a medieval fantasy. … We are also storytellers. We like to make games that allow a player to discover themselves,” Carla Kamel, the creative director at Maze of Tales, told Al-Monitor.
In this case the game was a day-long, 200-player narrative-driven scavenger hunt. The competitors were divided into two teams, Sun and Moon, and then into smaller clans of 10. The players were told a story by a wise man in a long dark robe, setting up the plot behind the game.
The caped man explained that humans, elves, wizards and orcs once lived in peace. Each race made artifacts as a symbol of their prosperity. However, on one fateful night, the elf king was murdered and his artifact stolen. This grisly crime broke the peace and led to distrust and conflict between the races.
It was the players’ job to find the artifacts of each race by completing challenges such as tightrope walking and drinking competitions, all while uncovering the story behind the king’s murder and the rise of a secretive assassin guild. The clan to find all the artifacts first received the location of the final reward, a treasure chest with $1,000 inside.
Tales of Sun and Moon, with its intensely European appearance, seems to be an odd event for the Middle East. However, for those attending it is a synthesis of various hobbies and interests that have been growing in Lebanon’s younger generation.
“We have quite a large metal community and the metalheads are into Viking culture, and from Vikings you get to Medieval,” said Jihane Abou Zeid, a Lebanese data analyst dressed in a forest green linen-and-leather dress with elf ears peeking through her braided hair. He was referring to patrons of events such as the Sept. 7 Beirut Metal Festival, which was revived in 2018 after a yearlong hiatus.
Abou Zeid added that she became interested in the event through ComicCon, a worldwide pop culture convention that has been running in Lebanon for half a decade. Participants in this event will often make detailed costumes of their favorite fictional character, in a form of fashion and performance art known as cosplay.
For Abou Zeid it was an easy transition from cosplay to the Renaissance fair as she always had a passion for fantasy. She said, “At first it was Harry Potter, then Lord of the Rings, and now it is my whole life.”
Her friend Michael Jacklis, a financial analyst dressed as a 16th century monk reminiscent of Robin Hood’s Friar Tuck, shares Abou Zied’s interest in fantasy novels. He told Al-Monitor, “I have a huge library of fantasy books that I have gathered from around the world.”
However, Jacklis also pointed to his love of popular video games, such as God of War, which follows the violent exploits of ancient pantheons, and Skyrim, one in a series of rich fantasy roleplaying games in the land of Tamriel, as leading to his interest in Renaissance fairs. Gaming is another subculture growing in Lebanon as the first ever Lebanese Gaming Championship, a competition between professional gamers, was held in late August this year.
Moe Bachir, a market researcher for startups, said that his attraction to Tales of Sun and Moon emerged from his passion for comic books. Startup founder Hassan Bayloun said he was fascinated by the event after playing board games such as the tabletop strategy game Dungeons & Dragons.
These disparate niche communities all found various aspects of the event appealing, be it the costumes, gaming or narratives. Even those involved in the organization of Tales of Sun and Moon all have their own reasons for creating it.
Rita Massaad, a Lebanese artist who designed the costumes for the staff and ran a stall where patrons could dress up in a variety of medieval outfits, said her interest was piqued for aesthetic reasons. “We are campers, we are travelers. … We like that everything is handmade, that it is artistic.”
Carla Kamel explained that while her business partner and game designer at Maze of Tales, Karim Khneisser, wanted to start the event because of his love for the history of medieval and Renaissance Europe, she had a different reason: “I have a passion about the fantasy world and I like to do events, because people come to have and explore new things.”
At a glance a Renaissance fair in Lebanon may seem a passing oddity, but to those who went, the event represents a deeper cultural movement within the country.
As Jacklis told Al-Monitor, “It’s a natural progression of these interests, with people accepting them more and more.”
Feb 10, 2019 0
At the same time, the Trump administration is readying further possible sanctions on Venezuela, the official said.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro attends a military exercise in Maracaibo. (photo credit: MIRAFLORES PALACE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)
WASHINGTON, Feb 8 – The United States is holding direct communications with members of Venezuela’s military urging them to abandon leader Nicolas Maduro and is also preparing new sanctions aimed at increasing pressure on him, a senior White House official said.
The Shalva Band following their final performance on “Rising Star.” Photo: Screenshot.
The Shalva Band has removed itself from the race to represent Israel in this year’s Eurovision competition because some of its members observed Shabbat and would not be able to partake in mandatory rehearsals, The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday.
The group, made up of eight musicians who have special needs, was one of four finalists in the “Rising Star” singing contest — the winner of which will represent Israel in Eurovision, set to be held in Tel Aviv in May.
Please note that the posts on The Blogs are contributed by third parties. The opinions, facts and any media content in them are presented solely by the authors, and neither The Times of Israel nor its partners assume any responsibility for them. Please contact us in case of abuse. In case of abuse,
As Birthright Israel reaches its 700,000th participant, certain voices in America have done their best to slander the organization and force it to make drastic changes. Having staffed multiple Birthright trips as a madrich (youth leader), I have had the amazing opportunity to pass on some of the love for Israel that helped change my life.
Local police in Manchester’s Whitefield neighborhood declared the vandalism a criminal act rather than antisemitic.
Protesters hold placards and flags during a demonstration, organised by the British Board of Jewish Deputies for those who oppose anti-Semitism, in Parliament Square in London, Britain, March 26, 2018.. (photo credit: HENRY NICHOLLS/REUTERS)
The Philips Park Jewish cemetery in Manchester, England, was vandalized on Saturday, during which the tomb of Rabbi Yehuda Zev Segal, who died last year, was desecrated.
Protestors call for the severing of diplomatic ties with Israel during a march in Cape Town. (photo credit: MIKE HUTCHINGS / REUTERS)
A proposed multi-million dollar deal between Israel’s Central Bottling Company (CBC) and South Africa’s biggest dairy producer Clover could be in serious trouble due to heavy pressure from the anti-Israel lobby.
Newly-formed consortium Milco, in which Israel’s Central Bottling Company (CBC) holds a majority, is offering to buy 59.5% of the South African dairy producer.
We need to give the Likud Party some credit for not destroying itself in Tuesday’s internal elections. Given that primaries are the very embodiment of deal-making, political machines and big worker unions voting in lockstep, the results could have been far worse.
When it came to casting a secret ballot, the Likud Party’s registered voters did display some maturity. They weren’t the obedient foot soldiers of Benjamin Netanyahu, who has failed again and again in his machinations.
With elections barely two months away, the greatest challenge facing Israel’s Right emanates neither from the Center nor the Left, but, rather, from within.
Indeed, if recent polls are accurate, several small parties on the Right, most of which may not individually pass the minimum threshold to make it into the next Knesset, could nonetheless win a combined total of 10 to 12 seats, all of which would end up in the dustbin if they fail to run together.
August 2017, white supremacists marched in Charlottesville shouting, “Jews will not replace us”. October 2018, one white supremacist posted on social media that “Jews are taking over the white house”, and that Trump is a puppet of the Jews. Shabbat, the same month, a man enters a synagogue during a Bris celebration and butchers Jewish people who are praying. December 2018, Women’s March leader and Louis Farrakhan (“I’m not an antisemite, I’m an anti-termite”) fan, Tamika Mallory says: “White Jews, as white people, uphold white supremacy…”
Henry Ford devoted his life to two passions: making cars and demonizing Jews. When Hitler said, “I regard Henry Ford as my inspiration,” he wasn’t referring to his car manufacturing. He was referring to Ford’s anti-Semitic ideology that eventuated in the genocide of six million Jews.
Henry Ford does not deserve to be honored. The question the good people of Dearborn should ask themselves is: What would you do if the performing arts center were named after Jefferson Davis? If the answer is that you would remove Davis’s name, then you should remove Ford’s.
It was reported recently that the USA and the Taliban have reached a peace agreement on Afghanistan that will allow US forces to leave that country 17 years after they invaded it on October, 2001, less than a month after 9/11.
Al Qaeda had used that dysfunctional state as a safe haven and, while there, was able to plan and execute the attacks that took the lives of over 3000 people in. After the West invaded, the Taliban