Al-Fawanees - The first musical in Palestine

The Ramallah Cultural Palace (Photo: Steve Sabella)

Based on Ghassan Kanafani’s book, Al-Qandeel Al-Saghir (The Little Lantern), Al-Fawanees is the first ever musical to debut in Palestine of such magnitude. Kanafani, whose vision and writings inspired thousands to create and dream, wrote and illustrated this first children’s novel for his niece Lamees whom he adored for one of her birthdays, before the two of them were the target of an Israeli assassination in Beirut in 1972, where both their lives were forever immortalized.

The Little Lantern is a story about a king who dies, leaving his only daughter an heiress to the throne. He leaves his will with the wise man in the castle, which instructs his daughter that in order to become the queen of the kingdom, she has to bring the sun into the castle before the candle melts. The princess, being young, thought that she would be able to catch the sun and carry it on her back to the castle. She tries many ways, but to no avail. She later locks herself in her room, and on the eighth day, finds a note under her door, saying that by locking herself in, she will never find a solution. She tries to find out who wrote the note, but fails. Then one night, an old man carrying a lantern knocks at the gates of the castle, but the head of the guards forbid him entry, to which he says, “If you do not allow an old man with a lantern to come into the castle, how do you expect the sun to enter?” The princess hears of this, and immediately orders the head of the guards to find the man. Not knowing who it was, they ordered all those people carrying lanterns in the kingdom to come forth. Thousands of people flock to the gates, which are too small to allow all those people in, forcing the soldiers to tear down the walls, allowing entrance to the people. When all crowd in, the light emanating from the lanterns is brighter than the sun’s light, and as such the sun enters the castle. With the bricks of the walls, schools, institutes and hospitals are built, and the kingdom becomes a happy nation.

The idea to turn the book into a musical came a few years ago, when a group of artists got together and brain-stormed about the idea of producing a musical in Palestine for children. During the meeting, Serene Huleileh suggested to both Wasim Kurdi and Suhail Khoury the name of the book, and it being the first children’s novel by the legendry Ghassan Kanafani, the idea was immediately adopted. A few days later, Wasim Kurdi, a poet and writer residing in Ramallah, came back with the lyrics and script for the musical.

The theatre of the Ramallah Cultural Palace (Photo: Steve Sabella)

Work on Al-Fawanees was delayed due to the political situation, but two years ago, Suhail Khoury, general director of the National Conservatory of Music, composed the 28pieces for the script, and commenced on its production.

Bishara Khell, a musician from Nazareth, did the orchestration for the German Orchestra - The Young Sound Forum of Central Europe, who will be joined by Palestinian musicians during the seven performances, the debut of which is on August 6 at the Ramallah Cultural Palace, the stars being the 55-member Shams Choir. The 55 children of the choir were all chosen from various schools in Ramallah, Jerusalem, and Bethlehem, and have been training for almost two years on singing, dance, movement and acting, the latter done in cooperation with Ashtar Theater in Ramallah, and Swedish Director, Fernando Nope.

Choir training was done by Hania Soudah-Sabbara, a music teacher at both the NCM and the Magnificat Institute in Jerusalem, and all the costumes and accessories were commissioned to Mohammad Atallah, a Palestinian designer residing in Jerusalem. The set was all designed by Majed Zbeidi, a Palestinian residing in Ramallah and all the work was commissioned to craftspeople in Ramallah. Isam Murad worked on the sound design, and Philippe Andrieux, from France, designed the lighting system for Al-Fawanees.

Dates of Performances:
Friday, August 6, 2004 Opening at 6.00 p.m.
Saturday, August 7, 2004 6.00 p.m.
Sunday, August 8, 2004 6.00 p.m.
Thursday, August 12, 2004 5.00 p.m.
Friday, August 13, 2004 5.00 p.m.
Saturday, August 14, 2004 5.00 p.m.
Sunday August 15, 2004 1.00 p.m.

Ticket Prices:
Adults: 15 NIS
Students: 10 NIS

Tickets will be sold at the Ramallah Cultural Palace an hour before the show
starts. Tickets are also found at the following venues:
Jerusalem: The National Conservatory of Music, YWCA Building, Wadi Joz.
Tel. 02-627-1711
Ramallah: The National Conservatory of Music, Birzeit University Board of
Trustees Building, Al-Irsal Street, Tel. 02-295-9070.
Bethlehem: International Center of Bethlehem, Al-Madbaseh, Tel.: 276-4576.

For more information on Al-Fawanees and dates and times of performances, please contact the NCM at 02-627-1711 or email at

Related links:

  • Culture for All, by Jaideep Mukerji (6 July 2004)
  • BY TOPIC: Arts, Music & Culture