Hakim helps Egypt swap pyramid selling for a new song

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Egyptian folk singer Hakim performs to a packed house in London. (AN photo)
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Egyptian fans watch folk singer Hakim perform to a packed house in London. (AN photo)
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Egyptian folk singer Hakim performs to a packed house in London. (AN photo)
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Egyptian folk singer Hakim was the first person from an Arabic speaking country to perform at a Nobel Peace Prize event. (AN photo)
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The renowned Egyptian singer Hakim will perform at Olympia Theater in Paris on September 23, to be the third Egyptian singer to sing on that prominent theatre. (AN photo)
Updated 23 September 2017
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Hakim helps Egypt swap pyramid selling for a new song

LONDON: Egyptian tourism chiefs have recruited folk singer Hakim to help promote the country’s battered holiday appeal across Europe.
With performances lined up in Paris, Marseilles and Barcelona following sell-out shows in Madrid and Lyon, the Egyptian Tourism Promotion Authority hopes the singer will help to raise the country’s profile.
Egypt may be best known for its ancient wonders, but the country now wants to appeal to Europe’s culture vultures as well as sun-seekers.
“Hakim still attracts a lot of younger Egyptians. He represents this dynamic, modern side to Egyptian culture,” said Amr El-Ezabi, director of the Egyptian Tourist Office for the UK and the Nordic countries.
“Egypt is very famous as a historic destination – it’s one of the strongest brands in this respect. What we need to build upon is the contemporary culture aspect of the brand as vivid, modern and attractive.
“We don’t only have the temples of the pharaoh; we were also the first country in the Middle East to have a Philharmonic orchestra and a ballet house. We have also been the biggest producers of cinema in the region since the beginning of the 20th century.
“These are things we need to remind people of,” he said.
The effect is cumulative, he continued, citing the impact of film industries like Hollywood and Bollywood on tourism in the US and India over time.
“We need to create more awareness among people here of our output in terms of music and the arts, and revive the image of Egypt as a cultural destination.”

Egypt’s tourism market has weathered a series of setbacks following several terror attacks in recent years, and authorities are keen to tap into new source markets.
A $22 million annual campaign budget has been allocated to promote Egypt across 26 different markets, including Latin America and southern Europe.
Prior to 2011, the UK and Italy, along with Russia, were Egypt’s biggest tourism markets, while today Germany, Saudi Arabia and Jordan top the list.
While 1.5 million Britons visited Egypt in 2010, the tally had dwindled to 231,000 last year.
Still, the country remains a popular choice according to Hollie Youlden, head of marketing at London-based travel company On the Go Tours.
“The UK remains one of our main territories for Egypt. The Brits love dry heat and the weather there is perfect in the winter.”
Last month, Egypt was the company’s top-selling destination, she said, and numbers have been healthy throughout the year. “We’ve been running tours to Egypt for 20 years now, and the only time we saw a decline was during the Arab Spring.
“Over the last few years, passenger numbers have been rising steadily and Egypt has become one of our best-selling destinations again, competing with the likes of Iceland and Vietnam.”
Tour operator Kuoni also reported rising interest in Egypt. “We have started to see an increase in inquiries for Egypt in our stores across the UK, and bookings for next year are up, particularly for Nile Cruises.
“Egypt has such strong appeal with its bucket-list monuments, and from the UK it can be reached in less than six hours,” a spokesperson for the company told Arab News.

Data released on Thursday by STR showed that occupancy levels in Egyptian hotels have seen a 12.9 percent increase in demand, with double-digit growth for all but one month of 2017.
Tourism revenues rose by 170 percent in the first seven months of 2017, according to figures reported by Reuters, with 4.3 million tourists visiting the country during this period, marking a 54 percent increase on a year earlier — largely due to an increase in visitors from Germany and Ukraine.
Europeans made up 75 percent of these visitors.


The Phoenicia: A still-seductive reminder of Beirut’s golden age

The hotel was named Lebanon’s leading hotel for 2018 at the World Travel Awards. (Photo supplied)
Updated 21 July 2018
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The Phoenicia: A still-seductive reminder of Beirut’s golden age

  • For those in search of glamor, almost every night the wealthy, the stylish and the overdressed can be seen exiting luxury cars
  • The hotel’s immediate interior is dominated by marble pillars, plush armchairs, fountains and chandeliers

BEIRUT: Of all Beirut’s hotels it is the Phoenicia that looms largest in the imagination. Opulent, brash, sexy, seductive, it is a reminder of what was and what could have been.

It’s hard not to look favorably upon its delicately perforated façades and its shimmering blue and turquoise tiles. It somehow manages to maintain a sense of mystique, a sense of otherworldliness, despite the chaos that frequently unfolds around it.

Much of this, of course, is down to nostalgia. Opened in 1961 at the dawn of Beirut’s Golden Age, the singer Fayrouz performed here in 1962, as did the Egyptian dancer Nadia Gamal. Brigitte Bardot, Claudia Cardinale and Omar Sharif were guests, while the Lebanese beauty queen Georgina Rizk was photographed by the hotel’s oval-shaped pool in 1971.

In many ways the Phoenicia still clings to the remnants of its pre-war heyday, living as much in the past as it does in the present. When the hotel was resurrected from the ashes of civil war in 2000, it clutched much of its original design and character close to its chest, with a further $50 million refurbishment undertaken to mark the hotel’s 50th anniversary in 2011. It is the end result of this later refurbishment that is primarily on display today.

The hotel’s immediate interior is dominated by marble pillars, plush armchairs, fountains and chandeliers, and hovers dangerously close to the ostentatious. Elsewhere it borders on the dowdy or the old-fashioned. Yet a grand and elegant staircase continues to welcome visitors, while lanterns and geometric patterns lend a slight but satisfying sense of location.

Outside, the swimming pool — once an oval-shaped beauty — is set against a backdrop of cascading waterfalls. It is more politically correct than its 1960s predecessor, under which could be found a subterranean bar called Sous la Mer, but it is nevertheless at the heart of much of the hotel’s continued appeal.

From the shade of the pool’s colonnades you can see the old St. Georges Hotel, designed in the 1930s by Parisian architect Auguste Perret, while Zaitunay Bay and the edge of the Mediterranean are a stone’s throw away. It is because of this location and these views that the Phoenicia retains much of its appeal, regardless of its 446 rooms and suites, spa, shopping arcade and banqueting area.

Of the hotel’s three buildings, it is the original, designed by the architects Edward Durell Stone and Joseph Salerno, that is the hotel’s aesthetic pinnacle. Combining elements of high modernism with Mughal and Muslim architecture, it is where you should stay if given the choice.

You buy into many things when you stay at the Phoenicia, which was named Lebanon’s leading hotel for 2018 at the World Travel Awards. History, of course, and location, but also a level of abundance that is not readily available elsewhere in the city.

Breakfast is a fabulous affair. Manakish are freshly cooked on a dome oven, eggs are prepared in front of you, while separate stations serve everything from a dizzying array of olives and salads to cheese, labneh, foul, sausages, honey and smoked salmon. There’s even Oum Ali and kanafeh.

For those in search of glamor, almost every night the wealthy, the stylish and the overdressed can be seen exiting luxury cars and heading to all manner of social gatherings. They dine at the Mosaic and Amethyste restaurants, or at Eau De Vie, a lounge bar and grill situated on the 11th floor. None of this, of course, is cheap. If nothing else, the Phoenicia experience comes at a price.