‘Ark Re-imagined’ — reviving the cultural heritage and lost knowledge of the Marsh Arabs

‘Ark Re-imagined’ — reviving the cultural heritage and lost knowledge of the Marsh Arabs
Boats are at the heart of Ark Re-imagined. (Supplied)
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Updated 21 May 2021

‘Ark Re-imagined’ — reviving the cultural heritage and lost knowledge of the Marsh Arabs

‘Ark Re-imagined’ — reviving the cultural heritage and lost knowledge of the Marsh Arabs
  • ‘We’re here to create a connection.’ Rashad Salim on Iraq’s pavilion at this year’s Biennale Architettura in Venice

DUBAI: “We’re speaking about a culture that has been ignored,” says the Iraqi-German artist Rashad Salim. “There has been no work done on vernacular architecture as part of our cultural heritage. We used to have independent anthropologists and ethnologists and people interested in vernacular culture, but since the invasion and occupation of Iraq things have really gone downhill.”

Salim, who has dedicated his artistic career to the protection and revival of the ancient crafts of Iraq, is talking about something he cares passionately about: the traditional boatbuilding, architecture and craftsmanship of central, southern and western Iraq. It’s a culture that has suffered repeated tragedy and been brought to the brink of extinction by conflict, displacement, and an often bewildering collective trauma.

In his own way, Salim has sought to actively counter this neglect through the Ark Re-imagined project, which engages with artisans across the country in a bid to revive and document what remains of traditional practices. First launched in 2016, the initiative now falls under Safina Projects, a creative studio co-founded by Salim and Hannah Lewis in 2017.




Rashad Salim - Mesopotamia in Venice. (Supplied)

“Wherever I’ve travelled in Iraq, you find locals who have the memory of their place, who have the memory of their environment,” he says. “This is the culture that built civilization. But this is the very first time in our history that Iraq has been so undermined, so corrupted, that the essential fabric — that of the connection with the environment, with the culture that engages with the land and creates the means of living — has been undermined and is on the brink of extinction. And I see that as exemplified by boats.”

Boats are at the heart of Ark Re-imagined, which challenges Western concepts of Noah’s Ark, and almost every other initiative under the Safina Projects banner. Through Ark for Iraq, the studio has sought to ‘revive, protect and study’ the traditional boats of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, helping to transfer knowledge to a new generation. They have helped to revive the guffa (a coracle made of wickerwork), whose only remaining practitioner was an elderly woman from Hillah in central Iraq, and produced handmade rope in Ayn al-Tamr. By doing so, they have ensured a cultural continuum.

It is Ark Re-imagined, however, that is set to shine a light on Iraq’s maritime heritage at this year’s Biennale Architettura in Venice. Running from May 22 until November 21, ‘Ark Re-imagined: the Expeditionary Pavilion’ will be Iraq’s first participation in the biennale. Supported by Community Jameel and Culturunners, the project will not only celebrate the vernacular architecture and watercraft of the Tigris-Euphrates river system, but address the title of this year’s exhibition: “How will we live together?” After all, the original message of the Ark was one of unity and gathering.




Abu Hyder and Rashad – Qishla old Baghdad. (Supplied)

“The concept of the Ark is not just five years’ work,” says Salim. “It’s been 40 years of work. For five years I’ve been working in Iraq directly, revitalizing and recreating boats that have disappeared, and that has been an academic project grounded in my sensibilities as an artist. Now we’re looking at how to take that and re-engage with the arts side through the biennale.”

Salim first visited the marshes of southern Iraq in 1976 as a young art student. The following year he joined the Norwegian explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s Tigris expedition, sailing a reed boat from the Shatt al-Arab, through the Arabian Gulf to Pakistan, and on to the Red Sea. It was an experience that changed his life and has informed his work ever since.

“The Tigris, being fully organic and tensile, was like riding on a body,” he remembers. “The way it moved on the water was very different from a displacement boat with a keel… We were travelling at the speed of a bicycle at most, and being very close to the water (at one point no more than 30 centimeters above the water level), you could see the complexity of life – waves within waves and the life on the surface of the water. So it was profoundly influential for me and set in motion an interest in the deeper story of boats and their role in the development of civilization.”




Reed mat weaving, Rashad Salim 2016. (Supplied)

It is this deeper story, as well as his love for the grace, purity and simplicity of traditional boatbuilding, that would ultimately lead to Ark Re-imagined.

“The question that we have posited is: How would the Ark have been built in its time and place? Because, obviously, the Western image of the Ark has nothing to do with the time and place of the story. It’s a 17th-century cog basically. It doesn’t relate in any way to the place, the technologies, the materials and the techniques that would have been available at the time. And we found in our fist visits to Venice that in the marshes of Venice they had the same techniques of building, the same type of boats, and the same type of engagement with their environment as in Mesopotamia. Had an ark been built in Europe, it would have been built in the same way as in Mesopotamia at the time, which is tensile. We’re talking about a period well before metal allowed us to work with wood in the way that you’d create a cog.”

Ark Re-imagined will take various forms. It began with a conversation between Salim and Markus Reymann, director of the TBA21–Academy, at Ocean Space on May 20. Mooring sites are being secured for two different installations — a grand sheikh’s tarada (a large diplomatic canoe) and a floating reed house — and courtyard entrances will display the wares traditionally sold by merchants. The idea is for the mooring sites to shift location throughout the duration of the six-month exhibition. In addition, two films about Ark Re-imagined’s work in Iraq are to be screened, while life inside the ark will be represented by Izar, the traditional hook embroidery of southern Iraq. The focal point, however, will be the tarada, which is being specially built for the exhibition. Called “Faisaliyah,” after Faisal I of Iraq, it is 11.8 meters long and will move from Iraq to Venice at some stage during the exhibition.




Reconstructed Delil barge on the riverbank at Hit, Rashad Salim, 2019. (Supplied)

There’s another element, too — that of the healing quality of art. Both the pavilion and the documentation of the project are being supported by the Iraq Cultural Health Fund, which has been created by Community Jameel and Culturunners within The Future is Unwritten Artists’ Response Fund. The pavilion programme has also been developed in conversation with the Healing Arts initiative, which was launched last year in partnership with the WHO Foundation under the auspices of the World Health Organization (WHO). Ark Re-imagined is the first project supported by the Iraq Cultural Health Fund.

“Ark Re-imagined is an example of working with communities on healing. On using art as a health intervention,” says Christopher Bailey, arts and health lead at the WHO. “In this case there are multiple dimensions to the problem. We have a community of people — the Marsh Arabs — who have been facing successive catastrophes over the years; from the intentional draining of their habitat, to the expulsion of their people and the loss of traditional knowledge, all of which has contributed to a cultural crisis in that community.




Guffa coracle with tar and adobe coating, Rashad Salim, 2018. (Supplied)

“It asks ‘How can we take this knowledge that has been lost, or is on the verge of being lost, and, by retraining a new generation in this craft, imagine a kind of conceptual ark – a new hope – of how to not only preserve what was on the verge of being lost through successive catastrophes, but imagine a new place that this craft can carry us to?’ I just found that an extremely powerful metaphor.”

Salim will be in Venice for the first five days of the Biennale Architettura, before heading to Baghdad and Basra, where a parallel installation of certain crafts will be taking place. He will then return to Venice and be constantly on the move.

“It’s been three years that I’ve been working on this and I’ve designed I don’t know how many shows in my head,” he says. “We are here as an expedition. We’re here to create a connection, to create an engagement, to have a cultural conversation, and to bring students together and to show them that we have always lived together.”


Zac Efron, Jessica Alba star in another Dubai Tourism campaign

Zac Efron, Jessica Alba star in another Dubai Tourism campaign
Updated 23 September 2021

Zac Efron, Jessica Alba star in another Dubai Tourism campaign

Zac Efron, Jessica Alba star in another Dubai Tourism campaign

DUBAI: Hollywood duo Zac Efron and Jessica Alba have returned with another Dubai Tourism campaign. 

Released on Wednesday, the actors’ fourth promotional video, called “Dubai Presents: A Captivating Saga,” takes a close look at the UAE’s traditional activities and attractions. 

Alba stars as a young pilot who explores the country’s deserts.  

Over recent months, Dubai Tourism has released three videos, directed by Australian filmmaker Craig Gillespie, ahead of the long-awaited Expo 2020 Dubai event. 

The first ad was a spoof of an action film featuring Alba and Efron fighting off enemies at well-known landmarks across the city, such as the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa and the Museum of the Future. 

In the second video, the stars appeared as tourists visiting the city. Upon their arrival at their hotels, they discover that they’ve got each other’s bags.

The Hollywood celebrities travel across the city on various adventures to meet and collect their identical luggage.  

In the third advert, Efron plays two characters, his younger self and an older version of himself who comes from the future to teach him life lessons.

The two characters go on a journey in the country’s souks and the surrounding deserts. They also go skydiving. 

The films present some of Dubai’s most-admired attractions, including the city’s dunes, Sheikh Zayed Road that runs through the heart of Dubai and historical sites — such as Dubai Creek and Al-Fahidi area. 


Saudi-Canadian YouTube couple celebrate National Day with new cooking series

Saudi-Canadian YouTube couple celebrate National Day with new cooking series
Updated 23 September 2021

Saudi-Canadian YouTube couple celebrate National Day with new cooking series

Saudi-Canadian YouTube couple celebrate National Day with new cooking series

DUBAI: In honor of the 91st Saudi National Day, celebrated on Sept. 23, food and lifestyle TV channel Fatafeat has partnered with Dubai-based social media couple Ali Almeshaal and his wife Jacquelyn to cook some of the Kingdom’s most-loved dishes.

In the five-episode series, available on YouTube, the couple, who have over 750,000 subscribers on the site, shared their personal take on traditional meals like the shrimp biryani, saleeg and laham margoog.

The show was not the Canadian wife’s first time cooking Saudi food since the pair got married a year-and-a-half ago.

In an interview with Arab News, Almeshaal, who is from the Kingdom, said that when they tied the knot, his wife surprised him by cooking Kabsa, a hearty rice dish made with lamb, chicken, fish or seafood. “It was a very, very nice Kabsa,” he said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jacquelyn (@jacquelynnmayy)

“It was a healthy Kabsa kind of recipe,” Jacquelyn explained. “It’s our spin, because there is not a right or wrong way to make any dish, but attune it to how your family or your friends or how you like it.”

Her video of the famous dish, which is their favorite, got over 600,000 views on Twitter, Almeshaal said, and fans demanded more tutorials.

The couple said they enjoyed shooting the Fatafeat series together. “Ali isn’t usually in the kitchen with me helping me too much, so it was nice to actually have him in the kitchen conversing with him and having him help me out,” she said.

This is Almeshaal’s second time shooting for Fatafeat. “This year was way nicer than last year, taking into consideration that my beautiful wife was with me. I really enjoyed it.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jacquelyn (@jacquelynnmayy)

“We cooked some of my favorite dishes and we were celebrating one of the nicest days for me as a Saudi, which is the National Day,” he added.

Before the pair tied the knot, Jacquelyn said she did not know much about the Arab world.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jacquelyn (@jacquelynnmayy)

“I never really grew up knowing anything about Arab or Muslim culture,” she said.

But when she met her husband, she started to “attune” to the culture, which she now “loves.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jacquelyn (@jacquelynnmayy)

Her first time visiting Saudi Arabia was in 2019.

“I think that the media in the west portrays the Middle Eastern culture in a very strict and rigid way. There are a lot of misconceptions,” said the 29-year-old, who is expecting a baby girl. “I would just suggest anybody who has ever been afraid or curious or ever wanted to explore the Middle East but was afraid of anything they heard in the media that it’s wrong.”

“They are some of the most amazing, nice, humble, welcoming people I have ever met in my entire life,” added Jacquelyn, who — besides her social media presence — currently works in real estate.

Almeshaal was a former TV presenter at MBC Group. He now owns a communications firm in Dubai, where he is based. He has been creating content on social media for the past 11 years.


Saudi National Day: What to do and where to go

Saudi National Day: What to do and where to go
Updated 23 September 2021

Saudi National Day: What to do and where to go

Saudi National Day: What to do and where to go

RIYADH: Celebrations for 91st Saudi National Day will kick off on Wednesday with plenty to entertain revellers across the Kingdom well into the weekend.

Access to all events will only be granted with a green pass on the Tawakalna app.

National Day Horse Jumping competition — Riyadh 

Guests can purchase their 50 SAR tickets online. (Shutterstock)

Hosted in the Almortajaz Equestrian center in Riyadh, the two-day competition will celebrate National Day with show jumping event. Guests can purchase their 50 SAR tickets online through Riyadh Platinum or through Enjoy Saudi via the General entertainment Authority. The event will take place between Sept. 22-Sept. 24 from 4:00pm-12:00am.

Saudi Hawks Air Show — Khobar, Jeddah and Riyadh

The show can be viewed from the Khobar Corniche, Um Ajlan Park in Riyadh, and Jeddah Corniche. (Shutterstock)

Organized by the Saudi General Entertainment Authority, the Saudi Hawks show is expected to be a spectacular air show with jetfighter and civil aircraft taking part in what is billed as the largest air show in the Kingdoms’ history. The show can be viewed from the Khobar Corniche, Um Ajlan Park in Riyadh, and Jeddah Corniche. Admission is free and the air show will be held from on Sept. 24 and 25. The show will take place from 04:15pm to 05:30pm (Khobar)  and 4:00pm to 5:15pm (Riyadh).

Culture and Heritage Program — Ithra, Dhahra

Visitors will learn more about traditional coffee farming practices, the diversity of culture and fashion in the Kingdom, and experience traditional performances of grain pounding. (Shutterstock)

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) will be holding a special National Day cultural and heritage program for the public to enjoy. Visitors will learn more about traditional coffee farming practices, the diversity of culture and fashion in the Kingdom, and experience traditional performances of grain pounding.

The program will run from Sept. 22-25, from 04:00pm-07:30pm and 8:00pm-12:00am. Tickets cost 50 SAR.

National Day 91 Fireworks — Hail, Tabuk, Albaha, Buraidah, Abha, Madinah, Jazan and Jeddah

The fireworks will take place in Hail, Tabuk, Albaha, Buraidah, Abha, Madinah, Jazan and Jeddah. (Shutterstock)

●     The National Day Firework Show in Hail will be held in Al-Salam Park from 9:25pm-9:30pm.

●     The National Day Firework Show in Albaha will be held in  King Abdulaziz Cultural Center from 9:00pm-9:05pm.

●     The National Day Firework Show in Tabuk will be held on University Bridge from 9:00pm-9:05pm. 

●     The National Day Firework Show in BuraidahKing will take place on Fahad Road from 9:00pm-9:05pm.

●     The National Day Firework Show in Abha will be held in Alqser Place from 9:00pm-9:05pm.

●     The National Day Firework Show in Madinah will be held in Al-Hadiqah from 9:00pm-9:05pm.

●     The National Day Firework Show in Jazan will be held at Corniche Jazan from 9:00pm-9:05pm.

●     The National Day Firework Show in Jeddah will be held at the Red Sea Mall from 9:00pm-9:07pm. 

Abadi Al-Johar and Huda Al-Fahad in Concert — Riyadh

Abadi Al-Joharn will perform on Sept. 23. (Supplied)

A concert will be held on Sept. 23 in Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University in the Conference Center from 10:00pm -1:00am in Riyadh. Children are not allowed during this event and guests can purchase their tickets through the Enjoy Saudi website.


Lebanese filmmaker Daizy Gedeon: ‘I’m trying to create a movement’

Lebanese filmmaker Daizy Gedeon: ‘I’m trying to create a movement’
Updated 23 September 2021

Lebanese filmmaker Daizy Gedeon: ‘I’m trying to create a movement’

Lebanese filmmaker Daizy Gedeon: ‘I’m trying to create a movement’
  • The Lebanese filmmaker discusses her powerful and damning documentary, ‘ENOUGH! Lebanon’s Darkest Hour’

DUBAI: Before the catastrophic explosion at Beirut Port on August 4, 2020, Daizy Gedeon was making a film called “The Dream is Everything.” The Lebanese filmmaker had been working on it for years, interviewing the top political figures in Lebanon, centering it around a message of hope, of building a better Lebanon in the long recovery from the country’s civil war. 

“When I started digging in, it became a very hard story. People were suffering. But when I was asking politicians about their solutions — between 2017 and 2019 — I still believed that there may have been some truth in what they were saying; that they were trying to fix the country and make things better for people. But when August 4 hit, the shock turned to sadness, and the sadness to anger,” Gedeon tells Arab News.

“I said forget the dream. There’s no more dreams, baby.”

While Gedeon, 56, was born in Lebanon, she grew up in Australia, spending years as a journalist. (Supplied)

After that epiphany, Gedeon began radically reworking her old footage while manically adding new aspects, ultimately creating a very different film: “ENOUGH! Lebanon’s Darkest Hour.” Her new vision, centered around the perceived negligence that led to the tragic event and the suffering that it left in its wake, and serving as a call to action for substantive change, has already resonated in the international film community, winning the Movies That Matter Award at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival, supported by the Better World Fund and Filmfestivals.com. 

“When we went back to the footage we had, we realized that I didn’t need to try to indict them, they indicted themselves with their own words. I didn’t need to take anything out of context. I just had to decide that I’m not going to make them look good anymore,” says Gedeon. “Before, I thought that they were part of the solution, so I didn't want to destroy them. I thought we needed them. That explosion was the worst thing that could have happened to Lebanon, but it was the best thing that could have happened to the film.” 

While Gedeon, 56, was born in Lebanon, she grew up in Australia, spending years as a journalist. In 1988, she covered the Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, as a soccer writer, jetting off to Europe for a holiday afterwards. While there, her mother implored her to go back to Beirut to visit her family, and after initial hesitation due to the ongoing conflict, she decided to go for two weeks.

“That was the beginning of my love affair with Lebanon. I called my editor in Australia and said, ‘Hey, the airport's closed, I can't come back’. Really, I wanted to learn more about it. It was fascinating because there was a war going on. Like, how close do you ever get to war? There was the green line and there were snipers right nearby. One of my cousins was in one of the militias and so he took me through the buildings,” says Gedeon.

Her new vision has already resonated in the international film community. (Supplied)

She had long been a fan of the Jason Bourne spy novels of Robert Ludlum, which used real-life convicted Venezuelan terrorist Carlos the Jackal as their main antagonist. 

“I loved those books, so Beirut in that era really did fit my interests. In Beirut, it was real life. Carlos the Jackal had a base in Beirut. This was James Bond stuff, and it fit into my imagination and my intrigue. But at the same time, there was something serious because I came from this place,” she says. “I started to feel a real affection and connection to people, and that brought me deeper into all of it in a way I wasn’t expecting.”

After that trip, Gedeon never lost her connection to Lebanon and the broader region, relocating to London and covering regional conflicts in the Middle East throughout the late Eighties and early Nineties, before returning to Lebanon to make her first documentary in 1993 — the critically acclaimed “Lebanon… Imprisoned Splendour,” released in 1996. It was a reflection of all she had learned from peeling back Lebanon’s layers and finding a warm and generous people that welcomed her even amidst the bloodshed. 

“With that film, I was trying to show the world that there is more to this place than what people had heard for the previous 20 years. The conflict was real, but that was only one piece of the puzzle. I wanted to fill in the gaps, delving into the history and the actual people there, the reality on the ground,” says Gedeon. 

While her journalism continued as she pursued other myriad projects, Gedeon stepped away from documentary filmmaking for the next two decades. She reveals with visible emotion to Arab News that this was due in part to a “stifling, oppressive” marriage — which ended officially in 2015 — to a person who had once been her closest friend and champion, a devolution that she found shocking and dispiriting. 

Gedeon stepped away from documentary filmmaking for the next two decades. (Supplied)

“You can’t be creative if you’re in a desperate situation. When it was officially over, my mind started to clear and the little voice in my head returned, louder, louder, and by 2016 it was screaming, screaming, in my head. I don't know how else to explain it. I said to myself, ‘Alright, I’ll do it. I’ll return to Lebanon.’”

Throughout the process of making “ENOUGH!,” Gedeon starkly changed as a filmmaker. While raising awareness broadly is still an important part of her work, she is no longer the person that she was when she arrived in 1988. The beautiful words written about her last film in the late Nineties in the West were no longer sufficient. 

Her gaze with her latest film, which is currently on the festival circuit and scheduled for a wide release in cinemas and on digital platforms in early 2022, is firmly set on the place that bore her, and the people like her in the Lebanese diaspora across the world, whom she hopes to bring back to the country to help fix it once and for all. 

“This is not just for film critics,” Gedeon says. “It’s got to inspire Lebanese people, everywhere. If the film does not agitate, provoke, or motivate people to take action, then it's failed. I want to channel their energy and their anger and their frustration to join the movement, change things to a free and fair Lebanon, which starts with the elections in 2022. I'm trying to create a movement. We've got to build this groundswell of people in Lebanon, as well as the diaspora everywhere. 

“There are 16 million outside Lebanon. My goal is to educate and inform those people, people who believe in justice and social change,” she continues. “We need more than just the Lebanese on the ground. We need more people to stand up for social justice everywhere, and for Lebanon to be one of the countries that they say ‘Yes, it's time.’”


Between mountains and sea: Off the tourist track in Greece

Between mountains and sea: Off the tourist track in Greece
Updated 23 September 2021

Between mountains and sea: Off the tourist track in Greece

Between mountains and sea: Off the tourist track in Greece
  • The Athenian suburbs of Kfissia and Glyfada are favorites with locals, and ideal for those looking to avoid Greece’s tourist-heavy hotspots

DUBAI: Visitors to Greece usually flock to the islands or make the hike up to the Acropolis for a mandatory selfie with ruins. So there’s a side of Athens they may miss — a place where Greek residents like to ‘summer.’ Welcome to the leafy northern suburb of Kifissia: my childhood hometown.

Tourists may recognize it as the last stop on the metro, with Pireaus port at the other end of the line. Kifissia is a tree-lined town full of designer boutiques and colorful cafés. Its history can be traced back to the reign of Roman emperor Hadrian, when Kifissia became a retreat for philosophers. Today, it is a respite for wealthy Athenians to enjoy cooler climes during the hot summers. 

Less crowded than downtown Athens, Kifissia is a charming town that looks like a romantic comedy set. At any time of day, you might be serenaded by an amateur guitarist singing classics above the din of old men playing backgammon and discussing politics. Restaurant tables and chairs sprawl onto the pavements. Grab a pistachio ice cream at Dodoni, a ‘mythical’ chicken souvlaki from Mythos stuffed with fries, or an iced Frappe at Everest just to people-watch.

Glyfada has image-conscious, LA-style vibe and hotels to match. (Shutterstock)

The old-new mix is obvious at first glance. On Kassaveti Avenue, under the speckled shade of trees, global brands L’Occitane and HSBC neighbor homegrown favorites like Varsos, a bakery that first opened its doors in 1892 and still serves the same delectable homemade jams and cakes. Don’t be fooled by the standard outlets like Zara, Paul and Gap to the right of this main street. Tucked away nearby is a string of brightly colored, new cafés that have sprung up out of a need for vibrancy and socializing after the COVID lockdowns. 

La Petite Fleur will have you thinking you’ve stepped into a magical world — with thick slices of chocolate cake and whipped cream served on pastel colored plates. Menta has pink-and-green pillows on stone steps beneath the shade of trees and offers a list of coffees as long as the food menu. For an authentic Greek meal, the taverna at the top of the hill, Tzitzikas & Mermigas, serves wild greens from Crete, smoked chicken from Lakonia, and rosemary-rubbed goat from an old family recipe.

Peinirli is a boat-shaped pie filled with bubbling cheese and tomatoes. (Shutterstock)

The newest accommodation in Kifissia includes the stylish Say Hotel, 500 meters away from the National History Museum, with a rooftop bar offering panoramic views of the city. Families will enjoy the quiet — and pool — at Theoxenia Palace, a regal hotel with a verdant park at its doorstep and the sound of church bells ringing in the air.

Growing up, we used to regularly drive 45 minutes to the southern suburb of Glyfada, where salty sea air meets a trendy city center. Its long strip of hotels, beaches and restaurants dotted along the Athenian Riviera has a laidback Seventies vibe. Time feels slower here and it’s always a few degrees warmer than Kifissia. A grand church stands in the center of Glyfada, where narrow streets house Greek designer boutiques including Pinko and Mirina Tsantili. Some areas have their own vibe; Kyprou Street and Botsari district have the latest see-and-be-seen restaurants that seem to change every year. Foodies will love O Proedros (President in Greek), its whitewashed walls, woven seats, and a menu that includes Greek classics like peinirli (a boat-shaped pie filled with bubbling cheese and tomatoes) make it seem like it belongs on one of the islands.

Across the main Poseidonos highway, you’ll have your pick of beautiful public beaches. For a small fee, some private clubs like Asteras and Balux offer sunbeds, pools and restaurants where the fashion set like to hang out. Either way, the siren call of that deep, Aegean blue with its backdrop of green hills will steal the show.

The newest accommodation in Kifissia includes the stylish Say Hotel, 500 meters away from the National History Museum. (Shutterstock)

Glyfada has image-conscious, LA-style vibe and hotels to match. Four Seasons Astir Palace is the grand dame — it sits on its own peninsula with a private, sandy bay, and you will hear as much Arabic spoken among guests as you would in the Middle East. 

The Margi Hotel is another stunning property, tucked into the green hills of Vouliagmeni, with blush walls and a retro pool surrounded by fuscia bougainvillea. The top floors have breathtaking balcony sea views and you will find yourself researching the cost of purchasing a property nearby just to hold onto this feeling forever.

Thirty years of coming back every summer, and I still love to discover Greece’s stories between the mountains and the sea. Each visit, I find something new, rediscover something old, and am always struck by the beauty.