Tbilisi: Cheap and cheerful, but still luxurious

Tbilisi: Cheap and cheerful, but still luxurious
Tbilisi is also a good starting point for day trips around the rest of Georgia. Getty Images
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Updated 15 October 2021

Tbilisi: Cheap and cheerful, but still luxurious

Tbilisi: Cheap and cheerful, but still luxurious
  • The Georgian capital and its surrounds offer rich history, stunning views, and hearty food at bargain prices

DUBAI: If you are on the lookout for a city vacation that won’t break the bank, but also won’t force you to compromise on quality, then the Georgian capital of Tbilisi — an urban sprawl nestled in a series of mountains following the route of the Kura River — is well worth a visit.

Its architecture reflects the country’s varied past and its geographical location where East (nearly) meets West. The influence of the latter is as clearly apparent as that of the Russian Empire and the Soviet era with its imposing apartment blocks.

Tbilisi is not a huge city, but you can easily fill a week walking the streets, visiting the various tourist attractions and absorbing its busy, vibrant atmosphere.




The old city of Tblisi. Getty Images

The airport is a short drive from the city center, but beware; there are people, mostly men, wearing black tabard’s emblazoned with the words “Airport taxi.” Make sure you agree a price before starting your ride, otherwise you might find you’re paying up to three times the actual fare.

Despite the airport taxis, though, Tbilisi is highly affordable. Georgia has embraced the European Union but not the Euro and as such remains a place where your wallet will be less strained than in many European countries.

You can stay in one of the many 4-star hotels in the heart of the old city for as little as $300 for four nights — although you can certainly spend more if you want to — and you can eat a hearty meal with beverages for as little as $20. 




View from Zedazeni Mountain. Shutterstock

The concierge at most hotels will help you come up with an itinerary, but be sure to include the Zedazeni Monastery. Located at the top of the Zedazeni mountain, it is one of the country’s oldest and boasts a vast metal cross as well as panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

It’s also worth investing in bus tour of the city. Tickets are valid for 24 hours, and the tour takes in all major tourist attractions.  

A walk around the old town is a must — the narrow streets are lined with historic buildings, first floor balconies overlooking the tree-filled streets; it’s like a scene from an old French market town. Overlooking this idyll is the Mother of Georgia statue. It’s a short-but-steep walk to this monument, and the reward is spectacular views across the city.

 




Mother of Georgia statue. Getty Images

Outside of the old town, the roads are busier and traffic is heavy. It’s not the most pedestrian-friendly place — sidewalks often come to an abrupt end, leaving you with the choice of a quick dash into the road or a sharp U-turn to find a better route.

Another great location for spectacular views is Mtatsminda Park, which can be reached via the Tbilisi Funicular ropeway railway connecting Chonkadze street with the summit, 727 meters above sea level. 

It gets hot in Georgia in the summer and the city’s galleries and museums offer a welcome escape. The National Gallery, on Rustaveli Avenue, is small, but provides an interesting insight into Georgian history. A short distance away is the Georgian Museum of Fine Art, which — apart from its three floors of artworks — also boasts a tremendous café.  




National Art Gallery. Shutterstock

If markets are your thing, set aside some time for the flea market next to the Dry Bridge. It has a wide selection of arts and crafts and is a nice place for a stroll, even if you have no intention of buying anything. Who knows? You might just find that bronze bust of Stalin to add the finishing touch to your guest room.

Tbilisi is also a good starting point for day trips around the rest of Georgia. The country’s third city, Kutaisi, is around three hours away by car, up in the mountains, surrounded by impressive scenery. It’s a far slower-paced city than the capital, with a broad selection of restaurants and cafés in which to while away the time.




Kutaisi. Shutterstock

Georgia is a beautiful country, and a popular destination because it is also remarkably cheap. Remember though, people are paid relative to that level of cost — so be sure to tip generously when eating out. You’ll be able to afford it, and it will make your waiter’s day.


The best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo international Film Festival

The best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo international Film Festival
Tara Emad posing on the red carpet at the event, running until Dec. 5 at the famed Opera House in Zamalek.AFP
Updated 27 November 2021

The best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo international Film Festival

The best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo international Film Festival

DUBAI: The 43rd edition of the Cairo International Film Festival (CIFF) kicked off in style on Friday evening with a plethora of glamorous A-list Arab celebrities walking the red carpet at the annual opening ceremony in Egypt.

Running until Dec. 5 at the famed Opera House in Zamalek, the Arab world’s longest-running film festival brought together a host of stars, including actors Tara Emad, Dorra Zarrouk and Salma Abudeif in addition to 68-year-old film icon Fifi Abdou, who were all dressed to the nines in up-and-coming as well as established regional designers.

Check out our pick of the best dressed stars at the 2021 Cairo International Film Festival below.

 

Tara Emad in Nicolas Jebran

Youssra in Rami Kadi

Bushra Rozza in Samah Mahran

Dorra Zarrouk in Zuhair Murad

Laila Eloui in Hany Elbehairy

Mona Zaki in Maram Bohran

Nelly Karim in Maison Yeya

Nour in Sandy Nour

Raya Abirached in Zuhair Murad

Salma Abu Deif in Rose Fabrics

Fifi Abdou


Past and future meet in UAE-based trio’s ‘Beyond: Emerging Artists’ display

Past and future meet in UAE-based trio’s ‘Beyond: Emerging Artists’ display
“Beyond: Emerging Artists,” a section of the now-wrapped up Abu Dhabi Art fair. Courtesy of Abu Dhabi Art
Updated 27 November 2021

Past and future meet in UAE-based trio’s ‘Beyond: Emerging Artists’ display

Past and future meet in UAE-based trio’s ‘Beyond: Emerging Artists’ display

DUBAI: Challenges of the future and painful reminders of the past are among themes explored by three UAE-based artists in an exhibition in Abu Dhabi’s Manarat Al-Saadiyat.

New commissions by Emirati artists Maitha Abdalla and Hashel Al-Lamki, along with American Christopher Benton, now based in Dubai, are included in “Beyond: Emerging Artists,” a section of the now-wrapped up Abu Dhabi Art fair.

Maitha Abdalla, Too Close to the Sun. Courtsey of Abu Dhabi Art

“Beyond: Emerging Artists” was curated by Sam Bardaouil and Till Fellrath and is running beyond the end of the fair until Dec. 4, 2021.

Bardaouil and Fellrath told Arab News that the three artists’ strong links with Abu Dhabi allowed them to examine the city’s history and diversity, as well as its challenges and opportunities.

The artists rely on media ranging from painting to sculpture, soundscapes, video works, found objects and site-specific installations.

Abdalla’s commissions are part of a series of works that “negotiates the wild nature of women that social forces have often attempted to tame,” according to the artist.


 

Hashem Al-Lamki, Neptune. Courtsey of Abu Dhabi Art


“In my work, I am interested in storytelling and folk tales, and for this exhibition I was inspired by the book ‘Women Who Run with the Wolves,’ by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, an American psychoanalyst. She talks about how in every woman there is a wild creature and that this creature is powerful. She calls it wild woman and says this creature is an endangered species,” Abdalla said.

Fair Director Dyala Nusseibeh told Arab News: “The work is amazing — from performances that revolve around notions of female wildness to sculptures and paintings that provoke discussion around what’s considered right and wrong behavior and thought in communities.”

Benton’s installation of a chained palm tree also fosters debate around labor economies and the appropriation of Middle Eastern culture in the US.

Christopher Joshua Benton, chained palm tree installation. Courtsey of Abu Dhabi Art

The artist’s film “The Kite Has Come” features archival images of Zanzibar from 1860-1910 — when the world’s last slave market operated in the city — and explores how slave histories in past centuries resonate in today’s world.

Meanwhile, Al-Lamki examines the rapid pace of change in the UAE, particularly evident in his hometown of Al-Ain.  

The artist, who founded the art group Bait 15 in a residential neighborhood in downtown Abu Dhabi, uses natural pigments collected from regional locations, referencing traditions that are under threat from new technologies and consumerism.

“The extravagance of the glitter and dyes in his paintings alongside the use of batteries, star stickers and popcorn in his sculpture, contribute to a sense of spectacle and futurism, but also a note of wistfulness for what is left behind,” Nusseibeh said.


US singer Nick Jonas to hit the stage at VidCon Abu Dhabi

US singer Nick Jonas to hit the stage at VidCon Abu Dhabi
The artist will perform live on Dec. 3. File/AFP
Updated 27 November 2021

US singer Nick Jonas to hit the stage at VidCon Abu Dhabi

US singer Nick Jonas to hit the stage at VidCon Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: US singer Nick Jonas is set to hit the stage at VidCon Abu Dhabi for a live performance on Dec. 3.

He will join a lineup including R&B singer Kehlani, who will perform at the three-day event taking place at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC) on Dec. 4.

The 29-year-old, who gained prominence as a member of the Jonas Brothers with his two older siblings, also has a fruitful solo career, giving us hits like “Jealous” and “Levels.”

VidCon Abu Dhabi was originally set to be held in March 2020, but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Other big names set to appear include Egyptian TV show host and comedian Bassem Youssef, Emirati influencers Khalid Al-Ameri and Salama Mohamed, Saudi YouTuber Naz and travel blogger Iknani, among others.


UNHCR ambassador Karen Wazen meets with victims of Beirut blast in Lebanon

UNHCR ambassador Karen Wazen meets with victims of Beirut blast in Lebanon
Updated 27 November 2021

UNHCR ambassador Karen Wazen meets with victims of Beirut blast in Lebanon

UNHCR ambassador Karen Wazen meets with victims of Beirut blast in Lebanon

DUBAI: Karen Wazen Bakhazi has joined hands with the UN refugee agency, UNCHR, to support her native Lebanon.

The Dubai-based social media influencer was named as a High Profile Supporter of UNHCR last year for her dedication and commitment to raising awareness of the plight of refugees and displaced populations across the region over the past three years. The title was officially given to Wazen at a signing ceremony held at the UNHCR offices in International Humanitarian City, Dubai.

The style icon and entrepreneur, who launched her successful eyewear company in 2018,  has been on numerous field missions in support of the refugee cause over the past three years. Most recently, the humanitarian visited Beirut to meet with families who have been affected by the devastating Aug. 4 explosion.

“It is always a honor to work closely with the UNHCR and see first-hand the effort and work that is done towards vulnerable families in our communities,” wrote Wazen on Instagram, alongside a carousel of images.

“Yesterday I visited and engaged with a Lebanese family that was deeply affected by the Beirut blast and economic situation and it is so heartbreaking to hear of all the injustices that unfortunately are very present in our world,” she added.

“Many people think that the @unhcr_arabic only helps refugees. But in fact, UNHCR also provides a lot of support to host communities in Lebanon and to Lebanese families directly.

“It’s so painful to face the reality of some of the families suffering in Lebanon and in our region. I wish the world would come together to make a difference by raising awareness, listening out for each other and donating whenever possible.”

On Aug. 4, 2020, a massive explosion ripped through the port area of Beirut, killing at least 73 people and injuring thousands. The giant blast, which was felt 264 km away in Cyprus, sent shockwaves throughout the city, shattering windows and blowing off balconies on apartment buildings. The mushroom-like explosion caused widespread damage, destroying much of the capital.

Following the horrific blast, the Lebanese social media icon donated $10,000 via her eyewear company, Karen Wazen Eyewear, to the Beirut Eye & ENT Spec Hospital (BESH) to help the thousands of people who were injured during the explosion.


Italian label Loro Piana collaborates with Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej for UAE National Day

Italian label Loro Piana collaborates with Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej for UAE National Day
Updated 26 November 2021

Italian label Loro Piana collaborates with Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej for UAE National Day

Italian label Loro Piana collaborates with Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej for UAE National Day

DUBAI: Italian brand Loro Piana has unveiled an artistic collaboration with Emirati artist Mattar Bin Lahej in celebration of the UAE’s 50th National Day.

The partnership features 50 limited-edition Loro Piana cashmere plaids, each signed and numbered by the painter.

The brand hosted a gala dinner on Tuesday at Dubai’s Etihad Museum. (Supplied)

For the collaboration, Bin Lahej reimagined the UAE National Anthem using his own Arabic font, Mattar.

He also created a 5.5-meter-tall, stainless-steel sculpture, “Constitution,” that was unveiled during a gala dinner on Tuesday at Dubai’s Etihad Museum.

Bin Lahej created a 5.5-meter-tall, stainless-steel sculpture. (Supplied)

Speaking at the event, Loro Piana’s chief executive officer, Damien Bertrand, said: “The plaid is, for Loro Piana, very precious and unique. It perfectly embodies the memorable touch of Loro Piana, which is at the core of the brand. A unique touch which is a result of a unique craftsmanship.”

Bertrand also announced that the fashion label was partnering with the Emirates Red Crescent to supply winter clothing for Syrian refugees in the charity’s Jordan camp.

The event featured performances by Laura Marzadori, first violinist of the Teatro alla Scala, joined by the string section of the National Symphony Orchestra. (Supplied)

In her address to dinner guests, Emirates Red Crescent marketing director, Reef Al-Khajeh, said: “The UAE has been known as a generous and caring nation. This collaboration is a demonstration of how deep rooted the culture of giving is embedded.

“The Emirates Red Crescent is constantly acting and reacting to the urgent needs of people affected by misfortune all around the world, and our partnership with Loro Piana will complement the efforts we make to provide relief to those forced into shelters and facing extreme conditions due to disasters and emergencies,” she added. 

The event featured performances by Laura Marzadori, first violinist of the Teatro alla Scala, joined by the string section of the National Symphony Orchestra. The dinner was made by Italian Michelin-starred chef Niko Romito, who joined forces with Emirati pastry chef Sahar Parham Al-Awadhi to serve a culinary ode to Italy and the seven Emirates.