Mountains meet the sea in Georgia’s Batumi — a new hotspot for Gulf tourists

Mountains meet the sea in Georgia’s Batumi — a new hotspot for Gulf tourists
With direct flights operating from Jeddah and Riyadh — as well as Dubai — Batumi is becoming an increasingly popular destination for GCC residents. (Shutterstock)
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Updated 11 July 2024
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Mountains meet the sea in Georgia’s Batumi — a new hotspot for Gulf tourists

Mountains meet the sea in Georgia’s Batumi — a new hotspot for Gulf tourists
  • The Black Sea resort is becoming increasingly popular with GCC tourists. It’s easy to see why 

BATUMI: Georgia’s tourism authority has said it aims to triple the amount of visitors the country receives from Saudi Arabia over the next five to 10 years.  

With direct flights operating from Jeddah and Riyadh — as well as Dubai — Batumi is becoming an increasingly popular destination for GCC residents. It’s less than four hours by plane, and there’s just one hour’s time difference from the Kingdom. Safety and affordability are also major draws. 

Batumi has much else to offer, including 21km of swimmable areas along its coast, stunning botanical gardens overlooking the clear blue waters of the Black Sea, and, of course, the sea itself. 




Batumi Botanical Garden overlooks the clear blue waters of the Black Sea. (Shutterstock)

There is also the beautiful lush countryside no more than an hour’s drive from the city center. There, you’ll find walking trails through the tree-lined mountains and hills; valleys filled with vineyards; and rivers and streams that cut through the undergrowth. Visit the breathtaking Makhuntseti waterfall, which is located in the village of the same name. 

Another must-visit just a short drive out of the city is the point at which the muddy waters of the Acharistskali meet the clear Chorokhi river that enters from Turkiye. The two rivers join, but do not appear to mix at first. There are many theories as to why: some say it’s the difference in density or minerals of the water, others believe it is due to temperature difference. What all can agree on is that it provides an extraordinary sight as the two rivers flow alongside each other undisturbed before finally blending further downstream. 

Batumi’s surrounding countryside, then, is the perfect place to unwind, but also to get involved in outdoor pursuits such as mountaineering. For the less energetic, there’s always bird watching — hundreds of thousands of migratory species suddenly appear around Batumi every September. 

But you don’t have to leave the city to enjoy some nature: Batumi is home to a number of landscaped parks and gardens, including the Seaside Park, which runs alongside the boardwalk for 7km, and is filled with plants, trees and sculptures. 




The Kinetic Statue of Ali and Nino stands in Batumi. (Shutterstock)

There’s also the 108-hectare Batumi Botanical Garden — one of the largest in the former Soviet Union — in Mtsvane Kontskhi, around 9km from the city center. As well as the carefully thought-out gardens, there is also a zipline that runs in front of the cliff face – the greenery on your left and the sea to the right — and way down below. 

A stroll along the boardwalk provides views of the mountains, the sea and the modern towers that decorate parts of Batumi’s coast, as well as the mesmerizing kinetic statue of Ali and Nino — the creation of Tamara Kvesitadze which tells the story of a Muslim and Christian who fell in love. 

In the same area are various boats offering short trips to sea to get a wider view of the city’s impressive coastline. 

Away from the water, the city streets are perfect for wandering — the older, smaller, architecture offering a more-relaxing environment along the tree-lined historic areas which open into various squares where you can relax at one of the many cafés and restaurants. You might even catch a display of traditional Georgian dancing, where the men leap impressively into the air, while the women seem to glide effortlessly around. 




Batumi's Old Town boasts various architectural styles. (Shutterstock)

As for the food… be warned, Georgians love carbs. But it’s worth indulging in a Khachapuri Adjaruli — a boat-shaped white bread dough, covered in a heavy white cheese, with a raw egg on top. 

There’s also the traditional Khinkali — a dumpling filled with meat and gravy. Eating this is a skill in itself — you bite a small hole in the dumpling and take a slurp of gravy before savoring the meat. But do wait for it to cool before trying this! 

Stews are heavily featured, and if these don’t float your boat, then the grilled meat is a great option, alongside a bowl of Georgia’s finest tomato and cucumber salad — especially welcome after a few hours tramping through the winding streets or following a leisurely stroll through the mountains. 

Whether you plan to make Batumi part of a wider visit to Georgia, or simply to spend a week or long weekend here, it’s a great location to relax, explore, and — if 95 percent of Saudis surveyed are to be believed — come back to.  


‘Those About to Die’ stars talk new swords-and-sandals series set in Ancient Rome

‘Those About to Die’ stars talk new swords-and-sandals series set in Ancient Rome
Updated 22 July 2024
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‘Those About to Die’ stars talk new swords-and-sandals series set in Ancient Rome

‘Those About to Die’ stars talk new swords-and-sandals series set in Ancient Rome

DUBAI: British-Yemeni actor Moe Hashim (“Ted Lasso”) and Iceland’s Johannes Haukur Johannesson (“Succession”) spoke to Arab News recently about playing gladiator frenemies in new swords-and-sandal series “Those About to Die,” streaming in the Middle East on Starzplay.

The action-packed series set in Rome in 79 A.D., stars the legendary Anthony Hopkins as Emperor Vespasian, the founder of the Flavian dynasty, and is inspired by Daniel Mannix’s classic non-fiction book of the same name.

Johannes Haukur Johannesson and Moe Hashim star in ‘Those About to Die.’ (Courtesy of Starzplay)

Hashim, known for his minor role as footballer Moe Bumbercatch in hit Apple TV + series “Ted Lasso,” plays Kwame, a lion tracker, who has been taken to train as a gladiator and now faces an existence that means fighting for his life every day.

When asked what drew him to the series, Hashim said: “For me, (it was) Kwame where he was from and what he represents. And I was very excited because I was like: ‘This is a character that is not really spoken about or has been documented too much in the Roman Empire.’

“And when I did the research on North Africans and the influence they had in the Roman Empire, I was like: ‘Oh, I definitely want to be part of this for sure.’”

Johannesson, in turn, plays an imposing Norse gladiator who befriends Kwame in arena training. His main draw to the show was the grittiness of daily gladiator life. “I thought it was really beautiful to see how the gladiators, who were essentially prisoners made to fight till their death, fought for their lives daily, the way they found humanity and friendship, I thought that was really, really beautiful. That really stood out to me,” said Johannesson.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by STARZPLAY (@starzplayarabia)

The show also marks the television directorial debut of blockbuster director Roland Emmerich (“Moonfall”, “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Independence Day”).

Said Johannesson: “Roland is a whirlwind to work with. He sweeps you along. He’s very intense, which is enjoyable. You sort of step on set and you just jump on the Roland Emmerich train. It’s an express train.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by STARZPLAY (@starzplayarabia)

Added Hashim: “It was also fun getting to know him on a personal level. We practically did a tour of every restaurant in Rome, we had all types of pasta and, you know, during those dinners, you kind of get to see who Roland really is.

“A man at that point of his career still making time to listen to my stupid questions about ‘Independence Day’ and him being so happy to tell me about all the stories and willing to answer my questions.”


Mona Tougaard stars in new Marc Jacobs campaign

Mona Tougaard stars in new Marc Jacobs campaign
Updated 22 July 2024
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Mona Tougaard stars in new Marc Jacobs campaign

Mona Tougaard stars in new Marc Jacobs campaign

DUBAI: Model Mona Tougaard is the face of Marc Jacobs’ Fall 2024 eyewear collection “The Sunglasses.”

The catwalk star, who has Danish, Turkish, Somali and Ethiopian ancestry, took to Instagram to announce the campaign, posting a photo along with a simple heart emoji.

Last month, Berlin-based magazine-turned-fashion label 032c presented its menswear spring/summer 2025 collection at Paris Fashion Week, where Tougaard featured.

She strutted down the runway in a form-fitting suit with a cropped blazer and a blue buttoned-shirt layered underneath. The look was complemented with dark shades and her hair was slicked back in a low bun.

She was not the only regional model on the runway; Tougaard was joined by British-Moroccan model Nora Attal, who wore a sheer, reflective fishnet-like black dress.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Marc Jacobs (@marcjacobs)

The collection, designed by Maria Koch, is titled “Everything Counts” and included outerwear, feminine suiting and versatile denim co-ords suitable for day and night wear.

Collarless 032c jackets featured tonal gothic lettering, while army parkas and deconstructable cargo pants were paired with boxy vinyl tops.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Joerg Koch / 032c (@032c)

Last month, 032c also announced on Instagram that Tougaard had been named the artistic talent director for the collection.

“Tougaard is an inherent member of the 032c universe, who has starred on our magazine covers, our editorials, and our previous FW-24 show. It is an organic progression to involve Tougaard more closely in 032c’s creative processes together with creative director Maria Koch and fashion director Ras Bartram,” the post read.

Tougaard started 2024 with a bang, gracing the runway for Chanel during Paris Haute Couture Week in January. Tougaard wore a black thigh-high coat-style dress with white buttons and a sheer white skirt underneath, teamed with wore white stockings and black heeled sandals.

Tougaard started her modeling career in 2017 after winning the Elite Model Look Denmark competition at the age of 15. Since then, she has become a prominent figure in the fashion industry, known for her work with top designers and luxury brands including Prada, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Chanel and Valentino.


Actor Noor Xarmina crowned ‘Miss Universe Pakistan 2024’

Actor Noor Xarmina crowned ‘Miss Universe Pakistan 2024’
Updated 21 July 2024
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Actor Noor Xarmina crowned ‘Miss Universe Pakistan 2024’

Actor Noor Xarmina crowned ‘Miss Universe Pakistan 2024’
  • The 29-year-old venture capitalist-turned-actor hails from Islamabad and recently moved back to Pakistan from abroad
  • Xarmina says she wants to represent Pakistan on international forums, bring about a change for women

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani actor Noor Xarmina has been declared ‘Miss Universe Pakistan 2024,’ after which she is poised to represent Pakistan at the 73rd Miss Universe 2024 pageant in November this year.
The announcement of Xarmina’s successful bid was made in a video published on the official YouTube channel of Miss Universe on Saturday.
The 29-year-old venture capitalist-turned-actor, who has studied biology and business, hails from Islamabad and recently moved to Pakistan.
In the video shared on Miss Universe YouTube channel, she said she wanted to bring about a “positive change” in her home country.
“I want to be an agent for positive change in two respects. The first is for our country. Pakistan is scarcely represented internationally across so many industries and I want to enhance our representation on an international stage,” Xarmina said.
“In the second respect, I want to have change for women in our country. Pakistan needs strong female leaders that can mobilize its women and empower them to create positive change in society.”
Asked if Pakistan would support Xarmina’s bid at international beauty pageants, Pakistani Information Minister Ataullah Tarar said if Xarmina has played a role in projecting Pakistan’s soft image, then a discussion can be held on this.
“I do not know about that woman, what background she has and what professional achievements she has before this, they can be looked into. If she has played her role for Pakistan’s image, Pakistan’s soft image, and Pakistan’s development, then discussion can be held on this,” he told reporters in Islamabad on Sunday.
Tarar noted that Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif recently invited Naila Kiyani, a UAE-based Pakistani mountaineer, and appreciated her.
“So, we definitely believe that whatever achievement one has, it should be recognized,” he added.
Last year, Erica Rabin became the first Pakistani woman to be crowned Miss Universe Pakistan. Prior to that, no woman from Muslim-majority Pakistan ever participated in the Miss Universe pageant.
Miss Universe Pakistan is a national beauty pageant franchise organized by the Yugen Group of Dubai to select a representative from Pakistan for the Miss Universe pageant.


Squatwolf expands in Saudi Arabia with new warehouse, fitness events

Squatwolf expands in Saudi Arabia with new warehouse, fitness events
Updated 21 July 2024
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Squatwolf expands in Saudi Arabia with new warehouse, fitness events

Squatwolf expands in Saudi Arabia with new warehouse, fitness events
  • UAE brand opens warehouse able to handle 30,000 orders a day
  • Company was founded in 2016 by Anam Khalid and Wajdan Gul

DUBAI: From starting as a passion project to now serving athletes in over 200 countries, Squatwolf, the gym-wear brand co-founded by Anam Khalid and Wajdan Gul, is expanding in Saudi Arabia.

The founders have opened a  warehouse in the Kingdom.

The Saudi Arabia warehouse can process up to 30,000 orders a day and ensures same-day delivery in Riyadh and next-day delivery to major cities, including Jeddah, Dammam, Alkhobar and Makkah. (Supplied)

“We take pride in being the first gym-wear brand in the Kingdom that is supporting Vision 2030, fueling the power of the gym as a playground of self-improvement to all,” Khalid told Arab News recently.

“Our Saudi warehouse is a demonstration to our commitment as a UAE brand to support the region and go all in.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by SQUATWOLF (@squatwolf)

The Saudi Arabia warehouse can process up to 30,000 orders a day and ensures same-day delivery in Riyadh and next-day delivery to major cities, including Jeddah, Dammam, Alkhobar and Makkah, Gul said.

The brand plans to collaborate with retail and gym partners, local ambassadors and organize community events to support their expansion goals.

“We’re here to recognize every gym-goer, regardless of their fitness level,” Khalid said.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by SQUATWOLF (@squatwolf)

Gul confirmed that The Squatwolf Games, a prominent fitness event in Dubai, is set to make its debut in Saudi Arabia.

“Yes, Squatwolf Games is coming to Saudi and coming in big. We’re constantly evolving the games to something bigger and better.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by SQUATWOLF (@squatwolf)

The brand will also participate in the KSA Muscle Show, further engaging with the local fitness community.

The company was founded in 2016 by Khalid and Gul. “It all started when Gul and I realized there wasn’t a gym-wear brand in the region that matched our love for the gym, its community, and the impact it has on all aspects of our life,” Khalid said.

Gul believes the fitness and activewear market in the Kingdom is booming. “With the Saudi 2030 Vision in place, more gyms are opening up every day, fitness is becoming a way of life and staying healthy is on everyone’s radar,” he explained.

“Being the first gym-wear brand in the MENA region, including Saudi Arabia, gives us a competitive advantage to stay one step ahead across insight-driven product performance, local communities and gym-goer demands,” Khalid added.


Lebanese actress Cynthia Khalifeh carves out a path in Hollywood with ‘Borderline’

Lebanese actress Cynthia Khalifeh carves out a path in Hollywood with ‘Borderline’
Updated 22 July 2024
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Lebanese actress Cynthia Khalifeh carves out a path in Hollywood with ‘Borderline’

Lebanese actress Cynthia Khalifeh carves out a path in Hollywood with ‘Borderline’

LOS ANGELES: Lebanese actress Cynthia Khalifeh is teaming up with Lucien Laviscount from “Emily in Paris” and Laura Marano of “The Royal Treatment” for the horror-thriller “Borderline.”

The former TV presenter is also eyeing future projects as she aims to achieve her Hollywood dream.

“I’m one step forward on the path to achieving my big dream since I was young, which is to act in international films. So, baby steps and I really feel like I am a bit closer,” Khalifeh told Arab News in an interview.

“It was a lot of risks that I had to take, a lot of just jumping on adventures where I didn’t have anything that was guaranteed.”

“Borderline”, a film shot in a specially constructed studio in Malta, highlights the darkest fears associated with dating apps.

“It talks about online dating and how sometimes you might go to meet someone you don’t know, and there’s a certain danger,” Khalifeh said.

The actress said the show is called “Borderline’ because, “they meet in a place located at the border between two countries, so there is no law applied from this country or the other, so anything can happen in this place.”

“The girl or I find myself stuck over there in one night, contained, in one place, trying to run away from this person but I face him at the end. I learnt a lot of fights,” she added.

About her co-star Laviscount, she said: “Lucien plays a completely different role than that of the handsome sweet guy that all girls fell for in ‘Emily in Paris.’ Here, you will not like him at all.”

Khalifeh’s contributions to the screenplay led to her role as co-writer of the film. Choosing horror to launch her global career, she hopes to dominate this year’s Halloween season.

“I started throwing ideas and then they told me, ‘You know what? Do you want to join in?’ It happened and I joined the writing team,” she said.