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.  


Azimuth music festival returning to AlUla

Azimuth music festival returning to AlUla
Updated 23 July 2024
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Azimuth music festival returning to AlUla

Azimuth music festival returning to AlUla
  • Popular musical extravaganza will return for its fourth edition from Sept. 19-21 ahead of Saudi National Day on Sept. 23
  • Features a diverse lineup of local, regional and international artists, set against AlUla’s stunning landscapes, blending music, art and culture

JEDDAH: The Azimuth music festival is returning to AlUla as the city’s Moments calendar goes into full swing.

The popular musical extravaganza will return for its fourth edition from Sept. 19-21 ahead of Saudi National Day on Sept. 23. The 2024 theme is “Until the Sun Comes Up.”

Azimuth has become a key event in the regional music scene, attracting loyal fans.

It features a diverse lineup of local, regional and international artists, set against AlUla’s stunning landscapes, blending music, art and culture.

This year’s performances will take place under the grand Qa’a Al-Haj.

Renowned artists like Ben Bohmer, James Blake, The Blaze, Cosmicat and Ghostly Kisses have been announced, with more to come. Past headliners include Jason Derulo, The Chainsmokers, Tinie Tempah, The Kooks, Jorja Smith, Peggy Gou and Thievery Corporation.

Azimuth launched in 2020, followed by editions in 2022 and 2023.

The AlUla Moments calendar also features five festivals covering art, culture, music, nature, wellness, equestrianism, dining and astronomy.

Early Bird tickets are available until Aug. 14, starting from SR760 ($202). For details and purchases, visit experiencealula.com.


Movies backed by Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Foundation to feature at Venice Film Festival

Movies backed by Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Foundation to feature at Venice Film Festival
Updated 23 July 2024
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Movies backed by Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Foundation to feature at Venice Film Festival

Movies backed by Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Foundation to feature at Venice Film Festival
  • International jury led by acclaimed French actor Isabelle Huppert

DUBAI: Two films backed by Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Film Foundation are to be screened at the upcoming 81st edition of the Venice Film Festival.

Tunisian director Mehdi M. Barsaoui’s “Aicha,” which was supported by the Red Sea Fund and the Red Sea Souk, will feature in the competitive Orizzonti section, which highlights international films that represent the latest aesthetic and expressive trends.

“Aicha” is Barsaoui’s second feature following his award-winning drama “A Son.” The film’s plot revolves around a young woman living in a backwater in southern Tunisia who attempts to build a new life in Tunis after she is reported as having died in a tragic bus crash.

Egyptian filmmaker Khaled Mansour’s “Seeking Haven For Mr. Rambo,” which was part of the Red Sea Lodge development program in 2021 and supported by the Red Sea Fund, will have its world premiere in the Orizzonti Extra section of the festival, which highlights young talent in international cinema.

The film follows a young man as he confronts the fears of his past and embarks on a journey to save his dog and best friend from an unknown fate.

Tim Burton’s “Beetlejuice Beetlejuice” — starring Michael Keaton, Winona Ryder, Catherine O’Hara, Justin Theroux, Monica Bellucci, Jenna Ortega, and Willem Dafoe — is the out-of-competition opener at the event.

This year’s international jury will be led by acclaimed French actor Isabelle Huppert, and includes James Gray (“Ad Astra”), Andrew Haigh (“All of Us Strangers”), Agnieszka Holland (“Green Border”), Kleber Mendonca Filho (“Bacurau”), Abderrahmane Sissako (“Bamako”), Giuseppe Tornatore (“Cinema Paradiso”), Julia von Heinz (“Treasure”), and Zhang Ziyi (“Memoirs of a Geisha”).
 


Gigi Hadid stuns at ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ NYC premiere

Gigi Hadid stuns at ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ NYC premiere
Updated 23 July 2024
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Gigi Hadid stuns at ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ NYC premiere

Gigi Hadid stuns at ‘Deadpool & Wolverine’ NYC premiere
  • Ensemble from Miu Miu’s Spring/Summer 2024 collection
  • Hadid posed on the red carpet alongside friend Blake Lively

DUBAI: US-Dutch-Palestinian model Gigi Hadid turned heads at the “Deadpool & Wolverine” premiere in New York City this week wearing an ensemble from Miu Miu’s Spring/Summer 2024 Ready-to-Wear collection.

The outfit featured a yellow bandeau top that was paired with a matching mustard yellow skirt in a knee-length cut and flowing silhouette. Hadid’s look was accessorized with a brown belt, black strappy heels and a yellow handbag.

Her jewelry included large gold hoop earrings and a statement gold chain necklace. She wore several chunky bangles in brown and gold, and a glitzy diamond anklet on her left ankle.

Hadid posed on the red carpet alongside her friend Blake Lively. (AFP)

Her blonde bob was styled sleek and smooth, with her bangs shaped into a bouncy, old Hollywood-inspired swoop.

Hadid posed on the red carpet alongside her friend Blake Lively, who was there to support her husband, Ryan Reynolds, who stars as Deadpool in the film.

Lively donned a striking off-the-shoulder jumpsuit from Atelier Versace. The outfit was crafted from a deep red, satin-like material and featured intricate black lace detailing throughout.

Lively accessorized the look with statement earrings and several rings. Her hair was styled in a sleek high ponytail, completing the ensemble.

Both Hadid and Lively continued their fashionable night with new outfits for the film’s after-party.

Both Hadid and Lively continued their fashionable night with new outfits for the film’s after-party. (Getty Images)

Hadid opted for a vibrant yellow trench coat made from a glossy, vinyl-like material from LaQuan Smith. The coat featured a classic trench silhouette with a wide lapel, belted waist and flared hem that fell just below the knees.

Meanwhile, Lively wore a head-turning Balmain minidress with a red and blue color scheme. The off-the-shoulder ensemble was adorned with large, three-dimensional red roses along the neckline and hemline.

The upcoming superhero film “Deadpool & Wolverine” is based on Marvel Comics characters. In addition to Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool, the film features Hugh Jackman reprising his role as Wolverine.

The plot centers on Deadpool teaming up with a recovering Wolverine to face a common enemy. The film delves into the dynamic between the two characters, exploring their regrets and quarreling relationship.

The film is directed by Shawn Levy and is set to release in Saudi Arabia on July 25.


REVIEW: Book censor falls victim to the malady of imagination in Kuwaiti novel

REVIEW: Book censor falls victim to the malady of imagination in Kuwaiti novel
Updated 23 July 2024
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REVIEW: Book censor falls victim to the malady of imagination in Kuwaiti novel

REVIEW: Book censor falls victim to the malady of imagination in Kuwaiti novel

NEW DELHI: Getting lost in a good story is an occupational hazard and a crime in “The Book Censor’s Library,” a dystopian political satire with elements of magic realism. The story follows an unnamed narrator whose life unravels after he reluctantly begins working for an all-powerful government.

With a spellbinding and smooth translation from Arabic by Ranya Abdelrahman and Sawad Hussain, Kuwaiti literary icon Bouthayna Al-Essa’s novel warns against the loss of originality and personal freedoms in its depiction of the transformation of a man into a reader and his inevitable fall down the rabbit hole of books and imagination.

Set in the near future “in a place that would be pointless to name, since it resembles every other place,” the novel follows the book censor in the New World as he combs through manuscripts, looking for any offending word or idea that would render a book unfit to publish.He is a “guardian of surfaces,” and his task is to ensure that books that carry depth and ideas should be identified and removed from the shelves because “one curious person who picked up a volume and read a few lines could poison the entire society.”

In a swift turn of events, the protagonist himself is swept away by classics like “Zorba the Greek,” “Alice in Wonderland,” and “1984,” his dreams and waking hours engulfed in the siren song of good storytelling.

As the world around him slowly regains color, he falls into the throes of an existential crisis, torn between doing his duty as a simple cog in the machine and the secret society of “Cancers” attempting to restore books to their former glory and preserve the collective memory of humanity.

Drawing from the power of timeless stories, El-Essa’s Orwellian tale delves into the terrifying heart of darkness to remind us that “cancer cells are the only ones that thrive in a dying body.”


‘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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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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.”