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Monday, October 6, 2008

Damascus' Best Boutique Hotel

Damascus boasts some of the Middle East's most beautiful boutique hotels, which I've written about before on Cool Travel Guide. Mostly they're enchanting old courtyard houses in the labyrinthine Old Town that have been exquisitely renovated with pretty fountains, cushioned sofas and the all-pervading scent of jasmine dripping from their walls. But Ghiath Machnock's Art House is something very different indeed. For one, it's set in a splendid old mill, which the architect spent years restoring, it has a stunning rooftop pool and terrace cafe, another atmospheric cafe-cum breakfast room inside, and rooms themed by Middle East artists and furnished with antique Syrian art deco furniture. Secondly, it's as much a cultural centre and art gallery as it is a hotel, with regular exhibitions of art, music recitals and cultural festivals; an opening night at one of these is not to be missed! Thirdly, it's not in the Old Town, it's on a hill overlooking Damascus, on the edge of the modern part of town. It's an area that few tourists get to, but one that's ideally located for the city's arty types and music students, for whom Ghiath has an open door policy. It's also handy for Beirut's creative set heading into town for the weekend - Lebanese pop musicians have been known to transfer their music studio here for a week's recording, so it's become a bit of an artist's retreat. In the year or so since it opened Art House has very quickly become a vital part of the city's cultural scene. You can read more about it here in Art of the Matter, a story we wrote for Jazeera Airline's funky in-flight magazine.


Nomadic Matt said...

I've heard great things about Syria. Damascus is supposed to be really nice and the Sryians really friendly.

Fly Girl said...

Hi Lara,
This sounds exactly like the kind of under-the-radar, cool places that I love to visit! Great post, I've stumbled it!

Anonymous said...

I'm visiting Syria soon and can't wait to see the old Arabic Houses. Sounds fantastic!

Erica said...

Sounds like my type of hotel. Do they by any chance have a homepage?

NewWrldYankee said...

You are so not playing fair! Every post you do, you add more places I want to see. I will never get to all of them. Btw, I recommended your blog to someone looking for info on Dubai. Hope you don't mind. I told them if anyone knew anything, it was you!

Claudia said...

wow what an interesting blog! i'd love to visit Damascus... your blog is making me dream of wonderful exotic places... thank you!!!

Lara Dunston said...

Hello all

Please forgive me for taking so long to acknowledge your comments - I've been on the road in Australia researching books with only sporadic access to the internet unfortunately.

Nomadic Matt & Erica - you must go to Syria - you'll love it!

Erica - their home page wasn't working when I last checked but I'll check again and link to it if it is.

NewWrldYankee - feel free to get your friend to email me with any questions on Dubai.

Claudia - welcome! I'm happy to help you dream - but you have to turn that dream into a reality and go to Syria! Damascus is enchanting anyway - very 1001 Nights! - so you can keep dreaming when you get there.

online hotel booking said...

Nice post..I found idea where to stay. Me and my husband is planning a middle east vacation. This is a nice input.
online hotel reservation

Anonymous said...

Hi all,

If your planning for syria, i would recommend beitrumman hotel in old damascus. it is a wonderful cozy hotel that tells about the history of old damascus. you'll love it. here is the link:

Lara Dunston said...

Thanks for the tip! I'll have to check that one out when we're back in Syria in a few months.

Marlon said...

I like Damascus, it is one of my favorite trips. I took a taxi from Amman, and it was a pleasant ride for three long hours. I touched the border too.

Anonymous said...

Hi Lara !
You forgot to mention that all that beauty of Art House does belong to a visionary and the owner of the Art House Mr. Nader Kalai.
Its unfair not to be mentioned because not every splinded idea will find an executer !

Anonymous said...

Hi Lara !
You forgot to mention that all that beauty of Art House does belong to a visionary and the owner of the Art House Mr. Nader Kalai.
Its unfair not to be mentioned because not every splinded idea will find an executer !

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Marlon

It's one of my favorite cities in the world too! Thanks for your comment!

Hi whoever you are - why not leave your name?

Yes, but it seems Nader likes to keep a low profile though and prefers not to be in the public spotlight, but I think the vision was definitely a shared one between Ghiath and Nader.

Ghiath was the architect and spent many years restoring the building and then once it was finished, single-handedly selected the furnishings and decorated it. Even now, he makes day-to-day decisions relating to everything from how everything will be arranged for the performances to selecting details for private parties.

Thanks for your comment! Please do leave your name next time.