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.