Friday, April 15, 2011

Weekend Away With Savoir Faire

Ok, call me crazy, however I would like to visit several recognized hotspots around the world and most of them are in the Middle East. The desire comes not necessarily from a desire of danger and daily bombings. It has been born from the fact that before dictators, wars and internal strife ravaged these countries, they were popular tourist destinations for the jet -set and hippies alike. They are steeped in history, which goes back 1000’s of years, with a rich tapestry of culture, art and craft.
One place high on my list is Afghanistan and Kabul in particular. During the 1960’s Kabul developed a rather cosmopolitan atmosphere, which has since been decimated and lost due to various occupations and regimes. So if I was to travel to Kabul there is not much to select from in the range of accommodation. There is the old Intercontinental Hotel which was once a part of the Intercontinental Chain. It has commanding views over Kabul with an outdoor swimming pool which I guess would be highly unusual in Afghanistan. I am not sure about this one, while obviously it was the place when it opened in 1969; it has probably seen better days. My choice would then be The Serena Hotel Kabul opened in 2005. Originally built in 1945, the hotel has been completely refurbished and extended via the addition of an entire new wing. Reflecting the pure grace of classic Islamic architecture, the reincarnated hotel retains many of the key elements of the original, but has also been intuitively restyled so as to reflect the many historical influences that have been brought to bear on this 3,000 year-old city. I can also see influences of Frank Lloyd Wright in the building and the interiors. Part of the Serena Hotel Chain it is probably the best hotel in Kabul. Serena Hotels is a hotel chain that operates in Afghanistan, Kenya, Mozambique, Pakistan, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. It is one of 96 companies that make up the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED), the for-profit arm of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). The prairie style of Lloyd Wright is highly evident in the low slung architecture and geometric shapes. Tied in with classic Islamic architecture, it is a modern contemporary take on both forms of architecture. Interiors use traditional Islamic motifs in decorations that almost take on an Art Deco feel, without being pretentious. Rich earth like tones combine with natural woods and light to create very stylised interiors. Unusually the hotel has a large terrace palazzo area with superbly manicured shrubs and trees that make arriving at this hotel seem like a welcome relief from what must be the rather dusty and ramshackle streets of Kabul. So, if I ever make it to Kabul this is where I would like to stay. Hopefully the country will begin to stabilize as I can imagine the investment in tourism would benefit the economy markedly.
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