ISSUE TEN | MARCH
MR . Y O CL ONE
Produced in International Media Production Zone
st man The coole n on ow lt in Tin se ise to r g n lo his om supe rstard
ALI AND ME One fan’s remarkable tale of how he made friends with Muhammad Ali
ALAIN DUCASSE The most decorated chef in France on why TV cooks are tasteless
PAST MASTER Why Morgan’s first ever four-wheeler is back on the road to greatness
TURKISH DELIGHT Enjoy the sun, style and historical charm of jet -set Cesme Peninsula
TIME TO RAISE YOUR EXPECTATIONS
TIME TO RAISE YOUR EXPECTATIONS INTRODUCING THE NEW 3,350 NM FALCON 2000S Finally, a large-cabin aircraft with the airfield agility and efficiency of a smaller jet at a midsize price. This is the one youâ€™ve been waiting for. The new Falcon 2000S has it all. Unparalleled comfort. Unrivalled performance. And unbeatable value.
Raise your expectations. Visit falcon2000S.com.
B U S I N E S S T R AV E L O R W E E K E N D G E TA W AY
Itâ€™s all in The Address
Welcome to The Address Hotels +
Resorts. Located in the most vibrant parts of the city, The Address Hotels + Resorts is defining the global standards of luxury hospitality. From business meetings to social rendezvous. From absolute relaxation to luxurious indulgences. It’s where worldclass services have been recreated to suit discerning tastes. It’s where energy surrounds you the minute you walk in. It’s chic. It’s exciting. It’s all in The Address.
T H E A D D R E S S D O W N TO W N D U B A I
THE ADDRESS DUBAI MALL
THE ADDRESS DUBAI MARINA
THE ADDRESS MONTGOMERIE DUBAI | T H E P A L A C E - T H E O L D TO W N CALL +971 4 423 8888 | S TAY @ T H E A D D R E S S . C O M
CONTENTS / FE ATURES
THIRTY EIGHT THE CHAMP AND I How an unemployed lad from England befriended Muhammad Ali, King of the Ring – sparking an unlikely lifelong cameraderie.
FORTY EIGHT WHY ART DUBAI MATTERS What does Art Dubai mean for the UAE? We ask the show’s director who also marks our card for the works to keep an eye on.
FIFTY TWO BY GEORGE From TV to Tinseltown, George Clooney talks Oscars, responsibilities, and his move to the director’s chair.
SIXTY FOUR THE MICHELIN MAN He’s the most lauded of the French master chefs, but Alain Ducasse is no diva. AIR also finds that he doesn’t mince his words...
Tel: 00971 4 364 2876 Fax: 00971 4 369 7494 Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from HOT Media Publishing is strictly prohibited. All prices mentioned are correct at time of press but may change. HOT Media Publishing does not accept liability for omissions or errors in AIR.
- 05 -
CONTENTS / REGUL ARS
FIFTY EIGHT MOTORING AIR gets to grips with Jaguar’s XF – a devilishly sleek, über-organised machine – and Morgan’s classic 4/4.
SIXTY NINE GASTRONOMY
Editorial Director John Thatcher
What’s on and what’s new this month, with London’s newest suites and a class for aspiring movie stars.
Gilles Bosquet takes time out from the Gordon Ramsay restaurant in Doha to tell us his ideal dinner guests...
Advertisement Director Chris Capstick email@example.com
TWENTY FIVE TIMEPIECES
SEVENTY ONE GOLF
Group Editor Laura Binder firstname.lastname@example.org
Armin Strom takes inspiration from Formula 1, while Montblanc unveils their Princess Grace-inspired beauty.
Squeeze in a round between sailing, riding and winery tours in New Zealand’s most adventurous courses.
Sub Editor Hazel Plush email@example.com
TWENTY NINE INTERIORS
SEVENTY TWO TRAVEL
Designers Sarah Boland Adam Sneade
Sara Cosgrove shares her favoured French brand, and we spotlight the UAE’s first collectible design fair.
AIR takes a trip to Boomtown Beijing, Moscow’s hottest property, and the hidden treasures of Turkey.
Production Manager Haneef Abdul
THIRTY TWO CRITIQUE
EIGHTY FOUR WHAT I KNOW NOW
The hottest films, shows, artwork and reads – including America’s impending invasion of the Louvre.
Talking money matters, motivation and mentors with the one and only Donald Trump.
Managing Director Victoria Thatcher
Senior Advertisement Manager Stefanie Morgner firstname.lastname@example.org Advertisement Manager Sukaina Hussein email@example.com Agency Sales Manager Jad Hatem firstname.lastname@example.org
- 07 -
I’m delighted to welcome you to the March edition of AIR – Gama’s in-flight magazine. I hope you’ll enjoy learning more about our global business aviation group and the services we provide as you browse through the pages. Gama is one of the world’s largest business jet operators – we have nearly 80 business jets operating all around the globe. Established in the United Kingdom in 1983, we’ve grown to have bases throughout the Middle East, Europe and North & South America as well as operating licences issued by the UAE, UK, US and Bermudan Authorities. As well as providing aircraft management and charter services, the group also provides aircraft maintenance, avionics design and installation, aviation software, aircraft cleaning and leasing services to a wide range of clients. Gama’s expansion in the Middle East continues to progress well, our regional fleet has grown significantly over the past twelve months with the arrival of a number of aircraft including the Bombardier Global XRS and the Airbus A318, along with the continued development of our regional footprint and services. Business aviation remains one of the best tools available to corporations and individuals who want to make time for themselves and it’s been pleasing to see a resurgence in charter flights in 2011 – the world is travelling for business again and developing much needed revenue for the global economy. Thank you for choosing Gama – welcome onboard.
Dave Edwards Managing Director Gama Aviation
Contact details: email@example.com gamagroup.com
- 09 -
GAMA AVIATION NEWS GAMA AVIATION ANNOUNCES EXPANSION INTO SAUDI ARABIA
Jeddah will be Gama’s second Middle East base
Gama Group appoints Neil Gibson to senoir management team with key role in the Middle East and Asia Gama Group has announced the appointment of Neil Gibson as a key member of its senior management team, with the task of implementing its growth strategy in the Middle East and Asia regions. Neil brings with him a wealth of industry knowledge. Following a career in the Royal Air Force, Neil has held a number of key posts within the business aviation community including CEO of TAG Aviation Asia, Managing Director of TAG Aviation UK, CEO of TAG Australia, Vice President of Hawker Pacific’s Flight Services Group and, most recently, Neil led PremiAir’s Charter & Management Division. In addition Neil is a keen private pilot. “I am delighted to be able to welcome Neil to the Gama senior management team,” said Marwan Khalek, Gama Group CEO. “With his broad international business aviation experience, Neil brings enviable industry experience and joins us at a time of significant growth for Gama in the Middle East and Asia regions.” In his new role Neil will work throughout Gama’s growing network of Middle East and Asian offices and will report directly to Gama’s Regional Managing Director, Dave Edwards. Neil’s appointment is with immediate effect.
Gama Group MENA FZE, part of the Gama Group, the global business aviation services company, announced during the Dubai Air Show 2011 that it is to expand its services into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. With Imitiaz Company for Aviation Services LLC as a strategic partner in Saudi Arabia, the new joint venture company, to be known as Gama Aviation, plans to be operational in 2012 from Jeddah, Saudi’s second largest city and a vital centre for commerce and tourism. The Imitiaz Company, headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia is headed by some of the Kingdom’s most experienced aviation professionals. This is an expansion in the Middle East for the Gama Group, a long established aircraft charter, management and maintenance business company now in its 29th year, which set up in Sharjah and Dubai three years ago. The company will specialise in aircraft management and aims to operate charter services under its own Saudi GACA Part 135 Air Carrier certificate. The next step will be to add aircraft maintenance and consultancy services, replicating the company’s expertise in Europe, USA and the Middle East. Gama’s first base will be at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport where it will employ around five people in the start up phase. Gama Aviation in Saudi Arabia will be overseen by Gama’s Regional Managing Director, Dave Edwards. “This is a significant announcement for Gama and is the culmination of a substantial period of planning and negotiation,” said Gama CEO Marwan
- 10 -
Abdel Khalek. “We are delighted to have Imitiaz LLC as our strategic partner in this venture, which will bring to Gama many years of experience in the Kingdom. Breaking into the important Saudi market, the biggest market for business aviation in the Middle East, is a huge achievement and a long held wish of Gama. This milestone reflects a considerable amount of hard work by the team at Gama and our ability to demonstrate how the Gama culture and business model could be adopted in Saudi. ” Gama Aviation obtained its UAE GCAA Air Operator’s Certificate in February 2010 and now supports 25 staff and five managed aircraft at both Sharjah International and Dubai International Airports, including an Airbus ACJ318 which joined the fleet last month. Gama is on track to obtain its UAE GCAA CAR 145 maintenance approval and is working to develop a new 12,000 sqm hangar facility at Sharjah which will provide hangarage and maintenance facilities for business jet aircraft in the region. It will also be home to a new Fixed Based Operation.
ASIA FIRMLY IN GAMA GROUP’S SIGHTS FOR 2012 Gama Group is planning to establish its next base in Asia, CEO Marwan Khalek confirmed at the National Business Aviation Association tradeshow in Las Vegas. “We are building the foundations now with a view to getting established in Hong Kong in the first half of 2012,” he said. The intention is simply to replicate Gama’s successful business model in the region and mirror the quality, ethos and service offering of the international network currently centered in Europe, the Middle East and the USA. Hong Kong will be the company’s fourth continental/regional base complementing operations in Europe, North America and the Middle East.
500,000 Hours 200,000 Flights 28 Years
Gama Aviation Limited Business Aviation Centre Farnborough Airport Farnborough Hampshire GU14 6XA United Kingdom Tel: +44 1252 553000 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Gama Aviation FZC Building 6EB Office 550 PO Box 54912 Dubai Airport Freezone Dubai United Arab Emirates Tel: +971 4 609 1688 Email: email@example.com Gama Aviation, Inc. Airport Business Center 611 Access Road Stratford
Business Aircraft Management, Charter,
Maintenance, Design and Installation,
Tel: +1 800 468 1110
FBO Services, Valeting and Aviation Software.
- 11 -
GAMA AVIATION NEWS
Gama Aviation’s Middle Eastern fleet grows with the addition of the airbus ACJ318 Gama Aviation FZC, the business aviation charter and management company, has added a new business aircraft type to its UAE-based fleet – its first Airbus. The Airbus ACJ318 was added to its UAE operator’s certificate in October. Configured with a 14 seat VIP configuration, the ACJ becomes the largest aircraft in the company’s Middle East fleet and for Gama globally, its 11th manufacturer type. The new aircraft is being operated and managed by Gama on behalf of a private owner, based out of Sharjah International Airport. “We welcome the increasing involvement of experienced companies such as Gama Aviation with the growing fleet of Airbus corporate jets, which are the new top-end of the market because they deliver the widest and tallest cabin of any business jet,” says Airbus Corporate Jets Vice President Francois Chazelle. Gama Aviation obtained its UAE GCAA Air Operator’s Certificate in February 2010 and now manages five aircraft on behalf of Middle East based clients at both Sharjah International and Dubai International Airports. Gama Aviation is on track to obtain its UAE GCAA CAR 145 maintenance approval and is working to complete its new 12,000 sqm hangar facility at Sharjah which will provide hangarage and maintenance facilities for business jet aircraft in the region.
GAMA AVIATION OPENS NEW SHARJAH FBO FOR EXECUTIVE AIRCRAFT HANDLING Gama Aviation, the global business aviation and services company in association with the Sharjah Department of Civil Aviation announced today the next phase of their close partnership aimed at encouraging and facilitating the growth of business aviation traffic at Sharjah International Airport. Effective, 23 January 2012, Gama Aviation will be the sole provider for all executive aircraft handling at Sharjah International Airport. Gama Aviation’s dedicated Sharjah team is on-hand to provide a 24/7/365 service to facilitate the arrival and departure of all business aviation traffic. Gama has been a Sharjah-based operator since 2004 and during that time it has built a strong business development partnership with the Sharjah International Airport management team with respect to the development of Executive Aircraft handling services. Sharjah celebrates 80 years as the leader of aviation activities in the UAE, with the start-up of operations in 1932. Throughout its long history it has seen continued expansion and on-going investment resulting in today’s Sharjah
- 12 -
International being one of the most efficient and easy to use airports in the region. Landing to chocks on time at Sharjah is a remarkable and enviable average of just 6 minutes! As well as providing excellent links to Sharjah itself one of the key benefits for business aviation is that it is situated very close to Dubai (just a 5 minute helicopter transfer) and is nearer to the business centre of Dubai than the new World Central Airport (51 kms, 43 minutes) which it has been announced will become Dubai’s main business airport during the course of 2012. As such, Sharjah International Airport will become a very practical alternative for visitors to Dubai and the Northern Emirates. “We are delighted to partner with the Sharjah International Airport management team’s aspiration to establish the Gama operated Sharjah FBO as the first choice for business aviation operators in the region’’ said Dave Edwards, Managing Director of Gama Aviation FZE. ‘’Sharjah offers less capacity restraints and no slot restrictions which responds perfectly to the specific demands of business aviation.’’
Showrooms Dubai Marina Mall | Mall of the Emirates | Wafi | Gold Souk firstname.lastname@example.org â€“ www.mahallatijewellery.com Tel: +971 4 2262277
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Unique, iconic photographs of Marilyn Monroe form the backbone of a new exhibition by The Getty Images Gallery, devised to commemorate 50 years since her death.Â Showing in London from March 9, the images on display depict Monroeâ€™s early years as an aspiring actress, as well as those shot at the height of her fame. Accompanying the photographs will be original film costumes and dresses from the collection of David Gainsborough Roberts, owner of one of the largest collections of Marilyn Monroe memorabilia in the world. - 16 -
- 17 -
New York City - March 1955: American actress Marilyn Monroe (1926 - 1962) leans over the balcony of the Ambassador Hotel in March 1955 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
> London’s Corinthia Hotel has been open for less than a year but has been quick to establish itself among the city’s heavyweight hotels. It helped that the service is impeccable, the décor suitably grand and the location – a stone’s throw from Nelson’s Column, 10 Downing Street and the pretty-as-a-picture St James’s Park – near perfect, but it’s the rooms that have made it a real contender. Now it’s added seven stunning Penthouses to its offering. Fit for a king is The Royal Penthouse, 5,000sqft and two floors of impeccable style that’s topped off with a huge terrace (pictured above) which looks out to some of London’s best sights. The Actor’s Suite – which has already housed some of Hollywood’s biggest names – is all bespoke furniture and hand-finished, sink-in rugs while The Musician’s Suite features a Steinway grand piano for when that urge to make like Lennon strikes. One must-do while staying here is to take breakfast in The Northall – it’s arguably the best in town and the room itself is beautiful. corinthia.com
> Sponsored by the Qatar Museums Authority, the single biggest display of Damien Hirst’s much-discussed work will be at London’s Tate Modern Museum from April 4. Hirst is widely regarded as one of the most important – and certainly influential – artists working today and this exhibition comprises his seminal works. A definite must-see. tate.org.uk
- 18 -
Glass, steel, silicon, formaldehyde solution and shark; Steel, glass and pills; Butterflies and household gloss on canvas © Damien Hirst and Science Ltd. All rights reserved. DACS 2011. Photographed by Prudence Cuming Associates
Top: Exquisite Tanzanite and Diamond Ring Tanzanite: 11.92cts, Diamonds: 4.72cts. Bottom: Fancy Yellow Diamond Ring â€“ Flower Motif Diamonds: 10.28cts. Custom made jewellery in 24 hours.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah Gold and Diamond Park Dubai Marine Beach Resort and Spa
Tel: 04-3686226 Tel: 04-3472035 Tel: 04-3460022 E-mail: email@example.com
Dubai Mall Deira Gold Souk Mirdif City Centre
Tel: 04-4341343 Tel: 04-2291441 Tel: 04-2843984
> New York-based photographer Anna Bauer took her camera backstage at the world’s biggest catwalk shows to capture fashion’s main protagonists off-runway. The resultant weighty tome – over 250 pictures – acts as a guide to those in vogue over the course of the past decade. The trendsetters of the past, present and near future. angelikabooks.com - 20 -
H A C K E T T. C O M
E S S E N T I A L LY B R I T I S H
> If you’ve ever fancied yourself as a star of the silver screen – and it’s worthy of note that Morgan Freeman didn’t start acting until he passed his 50th birthday – a new two-day course to be held in Dubai on March 9 and 10 reckons on teaching you all you’ll need to know to become an Oscarwinning superstar. The workshop will be hosted by Kelly Galindo, himself a Hollywood actor, director and, latterly, professor of film acting and directing at the UCLA, widely considered to run the world’s number one film school. Participate and your name will be listed in the official Hollywood film directory, ready for directors to call and cast you... 00971 50 865 6644. - 22 -
How Mad Men advertised If you’re a fan of hit TV show Mad Men you’ll be wanting to own a copy of a new book devoted to the print advertisements of that time. Titled Mid-Century Ads: Advertising from the Mad Men Era, the book paints a fascinating picture of the colourful capitalism that dominated the spirit of the 1950s and 60s, and does so through a wide range of advertising campaigns – selling everything from girdles to guns – that have been digitally mastered to look as they did when they first hit newsstands. taschen.com
> This magnificently cool 1960 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster (Est. $850,000-$1,000,000) lines up for auction with other desirable drives in Florida on March 10 at the annual Amelia Island sale. Alongside it will be a 1956
Ferrari 250 GT Coupe Speciale, one of just four examples built and fully loaded with special-order items. Recently it was voted the world’s Most Elegant Ferrari, and has an estimate of $1,300,000-$1,600,000. rmauctions.com
- 23 -
TIMEPIECES > Another new watch to take its cue from the world of high-speed automobiles – the Bugatti super car in this case – is the Bugatti Type 370. It took everyone’s eye when unveiled by Parmigiani at last month’s Watch and Jewellery Fair in Doha, and is the first watch of its kind to use the revolutionary transverse movement pioneered by Parmigiani. It’s comprised of an 18-carat white gold
> Making its UAE retail debut this month is Swiss brand Armin Strom. They’re the Official Timing Partner of the Marussia Virgin Racing Formula One Team, and their inaugural watches in this region are heavily influenced by that connection – parts of the movement are actually made from pieces of the cars’ engines. In all there are three, hard-wearing watches in this collection: Armin Racing One Week (limited to 40 pieces), Armin Racing Regulator (limited to 100 pieces) and the Armin Racing Chronograph, of which 500 have been made. arminstrom.com
- 25 -
case encrusted with 130 brilliant-cut diamonds and a white mother of pearl dial, that’s held by an Hermès strap. Priced at around the $350,000 mark, only six pieces of the watch have been made. “This is a unique opportunity for the discerning collectors of fine timepieces to own an exclusive masterpiece,” said Jean-Marc Jacot, CEO of Parmigiani. And we agree.
> Abu Dhabi is now home to the Middle East’s inaugural A. Lange & Söhne boutique – one of only six worldwide – the standalone store having opened in the city’s Etihad Towers. Only a few thousand watches leave the Lange workshops each year, making them ripe for collectors, and the Abu Dhabi boutique will house almost the entire collection. Chief amongst it is the exceptional Richard Lange Tourbillon Pour le Mérite Handwerkskunst, of which only 15 exist. alange-soehne.com
TIMEPIECES > If you don’t yet own a pocket watch, Vacheron Constantin’s magnificently elegant addition to its Collection Excellence Platine represents a musttake opportunity to do so. Issued in a limited edition of 50 individually-numbered pieces, this iconic object houses the new mechanical proprietary Calibre 4400, bearing the Hallmark of Geneva, and comes on a platinum-linked chain or blue, calf leather cord. And as with all models in this prestigious collection, the watch is delivered to its owner in a beautiful, ashwood presentation box.
GRACE AND BEAUTY She was the Oscar-winning actress who swapped the silver screen for the throne of Monaco, and with it, the name Grace Kelly for that of Princess Grace. She was a fashion icon, too, a graceful, effortlessly stylish trendsetter whose timeless appeal has now been honoured by the finest craftsmen at Montblanc. Next month they’ll unveil a full range of immaculate, Princess Grace-inspired watches comprised of one-of-a-kind high-jewellery creations and limited edition daywear timepieces (pictured above) fashioned from stainless steel and diamonds, each adorned with a pink sapphire teardrop that marks six on the dial. The unique pieces – of which there are two – are liberally studded with magnificent diamonds – just shy of 1,000 in the case of the flowerinspired Pétales de Rose Motif – and feature Grace Kelly’s monogram on the back. The winding button on each is the Montblanc logo, fashioned from a colourless diamond, while the same iconic symbol features on the stainless steel versions as a mother-of-pearl inlay. montblanc.com
- 26 -
For glassware and glam touches, the head of design at Harrods looks to French brand Lalique For anyone involved in design it is almost impossible not to have a love affair with Paris and be inspired by the romance of all things French. Recently I was fortunate enough to be invited to an exclusive event by one of my adored French brands, Lalique.
Myself and a handful of luxury lifestyle aficionados were transported on a sensorial trip through the French countryside, onboard the magnificent Orient Express to Chateau Deutz. The stunning scenery we passed provided a magical backdrop to the Carnet de Voyage collection, which was being presented on the trip. Once there, I saw new pieces from the spring/summer 2012 collection, including the exquisite amber Bacchantes and matte clear crystal Equus vases. The new collection of perfume bottles was also unveiled, along with some incredible decorative panels, which combined crystal and glass, providing an indulgent way of embellishing integrated lighting or adding a special, tactile feature to walls, flooring or fitted joinery.
Particularly impressive, though, were the speakers with extraordinary acoustic quality designed with creative direction from Lalique and endorsed by Jean Michel Jarre. By combining the craftsmanship of traditional crystal with cutting edge technology the pair achieved a real ‘wow factor’. It was fantastic to experience a range of products from a brand with such incredible heritage; who continue to challenge the boundaries, to continually evolve, and to flourish in such challenging times. It’s for these reasons that Lalique (available at Harrods Home) is a firm favourite of my team and I when putting together those all-important finishing touches to truly luxurious interiors. thestudioatharrods.com
A Lightbulb Moment If you’re seeking an original way to illuminate your home’s finer features, cast your eyes over works by DRIFT. The design studio’s bespoke installations have debuted to rave reviews in international museums – London’s Victoria & Albert, Salone del Mobile Milan and Design Act Moscow among them. But it’s DRIFT’s
residential work (which commonly combines themes of science and nature) that has captured AIR’s attention. Take Flylight (above): 180 glass tubes that form a ‘flock’ of light in a private Moscow residence, inspired by a swarm of bees, flock of birds and school of fish. DRIFT will debut Shylight at Design Days Dubai. - 29 -
DESIGN DAYS DUBAI
18 – 21 March, 2012
Bed Time In our opinion, sleeping never looked quite so stylish as naps taken in Presotto’s Plana bed. Its minimalist frame and sleek lines appear to float above the floor, but its look comes teamed with all the technology required for a good night’s sleep: namely, a built-in, slatted beech base – four slats of which have a tailored resistance to support your shoulders. With craftsmanship like this, blissful shut eye is all but a guarantee. Available exclusively at Presotto Middle East. presottome.com
The Middle East’s first fair for collectible and limited edition design gives collectors the chance to browse top-tier galleries, mingle with designers and invest in unique pieces for the home. AIR takes 5 minutes with its fair director, Cyril Zammit…
Why is now the right time to introduce the event? We believe that with the maturity of the art market, high-end and collectible design is next in line: you cannot set your house up beautifully while ignoring the objects or furniture in it. The galleries and designers represented at the event often work with interior designers and are commissioned to produce unique pieces for private residences as well as offices and hotels. - 30 -
What will it bring to the region’s art scene that doesn’t already exist? New design talent. There is a natural place for design in Dubai – the city has been recognised as creative and forward thinking for several years now – and I see it as a catalyst for regional and international design talents. The first step has been activated with specialised classes in universities and Design Days Dubai will hopefully create a dialogue with the local industries to support young designers to produce locally. I am confident that, with all the assets we have in the UAE, the design scene will grow. For example, I am already hearing about the opening of new design galleries, like La Galerie Nationale which opens on Al Serkal Avenue this month. Some of the world’s top-tier galleries will partake – who should collectors look out for? I would advise collectors to be curious and to ask the gallery representatives about the design that attracts their eye, the process, and the time of production, all from a collecting point of view. Some of those galleries include Milan’s Nilufar for historical and contemporary design and antique Oriental carpets and furniture; Galerie Downtown for Francois Laffanour’s 20th and 21st century art and designs; and Gallery Seomi for Korean contemporary design pieces. Can investors buy then and there? Absolutely, Design Days Dubai is a commercial fair so the designs displayed will be for sale and the prices range from around $600 to $400,000. designdaysdubai.ae
AT BEST: “De Niro can still pull it out of the bag and show
Paul Weitz Based on a true story, Weitz’s portrayal of fathers and sons follows Nick Flynn who, while working in a homeless shelter, discovers his long-absent, ex-con father and wrestles with the notion of reviving their relationship.
This Means War
McG After bringing down enemy nations, two CIA agents – who are also partners and best friends – turn their skills and gadgetry on to one another after falling for the same woman. AT BEST: “Watching really attractive, really charismatic people be funny seldom gets old…” Box Office magazine AT WORST: “This perfectly dreadful romantic action comedy manages to embarrass its three eminently attractive leading players in every scene...” Hollywood Reporter
us those chops that made him such an acclaimed actor.” Empire magazine AT WORST: “If nothing else, the solid cast alone indicates that this flick is one worth keeping an eye out for.” Screenrant
The Turin Horse
Bela Tarr This stark drama begins in 18th century Turin, where the philosopher Nietzsche witnesses a horse being flogged and (after flinging his arms about its neck in protest) retreats into a state of silent madness. AT BEST: “A sumptuous masterpiece by one of the greatest moviemakers of all time.” New York Post AT WORST: “There’s some risibly bad stuff here, too… that even Tarr’s passionate fans will balk at.” Time Out New York
- 32 -
Chris Kentis and Laura Lau Reportedly filmed in one uninterrupted shot, this Englishlanguage version of the original clingto-your-seat Latin horror sees Sarah (Elizabeth Olsen) at the centre of a series of terrifying events while locked in her family’s desolate lake house with no way out… AT BEST: “A genuinely fresh treat for horror fans.” SFX Magazine AT WORST: “You could cynically dismiss it as a churned-out reworking...” Empire magazine
THREE gREaT REasons To FLy To THE MaLdIvEs now.
Free nights, upgrades to half board and seaplane transfers. The spectacular two-island Conrad Maldives Rangali Island boasts the most luxurious villas, two spas and the best dining experience in the Maldives, including Ithaa undersea restaurant, the only one of its kind in the world. Contact us now to book your holiday.
*sTay 7 nIgHTs and pay 6 sTay 5 nIgHTs and pay 4 + FREE upgRadE To HaLF boaRd MEaL pLan book before 31 october stay from 12 May to 31 october 2012
*sTay 7 nIgHTs and pay 6 sTay 5 nIgHTs and pay 4 + FREE upgRadE To HaLF boaRd MEaL pLan + FREE sEapLanE TRansFER book before 31 october stay from 1 august to 31 october 2012
* Terms & Conditions apply. Conrad Maldives Rangali Island For reservations contact MLEHI.firstname.lastname@example.org
The ever-provocative Noam Chomsky, the world’s favourite public intellectual, has a new book, Making the Future. This is the sort of tome which will be bought in its millions – and 90% of the copies will lie untouched and unread on coffee tables across the globe to testify to their owners’ mental prowess. But failing to engage properly with this latest release – in which, as the publishers say, Chomsky “takes on a wide range of hot-button issues including the ongoing financial crisis, Obama’s presidency, the limits of the two-party system, nuclear Iran, Afghanistan, IsraelPalestine, corporate power, and the future of American politics” – would be a mistake. As John Stickney of the New York Times says, “How Chomsky thinks, and what he covers in this collection, engages readers not to leave to anybody but themselves the task of making the future.” When it comes to fiction, there have been rave reviews of new release The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan. It tells the tale, says The National, of “the Empress Alexandra... en route from London to New York in the summer of 1914 when it sinks due to an explosion. Newlyweds Grace and Henry Winter are aboard when disaster strikes and Henry, a wealthy banker, manages to secure a place for his
wife on one of the ship’s lifeboats, but isn’t so fortunate himself...” But that is only the start of Grace’s problems. As the novel begins we find out that she has been placed on trial for her actions during the three weeks she spent adrift on the lifeboat, with a question mark hanging over how she survived while many of her fellow passengers didn’t. Writing in The Bookseller, Alice O’Keeffe revels in the textured, multi-layered moral tale. “As Grace narrates her story it becomes apparent her memory of events may be flawed, to say the least”, she says “and the truth of what actually happened remains hazy. There are tiny clues throughout The Lifeboat that things may not have been exactly as Grace chooses to remember, and this uncertainty is likely to provoke heated discussion within reading groups.” This “gripping debut novel” as Hilary Claire O’Hagan of The National describes it, is a seriously compulsive read. Another one for your bookshelf or your Kindle is The Prisoner of Paradise by Romesh Gunesekera. It’s a tale set in Mauritius, where young Englishwoman Lucy arrives in 1825. As Bloomsbury says, this a time when “the age of slavery is coming to its messy end. Word is lapping against the shores of the island – of revolts in Europe and the Americas, and of a charismatic new Indian leader who will shine the light of liberty. For Lucy... for everyone on the island, a devastating storm is coming...” Writing in The Independent, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown was won over. “Gunesekera could, but hasn’t quite managed to, write an epic on imperialism”, she says. “The novel, though, is a terrific read: pacey, political, moral, atmospheric and, yes, definitely romantic.”
- 34 -
Until April 16, the Louvre in Paris has an intriguing exhibition entitled New Frontier: American Art Enters the Louvre. Working in conjunction with museums in Georgia and Arkansas, the exhibition shows off examples of the Hudson River School and is centered around the work of 19th century painter Thomas Cole. The Louvre got its first painting by Cole in 1975, The Cross in the Wilderness, and the other pictures on display share the same lush, grandiose depictions of breathtaking untouched landscapes. It’s just a small exhibition but it’s already making a big impact among the city’s art aficionados. As Eric Bietry-Rivierre of Le Figaro says, these new paintings “truly enrich” the Louvre’s collection, in particlarly “the first representation of the Last of the Mohicans, the famous novel by James Fenimore Cooper, on a panel which originally adorned the main cabin of a steamboat.” In London, meanwhile, the Hayward Gallery is playing host to a major exhibition by British artist David Shrigley, much-loved for his amusing works (you’ll no
doubt have seen his stuffed animals holding picket signs saying “I’m dead”). The exhibition, claim the organisers, covers “the full range of Shrigley’s diverse practice. This extends far beyond drawing to include photography, books, sculpture, animation, painting and music.” So what do the critics make of it? Ben Luke of the Evening Standard gave it a thumbs-up, saying “On the whole this is a wonderful show. Shrigley’s works are silly, scrappy, hilarious, often macabre, but more often than not they possess a profundity and wisdom many artists crave.” The Observer’s Laura Cumming thinks that “Shrigley deserves his immense popularity. For almost 20 years he has produced a ceaseless stream of ideas, observations, jokes and strange insights in the form of left-field drawings”. However, she warns, “Some of the jokes fall flat, while others repeat a trope. The wall paintings are hopeless: tiny ideas vastly overinflated; in general, the longer Shrigley’s films, the less they succeed. But the ratio of hits to duds
- 36 -
is very high, and the show is expertly installed, with a very mordant final room and an accompanying catalogue featuring a droll dialogue between the artist and the author Dave Eggers.” Finally, in the Big Apple, there’s The Renaissance Portrait from Donatello to Bellini, showing at the Met, which promises to “bring together approximately 160 works – by artists including Donatello, Filippo Lippi, Botticelli... Mantegna, Giovanni Bellini, and Antonello da Messina, and in media ranging from painting and manuscript illumination to marble sculpture and bronze medals.” But is it any good? Ken Johnson of The New York Times thinks so, describing it as “a magisterial, intensely thoughtprovoking display.” And his pick of the painting crop? “A lovely, bust-length portrait painted by Francesco Francia in 1510 [which] pictures a winsome, long-haired boy of 10 named Federigo Gonzaga. Dressed in a black gown over a white chemise and sporting a jauntily tilted cap and a bejeweled gold necklace, he holds the pommel of a sword and gazes dreamily off to his left.” Put it in your diary.
Images: Untitled, 2011, David Shrigley and Yvon Lambert
Images: Jeff Busby, National Theatre
Chicago’s welcoming Provision Theatre on 1001 W Roosevelt Rd is the home of an excellent comedy, The Foreigner, a classic piece of farce. In this amusing tale, as the Chicago Stage Review describes it, “Charlie Baker – a proof reader by day and a boring husband by night – adopts the persona of a foreigner who doesn’t understand English. When others begin to speak freely around him, he not only becomes privy to secrets both dangerous and frivolous, he also discovers an adventurous extrovert within himself.” Time Out Chicago is impressed, describing how the play’s “large cast of cartoonish, mostly one-dimensional characters, positive pro-tolerance message and gentle farcical humor make for a wholesome and agreeable piece of family theater... The subsequent antics yield predictable, lighthearted fun, but it’s Alex Goodrich as the daft boy Ellard who becomes this Foreigner’s regular scene-stealer.” At the National Theatre, on London’s South Bank, meanwhile, they are laying on a rather grand production of classic, centuries-old play She Stoops to Conquer.
Described as “One of the great, generous-hearted and ingenious comedies of the English language”, She Stoops to Conquer offers “a celebration of chaos, courtship and the dysfunctional family.” Charles Spencer, theatre critic of the Daily Telegraph, is a big fan. “The play, first staged in 1773, is a marvel, a comedy almost entirely bereft of malice, but one that never seems twee, sentimental or bland” he says. “The wonderfully ingenious plot, in which the hero, Marlow, mistakes a private house for an inn, the woman he is supposed to be wooing for a barmaid, and his future father-in-law for the landlord, raises all kinds of questions about class and snobbery. But unlike the vicious Restoration comedies of a century earlier, in Goldsmith’s dramatic world affection, good humour and romance prevail.” A real treat, which will be showing until April 1. On the other side of the globe, down under at the MTC Sumner Theatre in Melbourne, you’ll find much-praised production Tribes, which won a 2011 Olivier Award nomination for best new play. It’s a “sharp-jabbing comedy about how families communicate”, says the theatre. “Around this family’s table, conversation is a no-holdsbarred struggle for attention... Father, mother, brother and sister fling opinions, arguments and insults around and no one pays much attention to the damage it might cause. And no one pays much attention to Billy, the youngest son, watching it all in silence, not hearing a word but getting the message.” Elly Verrenti, writing in The Sydney Morning Herald, recommends a visit, saying “Playwright Nina Raine is good at cracking open often hilarious but progressively tragic collisions of ideology and loyalty between tribes, while drawing on an intriguing blend of speech, sign language and subtitling. There is rarely a dull moment.” Writing in the Herald Sun, Kate Herbert expresses some reservations but says the play is “directed capably by Julian Meyrick [and] features dynamic, hilarious or moving scenes and cunningly written, witty dialogue.” Well worth a visit if you’re in town.
- 37 -
THE CHAMP AND I
The remarkable tale of the unlikely friendship between a besotted fan and the greatest fighter of all time WORDS: PAUL BROWN
- 38 -
uhammad Ali is a fast driver. He guns the Stutz Bearcat along Wilshire Boulevard, swinging in and out of busy traffic. Pedestrians point and wave, and Ali lifts his hands from the steering wheel to throw shadow punches in their direction. Stopped at a red, a driver leans from his car window and shouts, “Hey Ali – you’re the greatest!” Ali bites down on his Louisville lip and offers the driver a comic grimace. Then, as the light turns, the man they call The Champ hits the gas. It’s 1984, and Ali is driving the Bearcat from his mansion in LA’s Hancock Park into Hollywood to find a place to eat. And Ali is hungry. In the back seat, Ali’s manservant Abdel Kader is being thrown around, and his face is turning pale under his silver hair. “Do not go so fast!” he yells at Ali. “You’ll kill us all!” This only serves to encourage Ali, who offers a huge grin and floors the pedal, throwing Abdel back into his leather seat. Riding shotgun next to Ali is Russ Routledge, a 26-yearold British Telecom engineer from Newcastle upon Tyne. An Ali fanatic, he has only been in the US for a few hours, and only properly met his idol this afternoon. With a grin as wide as his home city’s Tyne Bridge, Russ’s problems back in England could not be further from his mind. “Please slow down!” yells Abdel. “Russ must go home to his family alive!” Russ just laughs. He is in Hollywood with Muhammad Ali. This is like a dream. If he does end up wrapped around a palm tree in Ali’s sportscar, he reckons, it will be one hell of a way to die. He puts his arm around Ali’s broad shoulders. “Go faster, Champ,” says Russ. Abdel shoots Russ a look of amazement and yells, “Please do not encourage him! You’ll make him worse!” Eventually, Ali parks up outside a Burger King and climbs out of the car. He’s 42 now, three years retired, still fit and working out, but his face a little more rounded than it was in his heyday, his body a little fuller. He’s wearing a black open-neck silk shirt and smart black pants. He still looks great – he would say pretty – and, of course, he is instantly recognisable. A group of kids chants, “Ali! Ali!” The Champ waves them over and signs autographs. Inside the restaurant, everyone wants to meet him. He patiently shakes hands and signs his name for every one. Then he orders two burgers, fries and a large Coke for himself, and buys meals for Russ and Abdel. The three men squeeze into a booth, Russ bagging the seat next to his hero. Ali takes one of his burgers from its cardboard container and demolishes it, then spreads his fries across his plastic meal tray and douses them in ketchup.
“Hey Champ,” says Russ, “I’m eating a Burger King with the Boxing King...” Ali just pushes a handful of fries into his mouth and pulls a fight face. As The Champ’s hand reaches for more fries – this hand that has floored Liston and Patterson and Foreman – if Russ looked carefully, if he wasn’t so completely caught up in his moment with the Greatest of All Time, he would detect a faint tremble.
n the summer of 1972, when Russ Routledge was 14, he decided to become a boxer. He began by joining the West End club in his hometown of Newcastle upon Tyne, a gym with a tough reputation but an impressive track record. Met with broken noses and bravado, he was immediately thrown into the ring. Russ took a few beatings and then, in his third week, he came up against the club’s best fighter. Within seconds, Russ was laid out on the canvas, flat on his back, unconscious, and – he says – daydreaming about Muhammad Ali. Over the next few years, Russ rarely left the club without a black eye or a split lip. Growing in confidence, he began to ape Ali’s style in the ring, dancing on the balls of his feet, talking jive to his opponents, playing up to the spectators. “Dancing, talking and playing up to the crowd was great. I loved that,” he says. “But being punched in the head was something I never took a liking too.” Trouble was, every time he watched Ali fight, Russ was drawn back into the ring. In October 1974, he sat in Newcastle’s Odeon cinema and watched a closed circuit live screening of the Rumble in the Jungle, as Ali’s rope-a-dope antics defeated George Foreman. The next day, Russ was back at the club, reciting Ali-style poems in the ring, and being popped on the nose for his efforts. In December 1974, Russ got to see his idol in the flesh. Joe Bugner was boxing Argentinean veteran Alberto Lovell at the Albert Hall, and Ali was guest of honour. The fight was a farce, stopped in the second round, with Lovell no match at all for Bugner. The angry crowd bayed and booed, and it seemed that the place could be torn apart. Then Ali leapt onto the ring apron, tossing his jacket and tie aside, and began flicking jabs at Bugner. As the crowd’s boos turned to cheers, Ali’s minders hurriedly pulled The Champ away, and bundled him for the exit. Russ scrambled down from his seat and, as Ali passed, he grabbed The Champ’s thick arm – and held on tight as the entourage moved through the chaotic venue and outside towards a waiting limousine. “Hey, lay off The Champ’s arm, man!” shouted a minder. Russ obliged, Ali was pushed into the limo, and the car drove off into the night. Then, in July 1977, Muhammad Ali visited Newcastle on an unlikely four-day trip to raise money for local boys’ clubs. On the first morning of the visit, Ali turned up
- 39 -
at Russ’s new boxing club, Grainger Park. Russ lined up alongside his fellow amateur boxers and watched with amazement as the reigning WBA/WBC Heavyweight Champion of the World, wearing a smart brown suit and crisp white shirt, entered the club, surrounded by photographers and minders. Ali worked his way along the line of wannabes, joshing and sparring as he went. “Can you box?” Ali asked one of the kids. “Oranges or cigars?” One young lad overenthusiastically landed a sparring punch in Ali’s stomach. “Cool it!” Ali laughed. Then Ali approached Russ, who swallowed his nerves, puffed out his chest, and stepped forward: “Muhammad Ali, I have a poem for you!” shouted Russ, placing a hand on The Champ’s shoulder and offering his best Ali impersonation. “I welcome you here to my town / With your heavyweight boxing crown / Oh great one, enjoy your stay / We will all enjoy this memorable day / God save the Queen and Allah save the King / Because you are the king of all rings!” Russ admits it was “a little corny”, but Ali seemed impressed, adopting his boxing stance, throwing a few punches, then grinning and saying, “You genuinely sounded like me.” And then, before Russ could say anything else, in a blaze of camera flashes, The Champ was gone. Over the next few years, Russ wrote scores of letters to Ali, often receiving personal replies, with The Champ writing that he hoped the pair would meet again soon. Russ continued to impersonate Ali, at local clubs, in talent shows, and, on one occasion, on national TV. But Ali’s career was on the wane. After defeats to Larry Holmes in 1980 and Trevor Berbick in 1981, Ali retired to his new gated community mansion in Los Angeles. In 1984 he was diagnosed with the early stages of Parkinson’s Syndrome.
Russ, meanwhile, was happy in his new job – until a moment of madness threatened to derail everything. Deciding to drive home one evening after having a drink, Russ ploughed straight across the middle of a roundabout, in plain sight of a police car. He needed his driving licence for work, and spent much of 1984 awaiting a court appearance that would probably mean the loss of his job. Distraught, he wrote another letter to Ali, detailing his situation, and reiterating his desire to properly meet his hero. One evening that October, Russ settled down at his mother’s house to watch a rare treat. A friend had given him a pirated copy of the Rumble in the Jungle on video tape – ten years to the month since Russ had watched the fight live from the Odeon cinema. Pretty much from the first bell, Ali was taking a pummelling. Foreman’s power had Ali against the ropes, but Ali was soaking it up, talking to Foreman, telling him, “Hit harder! Is that all you got?” Midway through the fifth round, as Foreman began to visibly weaken, and Ali’s tactics began to pay dividends, the telephone rang. “Russell!” shouted his mother. “Come quick! Muhammad Ali is on the phone!”
That camera looks kinda cheap. You sure you’re gettin’ this down?” Ali is sitting behind a desk in his study, looking into a huge Betamax camcorder. “I hired it in Newcastle,” Russ tells him from behind the lens. “It cost a hundred pounds for a week.” “It looks like it cost a pound,” says Ali. “Does it weigh a pound? How long does the tape last? You could make a major movie like Gone with the Wind!” “This is so the people back home believe me,” says Russ. “I told you! I told you I was going to see Muhammad Ali!” “He’s not lyin’,” says Ali. “He’s here, and this man talkin’ is Muhammad Ali. They say we all look alike, but not that much alike. Russ is too great a fan –he knows one from another. Russ is not a dumb as he looks. He’s kinda pretty. He’s a little thin on top – maybe he needs a toupee, ‘cause his head outshines the sun.” Russ is proudly wearing a flat cap that Ali has bought him to protect his head from the LA rays. It’s only a few days since Ali’s phone call. (“When you comin’ over to visit me? How about Monday?”) Russ arrived in a limousine after an airport pick-up driver heard where he was headed and insisted on meeting The Champ. Ali greeted Russ with hugs and coffee. “Russ is a good fella,” Ali tells the camera. “I get thousands of letters, but something about his letter was so great I had to call him up. And he showed up right there on the porch. He knocked on my window. I said, this man is
- 41 -
- 42 -
serious. I know he ain’t crazy. Or he might be crazy... But he came all the way to see me, so I had to take him into my home, feed him, give him a bed. Every day we’re gonna tour the city, meet the people, and I want him to know that he’s the greatest fan of all times. But I asked you how much you gonna pay me for this interview?” Russ laughs and says, “This is free!” “Then I gotta poem for you,” says Ali. “I love your camera / I admire your style / But your pay’s so cheap / Don’t come back for a while! Now let’s take a break, and a word from Joe Frazier...” Ali’s seven-bedroom Italian Renaissance home stands on one and a half acres of land, with separate servants’ quarters, and a full-size swimming pool. It’s filled with marble and mahogany, and decorated with gold leaf embellishments and silk wall coverings. Russ has seen the place onscreen – Ali allowed Sylvester Stallone to use it in Rocky III – but to see it in person is something else. At the top of the marble staircase is Ali’s trophy room, filled with display cases containing belts and trophies and gloves and robes. One of the robes, with the words People’s Choice jewel-sequinned on the back, was famously given to Ali by Elvis. Ali photographs Russ next to the robe, and then takes his WBC belt in his big hands and puts it around Russ’s waist. “I can’t explain how delighted I am to be wearing this,” says Russ. Ali just says, “You don’t need to explain anythin’.” The Champ spends much of his day-to-day time sat behind his desk dealing with fan mail. Even in retirement, he receives 20 or 30 letters from around the world every day. Ali says his wife Veronica is away on a modelling assignment, but his young daughters Hana and Laila are running around the place, playing with friends. The few moments of peace are broken by a couple of tropical birds on the veranda squawking, “Hana! Hana! Hana!” Ali enjoys the interruptions of his daughters, picking them up for hugs and kisses as they pass. He is less enamoured with the birds, imploring Abdel to shut the damn things up. Among the mail is a package containing photos from a recent Hall of Fame event. Ali studies them carefully. “These are pictures taken with my friend George Foreman,” he says. Ali explains that he considers all of his former opponents to be friends. Then he writes a letter to Yusuf Islam, the singer formerly known as Cat Stevens, about his plans for promoting the Muslim faith. “Now that I’m no longer boxin’ I work for Allah,” he says. He goes upstairs to pray five times a day, alone and in silence, save for the squawking of the birds. And each day he drives to a small gym in Santa Monica, changes into a
- 43 -
full-length plastic sweat-suit, and thumps away at a heavy bag. He moves to a speed bag and rattles off a countless series of rhythmical jabs, then climbs into the ring for 15 minutes of sparring. To Russ, Ali looks just as powerful and toned at 42 as he did ten years earlier. There are no visible signs that boxing has damaged him. No squashed nose, no swollen eyes, not a mark on his face. As Ali trains, the clocks are rolled back. When he climbs from the ring and heads for the changing rooms everyone in the gym applauds. There is a regular stream of visitors at Ali’s home. Jimmy Ellis, the former heavyweight champion who fought and was knocked out by Ali in 1971, comes to pay his respects. He has been concerned by media reports about Ali’s health, but Ali assures him he is fine. A neighbour’s kid brings a friend over for autographs. And a photographer shoots pictures of The Champ around the mansion. “Who are these for?” asks Ali, as he holds boxing poses on the steps of his porch. “For me,” says the photographer. “To remember you.” Ali tires as the day goes on. He has given so much of himself to every visitor, and his speech becomes drawn and his eyelids heavy. Abdel suggests a walk in the grounds, but Ali says he is going to sleep for a couple of hours. Although Russ had been worried by reports in the British press about Ali’s health, The Champ’s demeanour has quickly eased any fears. If Ali has any concerns he doesn’t show them. He is too busy living his life, looking for new ways to enjoy it. When Ali heads upstairs, Abdel takes Russ on a tour of the grounds. Abdel’s devotion to The Champ is obvious. He tells Russ he never wants Ali to enter a boxing ring again, even in fun. Then Abdel says that Ali and Veronica are getting divorced. He says that Ali doesn’t talk about it, that he is tired of being asked the same questions over and over again. He wants new topics to talk about, Abdel says. He is even tired of the same old questions about boxing. But after his nap Ali bounds into his study fully refreshed, dancing on tip-toes, throwing jabs, biting on his bottom lip, and talking up a comeback against the reigning WBA heavyweight champion. “I’ll fight Coetzee, and they’ll pay me ten million dollars!” he says. “It has all been agreed! I have now returned!” Ali loves magic. He has a fishing tackle box full of magic tricks, and shows Russ disappearing handkerchiefs and multiplying balls. Then Ali levitates. With his feet pushed together, he lifts his arms, and the soles of his shoes slowly raise a couple of inches from the ground. He floats like that butterfly for a moment, then gently returns to Earth. It’s a neat trick, and a simple one. Ali immediately shows Russ how it’s done. “I always like to reveal how I do my
tricks,” says Ali. “My religion dictates that I should never deceive people.” Then Ali says he wants to show Russ his favourite magic shop on Hollywood. Ali parks the Bearcat right outside the shop, and is immediately surrounded by a crowd of around 30 fans, jostling to shake his hand and get photos and autographs. Ali patiently attends to all of them. Two police officers come over to see what’s going on. “Hey officers,” grins Ali, gesturing at the crowd, “I might have some trouble here!” Inside the shop, the assistant shows Ali a range of new tricks, but Ali just buys some handkerchiefs with the false thumbs that facilitate their disappearance. He pushes a wizard’s hat onto Russ’s head and takes a photo, then poses wearing a set of plastic vampire teeth. Outside, as Ali climbs back into the car, a grey-haired woman with a European accent leans through the open window and says, “You look beautiful!” Ali takes her hand and kisses it. He shifts the car into drive and pulls away from the kerb. Someone from the crowd shouts, “You’ve lost weight!” Ali seems to consider this comment for a moment, then studies himself in the rear-view mirror, running a hand over his jawline. “See how I draw the people?” he tells Russ. “I’m still the greatest.” Russ stays with Ali for a week. In the mornings Ali makes Russ breakfast, and in the evenings the pair watch television. When a news bulletin shows footage of picket line violence at a British pit, Ali asks Russ about the ongoing miners’ strike. He seems fascinated and concerned as Russ does his best to explain the situation. Then Russ tells Ali about his driving disqualification, and his fear of losing his job. “I’ve told them that if they don’t give me my licence back I’m gonna get Muhammad Ali to come over and whup them!” jokes Russ. Ali thinks for a moment, then says, “I’m not comin’ to whup ‘em, but I’ll tell you this: you love society, you love humanity, and for that reason they shouldn’t give you your licence back, but they should give you a Rolls Royce and a chauffeur.” At the end of the week, Ali has to fly to Baltimore for an engagement. Russ is invited along, but his leave from work is almost up. “You’ve been great, and you’ll have to come back another day,” says Ali. “But before then I’m gonna come to England, and I want you to give me a bedroom and you feed me like I’ve been feedin’ you.” He chews on that Louisville lip. “Tell your wife I want some chicken and corn.”
- 44 -
1. 2. 3. 4. 5.
Russ and Ali, 1984. Ali, gagged, 1963. Ali v Liston, 1964. Ali awaits his opponent, 1974. Ali poses, 2001.
‘I get thousands of letters, but something about his letter was so great I had to call him up. And he showed up right there on the porch’
Images: Corbis / Arabian Eye, Getty / Gallo Images
fter the visit to LA, both Ali and Abdel called Russ regularly. Russ spent ten days with The Champ in London in 1986, around the Bruno-Witherspoon fight. He met Don King and Yusuf Islam, and – with the hotel fully booked – ended up sharing Ali’s bed. “Either we both sleep on the floor or we both sleep on the bed,” Ali said. “Which is it gonna be?” Three years later, Ali introduced Russ to George Foreman and Joe Frazier at a videotape launch, and later Russ flew to Atlantic City to spend more time with his idol. In 1993, with The Champ in London to promote a book, Russ asked Ali why Abdel had stopped calling him. Ali leaned close and whispered, “Abdel died.” That was the last time Russ spoke to Ali. The Champ’s health was deteriorating, and his affairs were being handled by others. It became impossible to contact him. But, in 2005, Russ travelled to Louisville to the opening of the Muhammad Ali Center. He chatted with Ali’s brother and daughters, and with Angelo Dundee and David Frost. And then Ali arrived, struggling to walk but refusing assistance, in a blaze of flashlights and applause and chants of “Ali! Ali Ali!” Russ didn’t push his way through the crowd, didn’t fight to get his attention. He’d had his time with his hero. Instead he stood back and soaked up the reactions of those around him. As Ali passed by, Russ said, to no-one but himself, “Thanks so much, Champ, for all the fabulous times you gave me.” Today, Russ lives in a flat in Newcastle surrounded by a horde of Ali memorabilia. His Betamax footage has been transferred to DVD. “Great memories to have,” he says as he watches the disc. Onscreen his friend Muhammad Ali, young and pretty, smiles at the camera, a mischievous sparkle in his eyes. “Tell all my fans,” says Ali, “God bless all of them. Thank them for the years of support. Tell them I’m not through. Tell them I shall return. Tell them I’m still the greatest of all times.”
- 47 -
Why Art Dubai Matters Art Dubai returns for its sixth showcase this month, but what does it mean for the emirate? AIR gets to the heart of the matter with its fair director, Antonia Carver
- 48 -
eventy-four galleries, 32 participating countries and 500 artists – at first glance, art aficionados certainly have cause to cast an eagle eye over Dubai’s biggest art festival. Its 2012 offering kick starts on March 21 at the Madinat Jumeirah, cueing a four-day event that will place international and home-grown works under the spotlight. But the UAE’s most sparkling sibling isn’t one to shy away from events – and the bigger the better. Which begs the question, is this just another date on Dubai’s already fit-to-burst social calendar, or does Art Dubai really matter? “Art Dubai not only puts Dubai in the spotlight as a cultural capital, and promotes the 40-plus galleries that are based here, the growing community of artists, and the history of Emirati art, but also illustrates Dubai’s role as a hub – for the Middle East, South Asia, and increasingly, for other parts of Asia and Africa,” observes the fair’s director, Antonia Carver. “There are art fairs all over the world, that’s true, but Art Dubai acts a little differently: it has become the leading art fair for the MENASA (Middle East, North Africa, South Asia).” And the proof is in the participators: “Last year we
proved a career catalyst for regional talent. “There are many examples of artists from the region being taken on by international galleries, and shown in international biennales and major museum exhibitions,” she says, “and many curators and museum directors actually use Art Dubai to scout for new talent. “I couldn’t say that Art Dubai is the only factor, but it definitely plays a central role in promoting artists from the region – around half of the 500 artists shown in the fair are from the Middle East and South Asia.” One such artist is Hassan Sharif – aka the ‘father of conceptual art’ – whose works previously slipped under the art world’s radar, despite putting paintbrush to canvas since the 1970s. “This was the case until the art boom of the past few years,” Antonia recollects. “Hassan has shown at Art Dubai, both within artists’ projects, and with local galleries, but this year he will be showing with Alexander Gray Associates, a prestigious New York gallery, having just had his first solo show in the USA with the same gallery. They discovered his work at Art Dubai.” So has this rise of local artists turned critics’ heads to the Middle
‘the growth of the arts sector in Dubai in general is one of the great unsung stories of the Gulf...’
welcomed over 60 leading museums groups – everyone was there, from MoMA in New York, to London’s Tate, to the Hong Kong Museum.” While the event brings together global talent (it credits the likes of Chantal Crousel, Paris, Grey Noise, Lahore, Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York to its existing base and Berlin’s Arndt, London’s The Pace Gallery and Mumbai’s Galerie Mirchandani + Steinruecke among its new recruits) – Antonia believes it has
- 49 -
East? Antonia thinks so: “We set out to be the place where the art world was most obviously global in scope – a place where it was recognised that the art world is as relevant from Beijing, Bangalore or Beirut as it is London, Paris, New York,” she says. “Nowadays, the art world has definitely woken up to this fact – and Art Dubai offers them the chance to connect with an incredibly diverse make-up of galleries and artists, as well as collectors, curators and arts
and a larger-than-ever turnout anticipated this year, the future appears bright. So, where does Art Dubai go from here? “There is a huge amount of potential for the future,” ponders Antonia. “Dubai has emerged as an Asian art capital alongside Hong Kong; Art Dubai is growing rapidly, but we’re determined to keep its intimate, bespoke feel – this is a place where you meet the right people, see fantastic art that you don’t see elsewhere, and have time and space to take it all in.”
ONES TO WATCH Art Dubai’s fair director Antonia Carver tips a trio of talented names for collectors MARIANNE BOESKY GALLERY This year, Pier Paolo Calzolari (b. 1943, Bologna) is showing with this major New York gallery. This is an ‘artworld artist’ – works are not ‘pretty’ as such, but hugely important within art history – a star of the Italian Arte Povera movement, and part of the permanent display of museums like Tate Modern. In the 1960s-70s, he began attaching objects to canvases, looking to broaden what he saw as the merely descriptive medium of painting. He worked with chemicals, neon, melting ice, mattresses. For a domestic collector to own one of these works is like creating your own personal museum and a slice of art history.
PLATFORM CHINA GALLERY It’s the first time this gallery is attending Art Dubai and it’s bringing a great selection of upcoming and established Chinese artists. Aniwar is a brilliant abstract painter: he’s escaped the fashionable bubble of so much contemporary Chinese art, and instead is quietly rising to international prominence. His canvases definitely fit the mould of being works that are very ‘liveable’ while also being a great investment, potentially in financial terms, and definitely in terms of contemporary Chinese cultural life.
RUNNING HORSE CONTEMPORARY ARTSPACE Hailing from Beirut, this gallery not only has perhaps the best name of our 2012 galleries but is also the youngest gallery in this year’s roster. They are showing two young, upcoming stars: Hiba Kalache, with a work that consists of 60 small frames, each with text and painting, that together make up an emotional statement, and Alfred Tarazi, whose political collage works are starting to make a lot of noise internationally. Both are definitely ones to watch.
- 50 -
Images: 1. Birdprayers (Istanbul), Arya Pandjalu and Sara Nuytemas; 2. Ibn Arabi, Moataz Nasr; 3. A Nation’s Inflation, Alfred Tarazi; 4. Reveal the Secrets That you Seek, Bharti Kher; 5. Metropolis of Mirage, Jagannath Panda; 6. Salt Burner, Pier Paolo Calzolari; 7. Untitled, Aniwar; 8. Streets of the City, William Kentridge and Marguerite Stephens.
professionals. That is invaluable in today’s art world.” Indeed, attention has grown in every direction – some 20,000 visitors arrived last year (from art enthusiasts to die-hard collectors), while gallery participation has risen to 75 from 40 at the first Art Dubai show in 2007. It’s a success that makes good sense to Antonia: “We knew that there was a great thirst in the region for a contemporary art meeting point like this, but the growth of the arts sector in Dubai in general is one of the great unsung stories of the Gulf – Dubai is now the regional centre for art commerce, with more international galleries than anywhere else in the Gulf.” For the collectors among you, the opportunities to invest in artworks are plentiful. “Each gallery mounts an exhibition – anything from a single installation to a major show of 40 works – and all works are for sale, with prices ranging from $1,000 to over $1 million,” notes Antonia. “The galleries are open to discussing the work and prices, and we also provide curator and advisor-led tours, and collectors can specify particular areas or styles they’re interested in.” When it comes to the question of what to invest in, her advice is simple: “Buy from the heart. Buy something that you will want to live with and pass down the family.” From a more practical standpoint, though, Antonia tips Middle Eastern and South Asian art as a “safe asset”: “At the height of the boom, some Iranian art commentators were observing that work by young Iranian artists had gone up by 200-300%. There are young artists from the Middle East, Asia and Africa coming up all the time, making great, affordable work; if you catch them early in their career, and follow their work, buying in depth, you could end up with a seminal collection that you can live with on your walls at home, and that can appreciate for you.” With new highlights (“from commissioned artists’ projects to performances, talks and workshops”)
WORDS: FABIÁN W. WAINTAL
- 52 -
By George Late last year we spent a full weekend with George Clooney in Toronto. Starting out on a Friday afternoon and talking about movies before that night attending the exclusive premiere – red carpet and all – of his Oscar-nominated flick The Descendants. The very next day we’d meet again over lunch. “You must be tired of me” he said, smiling. And of course, he was wrong.
- 53 -
What are the biggest changes that you see in your job, since you started your career as an actor? I grew up on live TV. Working around it and being around it. I just thought that live TV was an interesting place and if you’re going to start to push the envelope in television, it might be going backwards and doing things live. It seemed to be interesting. It was certainly a challenge. I was more nervous doing that than anything I’ve ever done.
Was it easier to become a movie star, just because you were already a TV star? How difficult was that transition or evolution from TV to movies? Even though I was on some crappy TV shows, I was really bad; I can’t just make fun of the shows. You always think of yourself as a film actor. As a film actor, I just happen to be doing this crappy TV show right now and soon I’ll have this great film career that I actually wasn’t having. There’s a period of time where you’re just trying to get a job. Then you have to get lucky. ER was lucky. We were going to be on Friday Night at 10pm and we wouldn’t have done a third of the numbers that we did on Thursday night at 10pm. That’s luck. When they talk about numbers now, ratings, 17 million people for a show, we were doing 35, 40, 45 million people a week. Immediately I went from obscurity to being able to get a film. I wasn’t able to before.
But didn’t you look for movie roles before ER? Was it really luck that you became one of the most important movie stars? I auditioned a lot and I didn’t get them. That was luck that had very little to do with me. I was the same actor I was in Bodies of Evidence when I was reading two lines in a film and then things change. You start to realise how you have to take responsibility for the roles - because you’re going to be held responsible for the whole movie. If your name is on it and sort of above the title, then you have to actually pay attention not only to just your part, but to the film. I got a good couple of lessons with some not great films. And then I realised if I’m going to be held responsible, then I better pay attention to the films - and that’s when things changed.
What was that time in your career where you thought that you had to pay less attention to million dollar salaries and more attention to quality? I had a pretty good run right after with Out of Sight and Three Kings and Oh Brother, Where Art Thou. I was like, “Oh I get it, I have to work with really good film makers on really good screen plays.” It makes a big difference.
- 54 -
Do you get involved in the middle of the box office competition with the movies that might make less or more money than yours?
sure it does by keeping the price down, but the truth is, I want to make things that people remember. If you’re able to do 5 or 10 of those that last, then you win - unless somebody steps on your colonoscopy bag (laughs).
In general, I want to do projects that last longer than an opening weekend. I want to be able to say, when they do that thing for you when you are 75 and they bring you out in a wheel chair and you have that colonoscopy bag hanging on the side. You don’t want them to say, “Well, you had 20 films that opened number one.” Who gives a shit? Honestly, motion picture is an art form that costs millions of dollars, so I understand it has to make money and I want to make
And how do you feel about competing with yourself? Recently The Ides of March and The Descendants were released close to one another? I find it that it’s a very odd thing to think of competition when you are talking about what I still consider art. I don’t really think of it as competing. I don’t ever think
- 55 -
- 56 -
Well, George Clooney likes to talk about himself in 3rd person (laughs). I’ve always enjoyed that. I don’t like to think in those terms. You always have to separate yourself from the other. This is just a well-written part and it’s just a good director that whatever he says, you do... so it made it easy as an actor. I didn’t have to think as a director at all about working with him. I could put myself in his hands.
Who gave you the best directorial advice? Before I did my first film I read Sidney Lumet’s book on directing which is really helpful. It teaches you shortcut tricks like set the very first shot you shoot. Set it even if it’s something you’ll never use in the film, set it to one take, cut, move on, print, move on - and everybody in the crew and everybody in the cast just sits up and gets nervous
‘You try to compete with people and then you realise that that’s silly, we’re comparing artists and I don’t understand that’ of competing with actors or filmmakers at all. You do compete, in a way, with the box office, but I’m not concerned with that either. We wanted both films to be well-liked. We try to make films for people, the films we like to see. They are not easy to make. You need to keep the budget low to get them made. But, at the end of the day, I don’t really worry about competition because I don’t really think of it that way. I don’t feel like I’m in a race with anybody. That would really be a drag.
because they think, “Oh this could happen really quickly,” and it changes the chemistry on the set. I thought that was very helpful, especially for a first-time director. But it doesn’t hurt to watch some of his films. I think Network is a masterpiece. I think he had probably as good a decade as anybody, but he’s a 70s films director.
One question about The Descendants: Who did you base the character of the father you play in the movie on, knowing that you don’t have any children? Or do you know something we don’t?
That’s a harsh thing to ask (laughs). Again, I’ve won an award once, so when I die they’ll say ‘Oscar winner’ - it’s a great sort of thing to have on your tombstone... but other than that, to me, I really like it when people appreciate the work I do. I enjoy good reviews as much as I enjoy bad reviews, and I enjoy people celebrating the work. I really don’t have this dying need to collect things. There’s a point in time where you start in this and you do get competitive. You can get caught up in it. You try to compete with people and then you realise that that’s silly, we’re comparing artists and I don’t understand that. I don’t remember who won the Oscar four years ago, or five years ago or what director won. I remember films. I watched Network and that was the year, 1976, that it was Bound for Glory, Network, All the President’s Men, Rocky, and Taxi Driver - and Rocky won. Rocky is a terrific film and so were the other four films. I remember those films very well, except for Taxi Driver really (laughs). I remember movies, I don’t remember awards. I like films.
Is it time to get your Academy Award as Best Director? Do you like that idea?
I do want to break some news, about my children (laughs). I’ve played a father before, a few times. I don’t think you have to shoot heroin to play a heroin addict. Most people are not running for president, but I could play a candidate; most of the time you don’t have to have those things in your life to understand what they’re like. I had these girls with me and it was like having children - only that I got to give them away at the end of the day. It was much nicer.
You’re also the director of the movie The Ides of March. What does the director George Clooney think about George Clooney the actor and what does the actor George Clooney think about George Clooney the director?
- 57 -
A ROARING SUCCESS
John Walsh on why Jaguar’s XF will prove a big hit with executives
ou may be thinking: hasn’t the Jaguar XF been around for a bit? And you’d be right. The first model was unveiled in Frankfurt in 2007 and hit showrooms in 2008. It was conceived as a replacement for the old S-type Jaguar, the long sleek sedan touchingly name-checked by Kanye West as the car he thought his mum would like. “Imma get you a Jag, whatever else you want, jus’ tell me the kind of S-type Donda West like,” he sang on Hey Mama. Anyway, the first XFs in 2008 had socking great V6 and V8 engines. The new version carries a much smaller 2.2-litre, single-turbo, four-cylinder diesel. It’s aimed at the company-car market: a luxury car to pamper
the executive classes, matching similarly priced Audis and BMWs. When you first encounter this beast, you curse Jaguar’s design director Ian Callum and say: Ian, it doesn’t look like a Jaguar. From the big grille, apparently borrowed from a Bentley Continental, to the plump matronly hips and the substantial rear-end, it lacks the old Jaguar elegance, the trophy-wife sexiness of the 1999 S-type. You get over it, though, once inside. The charcoal suede roof, leather-trim walls and walnut dashboard are amazingly stylish. Apparently unique to this model is the graceful electrical foldout of air-con vents and gear lever. Like many new cars, there’s no ignition key, just a
- 58 -
Text: John Walsh / The Independent / The Interview People
start-stop button. Prod the button and the four air vents whirr open, while the circular gear dial glides out of the central console like the parts inside HAL 9000. A slightly maddening ‘intelligent start-stop system’ kills the engine dead at traffic lights and kicks it back into life when you take your foot off the brake. But don’t get me started on listing the special features or I’ll never stop, with this little lot coming as standard: two extra airbags on the side walls, ‘rain-sensing’ windscreen wipers, fog-anticipating headlights, pedestrian contact sensing, a reversing-aid camera that shows onscreen exactly what’s behind you. It’s like being inside a neurotic and paranoid guard dog.
It’s a heavenly drive. For such a seemingly bulky car, it’s surprisingly nippy in cornering and sleek in cruising. The steering is light and responsive, the acceleration so smoothly powerful it’ll make you smile like a Bond villain. It doesn’t so much sail over speed humps as ignore them completely. In fact, a few things aside - if you’re not familiar with a key whose mere presence unlocks the door, you’ll spend a maddening time locking the car - this is a big-hearted, beautifully designed car.
Price Guide: $67,500 Engine: 2.2 litres Top speed: 225 kph 0-100 kph: 8 secs
- 59 -
TIME ON YOUR SIDE
This latest offering from Morgan is a special limited edition celebrating the 75th anniversary of its first ever fourwheeler - but expect some modern trickery under the bonnet
- 60 -
here are some companies that can be accused of looking back a little too much, refusing to embrace change and adapt with the times. In this economic climate, that can prove to be a very dangerous trait, unless you happen to be the British car company Morgan – which has consistently bucked the trend, and made its past and heritage a key selling point. “It’s a very specific type of buyer, and fortunately we know them very well,” managing director Charles Morgan once revealed to Car magazine. “You have to be an enthusiast to drive a Morgan.” With that in mind there should be plenty of enthusiasm around the company’s latest model, which celebrates a key moment in the brand’s history. The 4/4 75th Anniversary is a limited edition two-seater that recreates the look and feel of the original 4/4, released back in 1936 – which was also the firm’s first four-wheeled vehicle. It may seem strange that with cars on the road since the late 19th century, a company deciding to make them would only start building a model with four wheels in the 1930s, but this is all down to Morgan’s legacy. It was Harry Frederick Stanley Morgan – the grandfather of current managing director Charles – who founded the company in 1910, using a loan from his own father to get started. Morgan began making three-wheeled cars, with their classification as motorcycles and therefore exclusion from British tax a huge incentive to buyers. But what started as quite lucrative soon became a challenge, with other small, affordable four-wheeled cars arriving on the market and making the two- and four-seater three-wheelers unpopular. Morgan reacted to this with the 4/4 – so named because of its four-cylinder engine as well as its wheels. That was in 1936, and unbelievably the car is still made today. Variations to the engine and materials involved have taken place, with the look a little more streamlined, but to the
‘Cars are still hand-built on-site at the company’s factory in Malvern, in the UK’ uninitiated a model rolling out of the factory in 2012 would not appear any different to one of those earlier versions. In fact, the look of many of today’s Morgans seems to echo this particular period in history, as do certain aspects of their production – cars are still hand-built on-site at the company’s factory in Malvern, Worcestershire in the UK, and it is still very much kept in the family. Original founder Harry passed on the running of Morgan to son Peter, who then handed it over to son Charles. But the company is so tied to its heritage, if things start to go wrong it becomes easy to point this out as the problem. In fact, in 1991, the late Sir Harvey Jones did just that, when he visited the company for an episode of his BBC series Troubleshooter. He blamed old-fashioned production
- 61 -
- 62 -
Text: Chris Anderson Images:Supplied
lines and values as the reasons behind long waiting lists for customers, and argued the company could face administration. “Sir John was tough, very tough,” Charles Morgan recalled in an interview with the Daily Telegraph. “I had invited him in and my father never let me forget it.” Some of Jones’s suggestions were applied, and Morgan admits keeping in touch with him to ask more of his advice later on – designs were overhauled to make the cars more aerodynamic, and engines were outsourced from other companies to free up production. And the result? Faster turnaround and a more varied range, which has helped the company in these troubled times. “We have successfully increased production every year during the recession,” Morgan told Car magazine. “We are the only car manufacturer I can think of that has done that.” So the company is definitely doing something right. All the more reason to reflect and celebrate where it all started, and the 4/4 75th Anniversary does just that. With the more angular look of the original 1936 model, and said to combine the low size and weight benefits of the current entry level 4/4, but with a two-litre Ford Duratec engine shoehorned under the bonnet, the car fuses the best of past and present. It handles like the modern Morgans too, which with the top down will definitely make for a fun drive. But it’s the extra touches helping to promote the 1930s feel that are the added attraction, with three colours on offer – Sport Black, Sport Red and Old English White – black painted 15 inch wire wheels and matching spare wheel, leather seats, Tawny ash dashboard, Moto Lita steering wheel and a traditional-style nine-stud hood. All you need now are a set of driving gloves, goggles and a scarf before you take to the road. It also looks like that period of reminiscing won’t be stopping at 1936, or the company’s first four-wheeled car – Morgan’s original three-wheelers have also made a comeback, on sale from last summer. “We are lucky in that there seems to be an ever-running demand for about 500-600 Morgan cars each year,” Charles Morgan told Car magazine. “We wanted to grow the business and move beyond that. The Three Wheeler will help us achieve this. It’s a very different type of Morgan that’s in keeping with our values.” Different indeed. Hand-built just like every other Morgan, the Three Wheeler is said to be much easier for the factory to assemble than its other cars, and rumour has it US talk show host Jay Leno bought one as soon as he finished a 30-minute test drive. But perhaps he should have waited. Proving that the company has an eye to the future as well as the past, the Morgan Eva GT is just around the corner – a luxury supercar with a twin-turbo BMW engine, making its debut in 2014. That may seem far off, but as this independent British car company has proven over the years, timing is everything.
Price guide: US$73,000 0-62 km/h: 7.2 Top speed: 189 km/h Power: 145 bhp Torque: 140 lb.ft
- 63 -
THe Michelin Man WORDS: ELIZABETH DAY
In the heart of his global food empire in Monte Carlo, Alain Ducasse, the chef who has amassed more Michelin stars in his homeland of France than anyone else, talks high prices and his disdain for TV chefs
- 64 -
he plush beige carpet in Alain Ducasse’s Louis XV restaurant in Monte Carlo is marked with a succession of tiny indentations, like bird footprints in wet sand. For a few minutes, while I sit at my table taking in the surroundings – crystal chandeliers, oil paintings of pink-cheeked shepherdesses, a small footstool placed underneath my handbag by an attentive waiter – I struggle to work out what these marks might signify. It’s only when a three-storey bread trolley materialises at my side without a sound that I realise: everything around me is on wheels. The wheeled trolleys are pushed to and fro by a discreet army of blacksuited men, who themselves seem to slide elegantly across the floor as if on skates. One moment, an ice bucket containing three vintage champagnes appears at my elbow. Later, an eyepopping smorgasbord of cheese. Everything is swift, smooth and silent. Only the traces of castors on the carpet hint at the care to ensure that everything appears effortless. It is this attention to detail that has made Le Louis XV in the Hotel de Paris one of the finest restaurants in the world for more than 20 years. The man behind it all is Alain Ducasse. At 55, he has amassed 19 Michelin stars, a restaurant empire that stretches from Tokyo to Las Vegas and a formidable public persona, despite his disdain for television. “I detest it,” he says, as if spitting out a piece of gristle. “TV is a deformed vision, an excessive caricature. A chef has to stay an artisan, not become a star.” Ducasse is a star whether he likes it or not. He has cooked for French president Nicolas Sarkozy (“He is
very health conscious. His wife is greedier than he is.”) and counts Prince Albert of Monaco as a friend. When the prince got married earlier this year, Ducasse prepared the wedding banquet. Meanwhile, Russian oligarchs and Japanese billionaires are falling over themselves to nab a sought-after seat on the terrace of Le Louis XV, which overlooks the casino where Daniel Craig gambled his chips in Casino Royale. Even here, amid the bling and the Bentleys, Ducasse is greeted like royalty. On the night that I dine there (the grilled pigeon breast served in a seven-times reduced offal sauce is one of the best things I’ve ever tasted) he is cornered by excitable admirers, including an American and his two sons, all in matching blazers and chinos. They all insist on shaking Ducasse’s hand. He is clearly uncomfortable. Eventually, after a lot of nodding, Ducasse extracts himself, clambers into his aubergine Mercedes jeep and drives off without a second glance. The next morning we meet at a farmers’ market in Nice, half an hour’s drive away, where he is shopping for produce for that evening’s service. He is wearing a blue polo shirt, silver-grey hair swept back from his forehead, trademark tortoiseshell glasses always on. As we walk through the market, none of the stallholders seems fussed to have such a gastronomic giant in their midst. If they recognise Ducasse, it is only as a regular customer who drives a hard bargain. When I mention the contrast to the fawning customers from last night, he rolls his eyes. “I don’t like that,” he says. “I don’t like being a celebrity.” He
- 65 -
GASTRONOMY seems happier here, picking out big bunches of herbs and making me smell them, exclaiming in ecstatic tones about the “stunning” courgettes and “incredible” peaches. We are meant to be buying ingredients for the recipe he is going to teach me – red mullet with courgettes and an olive tapenade – but he keeps getting distracted by the produce on offer. “Look at this,” he says, lifting up a juicy beef tomato. “It’s like a steak!” He shoves it up to my face. “Put your nose there!” Ducasse’s passion for fresh produce, simply but attentively cooked, has informed both his new cookbook, Nature, and his menus for Le Louis XV which now place more emphasis on vegetables and salad than on duck or chicken – traditional staples of French cooking. “My wife is a vegetarian,” he says (Ducasse’s second wife, Gwénaëlle, is a Breton-born architect whom he met on a flight from Paris to New York. They married in 2007). “My son, Arzhel, is two and he eats vegetables twice a day. We have a vegetable garden on our farm in the south-west and he gets two
is in the kitchen, Ducasse seems to make things happen without actually doing anything at all. Partly, this is because his movements are so graceful, so quick, you could miss them in a blink. More obviously, it’s because he delegates mundane tasks – such as slicing the courgettes lengthways in thin, pasta-like strips – to two sous-chefs while we concentrate on the sauce. He puts a couple of teaspoons of olive tapenade into a vast marble mortar, adds a dash of olive oil and grinds it. He is clearly anxious I will ruin his recipe and it takes him several minutes to agree that I can, if I am very careful, pick a few leaves of thyme and put them into the mixture. “That’s enough!” he barks, when I have thrown in about three-and-ahalf leaves. Even in this relatively relaxed environment he is too much of a perfectionist to let me loose in his kitchen. It would be like Van Gogh handing over the paintbrush to an over-excited toddler. As he continues to work the herbs in to the olives, adding the cooked red mullet livers and a splash of vinegar,
a waiter at the local restaurant. “But it was so hard! I had to be chef because being a waiter was too much work.” Later, he was trained by Alain Chapel, one of the originators of nouvelle cuisine, before becoming head chef at the Hotel Juana in Juan-les-Pins where, in 1985, he was awarded two Michelin stars. Two years later, aged 30, he was asked to take over Le Louis XV. In an act of almost insane bravura, Ducasse agreed to a contract which stated that if he did not win three Michelin stars in four years, he would be fired. In the end, he got them in three, one of the youngest ever to do so. Did he ever entertain a moment’s self-doubt? “No,” he says matter of factly. “I just decided. It was: ‘Can I do this? Yes.’ And then it was: ‘Can I do it better?’” He concedes that his strength of mind is, in part, the legacy of a near-fatal accident in 1984 when a light aircraft in which he was travelling with friends to Courchevel in the Alps crashed into a mountain, killing everyone else on board. Ducasse was thrown from the cockpit and survived. He endured
‘Russian oligarchs and Japanese billionaires are falling over themselves to nab a sought-after seat on the terrace of Le Louis XV’ baskets, one over each arm, and says ‘Garden, Papa!’ and then he eats what he picks.” After two hours, we have all we need. He drives me back to Monaco and parks directly in front of the Hotel de Paris, which is the kind of thing you can do if you’re Alain Ducasse. On the way into the kitchen he shakes the hand of everyone he sees – from the florist to the kitchen porter to his head chef, Frank Cerutti. I am a little terrified of having to display my culinary skills in front of such a perfectionist. Even a wobbly restaurant chair causes him to frown. And I have never cooked red mullet before. Still, no matter. As soon as he
he delivers a series of philosophical pronouncements about his approach to food, including “My food is not an expression of cooking. It’s an expression of discovering the essence of taste.” And the more mystifying: “With cooking, there’s always the tangible and the intangible, that which is in the domain of sentiment, of the individual.” His tastes are shaped by the food of his childhood: Ducasse grew up on his parents’ farm in Castelsarrasin in south-west France. His bedroom was above the kitchen and when his grandmother cooked blanquette de veau for Sunday lunch, the aromas would waft upstairs. At 16, he became
- 66 -
15 operations to repair injuries to his back, legs and eye; to this day, he still has a slight squint. “When I was recovering in hospital, I had a lot of time to think of dishes in my head,” he says. “I began to understand how I could do it.” The tapenade is now ready. I have done little more than hold down the mortar and pretend to look busy. Putting it aside, Ducasse cooks the red mullet skin-side down for two to three minutes in a splash of olive oil until it glistens on the plate. I nod, knowingly. The courgettes are put in a frying pan, tossed nonchalantly for little more than a minute. The dish is ready. Then, just as I am about to tuck
Text: Elizabeth Day / The Observer / The Interview People Images: Corbis/Arabian Eye; Supplied
in, he takes my knife and fork and prepares a mouthful for me, with exactly the right amount of each ingredient. It is, predictably, delicious: fresh, delicate but with the olives providing the necessary punch. For pudding, Ducasse heats up a spoonful of chestnut honey in a pan, then adds peach and plum halves, strawberries, blackcurrants, a vanilla pod and a sprig of thyme. After 10 minutes or so on the hob, he puts it in an oven, covered with foil for a further 20 before serving. I am astonished that something cooked with such ease can be this satisfyingly sweet and flavoursome. Ducasse claims it’s all about the produce. I suspect it’s a bit about the chef, too. But I’m also aware that, had I been eating these dishes in the restaurant next door, it would have cost me around $300. “I’ve had criticisms of my prices for years,” he admits. “Haute gastronomy is
like haute couture: the materials are so expensive, it requires so much rigour. It’s expensive, but it’s the right price. And I have bistros that are not expensive.” This is true: the Ducasse empire now incorporates 25 restaurants. Unlike Gordon Ramsay, Ducasse seems to have a knack for expansion without over-stretching. He has authored books, as well as setting up two cookery schools and a social enterprise foundation that offers training programmes for would-be chefs from deprived backgrounds. Ducasse Inc is a global business worth tens of millions of pounds. Which is a lot of trolleys. As he stands in his kitchen, a glass of dessert wine in his hand, surveying the fruits of his labour, I ask what his grandmother would say to him now. He smiles, sips his wine, then replies: “She’d say: ‘He’s done all right, the little one.”
- 67 -
GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER? Gilles Bosquet is the Frenchman tasked with heading up 10 soon-to-open restaurants at The St. Regis Doha. Here’s an insight into his taste…
Chef Gilles Bosquet is the Fine Dining Chef de Cuisine at Gordon Ramsay, which opens soon at The St. Regis Doha. Before moving to Doha, Bosquet worked at a number of Michelinstarred restaurants in London and France, where he also ran his own Michelin-starred eatery in the French countryside.
ad Sheikh Hama Bin Khalif Al Thani
He is one of the most important figures of culinary history and has always been an inspiration for me. What I’d Serve: Poularde de Bresse, with crispy morels mushrooms and a creamy, truffle sauce. It is a French classic that I would like to serve with my own twist. I admire him for his simplicity and perseverance. He is an inspiration throughout the world. What I’d Serve: Grilled Dover Sole, sweet corn blinis and sea urchin sauce. I feel this dish reflects his personality: unpretentious and generous. He is one of those timeless artists. I have always liked his work and particularly his latest album. What I’d Serve: Pan-fried duck breast, red cabbage confit and smoky sauce. It’s a family dish, re-interpreted with a groovy touch! He was one of the best footballers in the world and made us (the French!) win the 1998 World Cup – such a memorable moment. What I’d Serve: Lobster spaghetti with basil chips. All footballers eat pasta; it’s tasty and gives you the needed energy to run for 90 minutes on the field. This also happens to be my favourite dish. I would be honored to cook for someone of his standing once in my life. What I’d Serve: Roasted monkfish with spicy tomato jam sauce, crispy shallots and spinach pilaf rice. I believe he would like this dish as it combines flavours from the Middle East with those found in more modern cuisine.
- 69 -
stars, fOOd & art 7 chefs, 12 Michelin stars | tuesday 3rd april 2012
a unique culinary experience, gathering Michelin starred and celebrity chefs On Tuesday 3rd April 2012, the Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach will host the ‘Stars, Food & Art’ culinary gala event. A ‘first’ for the Middle East, 7 international renowned chefs, together representing 12 Michelin stars, will prepare their signature dishes during an exclusive dinner by the pool. The event will be further enhanced by live artistic performances. Tickets to this exclusive event are available for: aed 2500 per person or AED 22000 for a table of 10 8-course dinner including premium beverage pairing Private gourmands as well as companies will be able to partake in this unique gastronomic experience.
Thomas Bühner ***. La Vie, Osnabruck | Claire Clark ***, The French Laundry, California Giovanni d’Amato **, Il Rigoletto, Reggiolo | Christophe Aribert **, Les Terrasses, Uriage-les-bains Bernard Bach **, Le Puits St Jacques | Cyrus Todiwala, Spice Namaste, London | Joe Barza, Chase, Beirut
Information and reservations T. (+971) 4 448 4851 or H6146-FB2@sofitel.com Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach Jumeirah Beach Residence, Dubai Marina, UAE
HOW TO MASTER AWKWARD LIES LESSON#6 THE BALL BELOW YOUR FEET
There are three stages to successfully hitting the ball from below your feet. Firstly, you must aim accordingly. As the ball is below your feet you will lose the ability to turn as freely as you normally would, therefore you will make a more ‘hands and arms’ swing across your body. This causes the ball to slightly fade. Take your set up position and aim more to the left (if a right handed golfer) to allow for the ball to cut back to target. How much you compensate your aim will depend on the gradient of the slope. Secondly, you must select the correct club. As the ball will fade you should select a club to compensate for the loss of distance. For example, if the yardage is suitable for your 7 iron, select a 5 or 6 iron. Thirdly, you must alter your set up position slightly. As the ball is below your feet, it is recommended to over flex the knees to maintain your body position over the ball. One of the most common problems with players hitting the ball from below their feet is that they come up and out of the shot. Try to over flex the knees and maintain the knee flex all the way through the swing. This lie is one of the most difficult shots to master so always remember to make a nice smooth tempo with your swing and maintain balance and composure throughout, as this will enable you to make solid impact. Craig Waddell, Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club.
HIT THE TOUR New Zealand accounts for some of the most picturesque spots on earth, while recently it’s given birth to a few equally eye-grabbing golf courses – play Kauri Cliffs Golf Course in the Bay of Islands and you’ll drink in incredible views over the Pacific and beyond. Of the same ilk is the Tom Doak-designed Cape Kidnappers Golf Course, just outside of Napier, with its epic par 3 that plays across a deep gully. A new tour, fronted by American financier Julian Robertson and running March 12-20, gives you the chance to play both courses, packing in helicopter trips, ocean sailing, horseback riding, art and winery tours, and fine dining along the way at a cost of $28,000 per couple. “It may well be the most expensive golfing holiday on offer anywhere in the world,” said Ryan Brandeburg, director of golf at both Cape Kidnappers and Kauri Cliffs. “But for golfers with a sense of adventure and vision, someone who appreciates the finer things, it is unrivaled.” kauricliffs.com
Have you played here yet? Adare Manor Hotel & Golf Resort, Ireland The Emerald Isle is awash with courses – the north of the county has more fairways per capita than anywhere else on earth – but if you fancy staying on course after your round there are few better places to do so than this. The course itself was the very last designed by Robert Trent Jones Senior and it’s rightly considered his finest. You’ll have to top Lee Westwood’s 64 if you want to hold the course record, and if you do, you’ll be a fitting king of the castle – the on-site abode which dates to the 1800s. adaremanor.com - 71 -
Spring Break The finest destinations to flock to and savour the season...
01. Costa Rica While April here is high season, May heralds the ‘green season’, when short showers fall. The result? Foilage is lush, blooms vibrant and the land ripe for exploration. Cabo Blanco Nature Reserve’s tropical forests never look better, the coast is wonderful to explore by horseback and the temperature balmy enough to dine al fresco of an evening. 02. French Alps and Pyrenees If you avoid the school holidays,
- 72 -
March cues the least crowded time to take advantage of wide open slopes; and where better than France for the Alps and Pyrenees? Here you can enjoy longer, lighter days with warm climes - just make sure to avoid resorts at lower altitudes where snow will be fleeting. 03. Southern Spain Eschew chillier Madrid and the wet north in March and make instead for the warm, dry south. The atmospheric, Moorish cities of Seville,
05 French Alps & Pyrenees Southern Spain
St Lucia Costa Rica
Cordoba and Granada all have perfect climes for sightseeing, while Barcelona (though a tad chillier) tops the chart for its magical architecture and lively nightlife that’s best started with local tapas (traditionally taken no earlier than 11pm). 04. St Lucia Lush, tropical and sun-drenched, most flock here from the end of November to the end of March, which leaves those-in-the-know with powder-white sands, sans crowds,
from April till the end of May. Ideal if you’re after sheer escape, you can retreat from the public domain further still with stellar snorkelling or diving in its famously crystal-clear sea. 05. Paris Who doesn’t love Paris in the springtime? It’s the ideal time to soak up life from a chic, sidewalk café, stroll to the magnificent galleries and museums, savour an apple tarte tatin from a patisserie at the Jardin de Tuileries and, of course, it’s cool
- 73 -
enough to saunter down the Avenue des Champs-Elysées for unbeatable designer shopping. 06. Italy Turin, Rome, Florence and Verona all make fine city breaks come spring, thanks to an eruption of fun-loving festivals. Turin will tempt foodies with its chocolate festival CioccolaTÒ (more than 40,000kg of the stuff is sold), while in Florence Festa della Primavera, a spring festival, celebrates the region’s fine fare.
The Russian capital is a bewitching place, half steeped in the glories and tragedies of its past, and half immersed in the ambition and materialism of its future...
First-time visitors will have pictured Moscow a thousand times in their heads before they arrive. This city’s squares and boulevards, its grand buildings and soviet-era tenements, have been introduced to us endlessly through TV programmes and spy films, books, music and theatre. The reality is both grittier and, at times, more glamorous than we have been led to believe – and the slightly surreal feeling of walking through your own personal movie pervades throughout your trip. The streets of Moscow are soaked in 20th-century history: everywhere you turn there is another reminder of the extraordinary period in which the country lurched from autocratic Tsarism to revolutionary fervour, to autocratic Communism, to free market revolution – and, ultimately, back towards unilateral control, in the form of hatchet-faced strong man Vladimir Putin. It’s probably best to spend your first few days taking in the classic sights – those iconic views which are already seared into your brain. Red Square is as dauntingly vast as you imagine, and the candy cane-style turrets of St.Basil’s are as delightfully pretty. The Kremlin, repository of two millennia of intrigue and power struggles, is an essential stop-off too: don’t miss the museum of its
Armory Palace, home to the glittering treasures of the Romanov dynasty. When it comes to culture, Moscow has a wealth of names to choose between. Head to see the finest dancers in the world at the Bolshoi Ballet (if you’re there in the second half of March you can catch a performance of the immortal Swan Lake), and to the Conservatory to be immersed in Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. The Pushkin State Museum, meanwhile, is captivating: riches from Ancient Egypt, from the ancient civilisations of Greece and Rome, Renaissance delights from across Europe, and the powerful, often moving historical scenes of the 19th century. For a crash course in icons, as well as 20th century gems, the Tretyakov Gallery is unmissable. And if you’re looking for more modern creations, head to Winzavod, the Muscovite equivalent of London’s Shoreditch or New York’s Meatpacking District, where you’ll find a clutch of conceptual art galleries. But it’s not all culture and history: modern Moscow also has some superb retail options for its hordes of visitors and its wealthy oligarchs. There are two main names you need to know: TSUM and GUM. Hidden behind these somewhat unappealing titles are two extraordinarily extravagant shopping malls crammed with designer brands. They aren’t the places to go to pick up top value bargains (for that, try the sprawling Izmailovo flea market), but for a retail blow-out they’re unbeatable. TSUM is just by Karl Marx Place and GUM is just a short saunter from Red Square. TSUM is lined with opulent boutiques – make sure not to miss the Tretyakovsky Proyezd passage where the highest end offerings are found – as well as huge showrooms where you can pick up a Maserati or Bentley, should you wish. GUM, meanwhile is home to scores of fashion stores, including Armani,
- 74 -
Dior, Hermès, Kenzo, Burberry and Kurt Geiger, alongside seriously blingy accessories options like Mont Blanc, Iceberg and Barbara Bui. When it comes to eating out, traditionalists will advise you to make for the Cafe Pushkin (cafepushkin.ru), a heartwarming gourmet restaurant with 19th-century decor, welcoming service and superb pelmeni dumplings and rich borscht. For hearty, pared-back, rustic-style Russian food, try Kitezh in the Ukrainian quarter (kitezh-town.ru): their beef stroganoff is a creation of true beauty. Another real ‘experience’ restaurant is the Metropol, at the Hotel Metropol (metropol-moscow.ru). An art nouveau haven with a vast ceiling made of stained glass; this is the place to indulge in seafood and caviar, solyanka soups and grilled meats, while lapping up the atmosphere. Talking of the Hotel Metropol, it remains one of the grandest and most luxurious places to stay while you are in town, a marvel of gleaming gilt and polished marble. Other top options include the magnificent Ritz-Carlton, Moscow (ritzcarlton.com), opened just a few years ago and offering wondrous city views and a great ESPA; ancient favourite The SAVOY Hotel Moscow (savoy.ru/en); and slick, state of the art skyscraper spot the Swissotel Krasnye Holmy (swissotel.com).
Image: Photolibrary; Supplied.
Images: Corbis / Arabian Eye, Photolibrary
China’s capital is growing in stature every day, and millions of visitors a year are flocking to see its sights both ancient and modern. Now is the perfect time to visit this blossoming super-city...
As the world’s financial, military – and consequently political – power drains towards the east, Beijing is becoming a city with major clout and influence. Walk the streets here and you can almost feel the capital rushing in from around the world, the plans for economic expansion being put into place and the ambitious dreams of hyper-prosperity coming true around you. Beijing is arguably on course to become the earth’s most important metropolis in the next 20 years - and the country’s leaders are determined to make sure it reflects this burgeoning greatness in its architecture, attitudes and attractions. In this way, it mimics the feel of 1890s London or 1950s Washington – of being, increasingly, at the centre of everything. The 15th century Forbidden City complex lies at the heart of Beijing, and is rightly regarded as a unique historical gem. A Unesco World Cultural Heritage site, its buildings, pavilions and gardens offer an incredible insight into the lifestyle of a Ming era emperor. Hire an audio guide at the Meridian gate and take your time – this is the sort of place where you can happily spend an entire day. When you’re done, make your way out to the ‘hutongs’ which encircle the
Forbidden city – these shabby-yetbeautiful, aging, winding alleyways are home to ancient buildings and traditional ways of life which have changed little for centuries. After filling up a whole memory card with snaps on your stroll, head to the nearby lakes of Qianhai, Houhai and Xihai, a great place to relax: for a moment of true serenity in this bustling city, hire a rowboat and scull out into the calm waters. Another unusual but compelling attraction is Beijing World Park, in the south west of the city. It’s a vast green area, filled with miniaturised versions of famous buildings from across the world: check out the Pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, the Taj Mahal, Big Ben, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and many more. Finally, once you’ve got a true flavour of the city and are eager to get a more in-depth insight into its customs and history, make your way to the Chinese Ethnic Cultural Museum, where you can take a crash course in Beijing’s past as well as its meteoric recent growth. When it comes to shopping, you’ll want to take a trip to Silk Street, a vast complex of almost 2,000 stalls and stores selling everything under the sun. It’s a boisterous, rowdy place where haggling is de rigueur. A slightly calmer option is Panjiayuan Antiques Market, where you can pick up wonderful furniture, pottery, paintings, and knickknacks from the ’60s and ’70s. Then there’s the eminently strollable pedestrian street Wangfuijng, great for souvenirs; Zhonghai market in the Zhongguancun area (known as the ‘Silicon Valley of China’) where you can get excellent value computers, tablets and other electronic items; and PanJiaYuan market, great for antique porcelains and jade jewellery. It would be an error to leave town without trying the dish for which this city is rightly famous – Peking duck. To try some of the best on offer,
- 77 -
head to Duck de Chine at Gongti Bei Lu, Courtyard 4 in the 1949 dining complex in The Hidden City. The decor is duck-centric and the pièce de résistance is served with pancakes, sauce and sesame seed buns. For something a little more international, meanwhile, book in for a night at New York legend Daniel Boulud’s place, Maison Boulud, just off Tiananmen Square (danielnyc. com/maisonboulud.html). First rate French food is the star here: you’ll enjoy the likes of spice-crusted tuna with peppered shallots and parsnip purée, slow baked lamb loin with a trio of aubergine, and beef chop with fricasseed mushrooms. When booking a place to lay your head in style, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Almost every major luxury hotel in the world has a Beijing property – you can pick from the Fairmont, the Regent, the Shangri-la, the Ritz-Carlton and the Peninsula. Our top choice, however, is Raffles Beijing (raffles.com/beijing), an enchanting spot built in the early 1900s and located just a stone’s throw from the Forbidden City. With its luxurious suites, its unbeatable pool and fitness centre and its lovely in-house restaurants (Jaan is superb for old-school indulgence), Raffles is the perfect base for exploring the future capital of the world.
TURKISH DELIGHT Alice Jones is seduced by the sun, sand and style of jet-set Cesme Peninsula
ore than 120 hotels are said to be scattered throughout the cobbled streets of Alacati, though I challenge you to find even one. The town, a charming muddle of farmhouses and windmills bordered by olive groves and artichoke fields, doesn’t bother with street names or signs. Discretion is the watchword. Bijou eight-room inns hide behind whitewash and pale-blue painted shutters, their rooms overlooking silent, shady courtyards. Just occasionally, if you poke your nose around the pretty wrought-iron railings, you might glimpse a flash of turquoise pool in a back garden. Shops selling expensive fripperies – gold jewellery, linen dressing gowns, gaudily embroidered cushions and olive-oil soaps – whisper their wares from behind tiny windows. Bodrum, this ain’t. Only at night, when the bars and restaurants spill out of their cool, white interiors and off their tiled floors onto the streets does Alacati start to resemble a typical Turkish resort. Perched above the Aegean Sea on Turkey’s west coast, Alacati has been the best-kept secret of Turkish holidaymakers for a few years now. Even the locals – many of whom holidayed here as children and have returned to embark on second careers as hoteliers and restaurant owners – spend hours arguing as to who discovered it first. In fact, it was windsurfers who colonised Alacati in the 1990s, flocking to the flat waters of Alacati Bay where the northerly imbat winds blow for 330 days a year. It was then embraced by wealthy weekenders
from Istanbul as a kind of Turkeyflavoured Hamptons. And lately it has become a magnet for celebrities, politicians and pop stars. They come to sunbathe and party around the 29km coastline of the Cesme Peninsula, mooring their yachts at the marina, kitesurfing at Alacati port, spa-ing at Ilica and eating and shopping wherever they can along the way. For now, at least, the region remains largely un-starstruck, and stubbornly unspoilt. “It doesn’t matter who comes here,” says Husnu Baylav, president of the Alacati Tourism Association, “Alacati is the real celebrity.” In other words, there’s more to the area than chi-chi hotels and chic visitors. Understated, laid-back luxury is the speciality – although it doesn’t come cheap. For those who rouse themselves from their Egyptian cotton sheets, there are also ancient ruins to visit, thermal mud baths to wallow in, sparkling bays to surf and sail across, herb markets to explore and culinary novelties to savour, such as cinnamonflavoured kofte and mastic ice cream. Cesme was even praised by antiquity’s own Alan Whicker, Herodotus, for its location “in the most beautiful climate and under the most beautiful sky on earth”. The Cesme Peninsula extends elegantly out from Turkey’s west Aegean coast to within a fingertip of Greece. Here, the island of Chios is just 8km (or a 45-minute ferry trip from Cesme) away; its brooding outline visible even on the mistiest day. In the mid 19th century, the Ottomans shipped islanders over to
- 80 -
dry out the malarial marshes. Many stayed on, planting the region’s first vineyards. Today, wandering among the blue-and-white painted stone houses, you could easily be in Greece. Signs of shared history are all around – not least in Alacati where the enormous Ayios Konstantinos church has had a minaret stuck on the top and functions as the local mosque. I began my trip on the coast, in Ilica. This was the region’s original holiday hotspot thanks to the healing thermal springs that bubble beneath the waves. Tusun Pasha, sickly son of the founder of modern Egypt, Muhammad Ali Pasha, came here in the early 1800s to take the waters, which probably makes him the winner of the I-discovered-it-first contest. So impressed was he that he built a beautiful stone house on the seafront. Three years ago, the building became Nars Ilica, an eight-room luxury hotel, named after Narcissus and dedicated to the pursuit of pleasure. The airy rooms, with stripped wood floors, shuttered windows and linen curtains are decorated in a palette of duck-egg blue and cream. The public rooms, meanwhile, are crammed with a mix of antiques, modern art and avantgarde 1940s light fittings. The feel is more like a private mansion than hotel, and strenuous efforts are made to ensure that you rarely set eyes on another guest. Premium rooms have their own staircases and private breakfast rooms overlooking the sea; every morning staff arrive with a procession of platters of sheep’s cheese, gozleme (savoury pastries) and tomatoes, curd cheese with mulberry
‘It [Alacati] was embraced by wealthy weekenders from Istanbul as a kind of Turkey-flavoured Hamptons’ compote and simit (sesame bagels) with sour cherry jam and honey. The spread comes fresh from the hotel’s own farm where the workers at the hotel – and those at its funkier, smaller sister in Alacati – live. Up here in the hills, there are lemon and orange groves, sheep and horses and some 5,500 olive trees, alongside workshops where stonemasons and carpenters built the hotels by hand. The olive-oil products in the bathrooms come from another farm nearby. “If you do it yourself,” shrugs Murat Pirimoglu, the co-owner, “you know it’s the best.” The hotel also has a Jacuzzi filled with thermal waters in its walled back garden. For the full spa experience, though, you need to walk a little further along Ilica’s 2km sands to the hotel Sheraton Cesme. This is where the VIPs hang out. The vast hotel offers the full, five-star luxury experience with its own beach, private pier and floating restaurant. Each of its three €5,250-a-night penthouses has an ‘infinity bed’ positioned by the windows so that you feel like you’re sleeping in the sea. A rooftop pool overlooks the terracotta roofs of million-euro holiday homes, clustered below like a mini Beverly Hills. To ease your travel plans, there’s also a helipad. The main attraction, though, is the prize-winning spa, just voted
- 81 -
the world’s Best Mineral Spring Spa. Alongside sweltering thermal pools and steam rooms, you can enjoy more esoteric treats including ‘adventure showers’ which provide a soundtrack of your choice (rainforest, seashore...) and Balinese tea houses where couples can enjoy private treatments around a heated seawater pool. I opted for a traditional hammam in the hotel’s beautiful white-tiled Turkish bath. After being steamed, splashed, scrubbed (vigorously) and swaddled in bubbles on a marble slab for an hour, I emerged, light-headed and smoother-skinned. Windsurfing is near-mandatory in these parts (the Professional Windsurfers’ Association World Cup event reached its climax in Alacati last August). Seven surf schools are ranged along Alacati bay, which provides ideal conditions – warm, wave-free shallows and constant wind – for beginners. The breeze also makes the fierce summer heat a little more bearable for sun-seekers. And, being a peninsula, there’s a beach for every occasion on Cesme. Ask the locals and they’ll point you to Ilica with its thermal shallows or to Altinkum with its golden sands, depending on which way the wind is blowing. If you’re on a boat the beautiful bay of Aya Yorgi is the place to go. By night, the beach clubs turn into glamorous nightclubs – Marrakech,
‘A rooftop pool overlooks the terracotta roofs of million-euro holiday homes, clustered below like a mini Beverly Hills’ Babylon and Paparazzi are the most popular – where you can sip bubbly while the waves lap at your feet. The area caters for the amateur historian, too, with Ephesus, the marvellously preserved ancient city, 90 minutes’ drive down the coast near Selcuk. Much closer and less wellknown is Erythrai, which dates back to 3000BC and is set on the hillside above Ildiri, a tumbledown village also suspended in time. Declared a heritage site when Erythrai was re-discovered in 1964, Ildiri is now a half-abandoned hodge-
podge of farmhouses and fishing boats. The ruins themselves, guarded by a pensioner and his cat, are reached via fields of artichokes, speckled with poppies. It’s a steep clamber up to the acropolis via a neglected amphitheatre, which provides a dramatic view of the countryside and coast. I watched a sunset over Chios before heading back to enjoy a traditional seaside dinner of barbun (red mullet) and raki, which gets nicer the more you drink. There’s more history to be found at Cesme town, once the final
- 82 -
stopping point on the Silk Road for the camel caravans before they were shipped off to the Mediterranean. The caravanserai is now a hotel but the bustling port still ferries tourists across to Chios and Donkey Island (exactly what it sounds like) several times a day. A 16th-century fortress, magnificently restored with piles of cannon balls and excavated ancient tombstones ranged around its walls, looms over the town, offering wonderful views across the water and beyond. A new marina, with an
array of surf shops and galleries, restaurants and wine bars, has become a destination in its own right. The stylish development is typical of the region where a tourist industry is being carved out of the landscape wherever you look. New pastel-coloured villas line the roads to the port; stone houses are under renovation on every corner. But lessons have been learned from the over-developed resorts of Marmaris and Antalya. The policy here is ‘conservative tourism’. Alacati is the jewel in its crown. Ten years ago, there were no hotels in the town. Now, one in 10 of its stone houses has been converted into a boutique inn. Nevertheless, Alacati’s character is fiercely policed. Only twostorey stone houses are permitted,
and, according to the official tourist guide, ‘anything that has a strong smell or is an eyesore is forbidden’. So, neon signs are banned, and kebabs are served until 3pm, not 3am. Already, though, Alacati struggles in summer when the population of 11,000 welcomes more than a million visitors. I arrived as Alacati was coming out of hibernation; every day another bar or hotel dusted down its shutters, while entrepreneurial types opened tiny cafés in their front rooms and driveways. Hotel Incirliev is typical of Alacati’s homespun hospitality. The hotel is named after the 100-year-old fig tree that casts shade over its central courtyard. It is run by Sabahat and Osman Poshor, whose warmth and generosity make staying here feel like
- 83 -
a weekend at Grandma’s. Having been shown my terrace room – a cool stone chamber with original fireplace and floor-length windows – I was ushered straight back down for a glass of home-made cherry liqueur and freshly baked apple cake under the tree. Incirliev proved the perfect base to explore Cesme cuisine. Every day begins with breakfast served al fresco from the open kitchen. The table sagged with cheese, fruit, bread, olives and – the undoubted highlight – an ever-changing selection of Osman’s homemade jams. Each morning, there was also an extra surprise: ‘egg casserole’ scrambled with peppers and chilli, or ricotta pancakes with ‘crispy butter’. Suitably fuelled, I left to watch the daily 11am ritual of fresh fish being auctioned from marble slabs behind the mosque. On Saturdays, the bazaar – a shanty town of herbs, cheese and spices – also comes to life. After that, it’s time to repair to Kose Kahve for Turkish coffee flavoured with medicinal-tasting mastic, harvested from the trees on Chios. At the fishing village of Dalyankoy, I picked meze out of a chilled cabinet, pointed at the sea bass I wanted and ate the lot sitting by the water as fishing boats bobbed beneath my feet. At Okan’s Place, a secluded stretch of beach at Ciftlikkoy, crispy sardines were delivered to my sun lounger. The finest place I found to experiment, though, was Asma Yapragi, a oneroom restaurant in the undeveloped Haci Memis district of Alacati. Here, hearty tin dishes of meze – marinated artichokes, broad bean and mint stew, cacik and cigarette-thin stuffed vine leaves – are served straight from the stove to a communal table in the middle of the kitchen. As I left Incirliev, my suitcase stuffed with fig jam and olive soaps, Sabahat and Osman threw water at the car, a tradition intended to ensure the traveller will return soon. I do hope it works.
WHAT I KNOW NOW
Founder and president of The Trump Organization, founder of Trump Entertainment Resorts I had a great advantage in that my father, Fred C. Trump, was my mentor from an early age and I learned a great deal from him. I had a head start in that I went to construction sites with him, listened to him negotiating, and saw his ethics in action. It was a wonderful education. What he told me still stands true today. He emphasised that I should “know everything you can about what you’re doing” and so I learned to be thorough. My father gave me his four-step formula for success: Get in, get it done, get it done right and get out. He worked very efficiently and so do I. He also had great integrity. I know now how important focus is. When I had some difficulties in the early 90s I realised it was because I’d lost my focus. With the focus you also have to have momentum – and you have to keep them both going. I also learned that when faced with challenges it’s important to focus on the solution, not the problem – where you put your energy matters. I have always maintained that you have to have passion for what you’re doing or it won’t work out so well. To succeed you need passion, you have to love what you’re doing. My father was that way and so am I. I never feel like I’m working because I love what I’m doing. That’s the number one key for success.
- 84 -
PIAGET BOUTIQUES: Abu Dhabi: Etihad Towers, 02 667 0044 Dubai: The Dubai Mall, 04 339 8222 - Wafi New Extension, 04 327 9000 Dubai: Ahmed Seddiqi & Sons, Atlantis 04 422 0233, Burj Al Arab, 04 348 9000 Burjuman Centre, 04 355 9090, Mall of the Emirates, 04 341 1211