Final work International Journalism

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THE CALVERT JOURNAL Special print edition A guide to the New East

THE CALVERT JOURNAL A guide to the New East Special print edition





Table of contents

6 to 7 Introduction 8 5 Minute guide to Tbilisi: khachapuri, charming balconies and futurism 12 Culture cooking: the significance of bread in Central Asia 18 Letters from Herzegovina: from diving to deviding 22 Saffron & rosewater: tastes from the Persian empire 28 Beirut live: homesick to a place that’s not home 30 Life under sanctions in Iran 36 The 12th time zone: A visual journey through contemporary Russia 40 Road Trip: a journey over the Military Highway through the Caucasus mountains to the top of the world 50 24 Hours in Baku: your guide to a day in the capital in the country of fire





CONTACT ME if you have any questions, comments or suggestions, email me at WANT TO SEE MORE? check out more of my work on my website,

THANKS TO this project was established through Thomas More as a final work for the short program International Journalism by Sanne Moonemans FORMALITIES student number: r0722379 final character count: 51.467 NOTE the images in ‘Culture Cooking’ were obtained via the Gettyimages subscription I have acces to thanks to my internship during the beginning of this semester


Welcome H

ow much do you really know about what goes on beyond the safe borders of our European continent? Have you ever heard about Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan? Did you ever consider Georgia as a holiday destination? Has it ever crossed your mind how massive the impact of American sanctions is on everyday life in Iran? Or have you ever taken a moment to appreciate how important bread actually is? Let me take you on a journey to discover a bit more about cultures beyond the stereotypes you may know. With the pages that follow, I will try to give you a bit more awareness to foreign, often misunderstood, misinterpreted or even completely unknown cultures in the region we call ‘The New East’. I hope to provoke your thoughts and perhaps create some new found appreciation for something you never encountered before. For my final work in international journalism, I wanted to combine all that I have learned during this course and the skills I have gathered previously: photography, graphic design and this newly gathered journalistic experience. This results in the idea to create a printed, physical edition of the online magazine, The Calvert Journal. In depth research into their visual and editorial style was conducted and translated into a style guide, helping me hold on to their existing concept, look and feel.

With this project, I seek to provide more insight into these cultures, the people of the region and places that normally go un(der)-reported. Some typical Calvert formats will be included, as well as editorial ideas I developed that I feel like would fit the brand. Found in 2013 as part of the Calvert Foundation, The Calvert Journal is an online magazine focussing on a region they call ‘The New East’: Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Russia & Central Asia. In daily online features a wide range of topics, stories around art, architecture, culture, design and film are covered. In addition to this, frequent updates with comments, essays, photography and reportages are posted. My interest in the region was initially peaked during my first visit to Eastern Europe. I began to explore more and more, encountering many of the interesting and beautiful things in the flesh that I had only read about before. I took home countless of exciting tales, experiences and photographs. As my affection for this part of the globe got bigger, I decided I wanted to incorporate it into my profession, letting my passions, hobbies and professional skills blend together into what lies before you: Calvert Journal, a special print edition.

Sanne Moonemans, student of international journalism at Thomas More Mechelen 2019




Text, illustration & photography: Sanne Moonemans

5 MINUTE GUIDE TO TBILISI: KHACHAPURI, CHARMING BALCONIES & FUTURISM Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, is being said to have been scattered to the ground multiple times throughout history. By the Russians, the Persians, the Arabs and the Mongols. But never did they succeed in completely wiping this exceptional city off the map completely. Time and again, the people of the Caucasus capital were able to protect and rebuild. This is a quick guide to dynamic Tbilisi of today.



One of the many pastel facades in downtown Tbilisi.

An important but a little-known moment in the history of the city Centuries ago, a settlement close to what is now Old Tbilisi was born because of its location along trade routes. However, King Vakhtang later claimed that he was the one that discovered it during a hunting sojourn and thought it was a good idea to build a city on the spot. The name Tbilisi comes from the word tbili, which is Georgian for ‘warm’. This is very fitting to both the climate of the city and the sulfur springs that lie underneath the surface. The best building in the city is probably

Mother Georgia looking over her people.

The leaning tower of… Tbilisi. This extraordinary building was once a puppet theatre with a clock tower leaning against it. The tower was built by Rezo Gabriadze in 2010. Every hour, a small angel figure comes out to ring the tower bell announcing the time and twice a day the little puppet theatre in the tower gives a show called “The Circle of Life”. Rezo decorated the tower with hundreds of different tiles he designed himself, which makes it extra special. Best local fast food Khachapuri Adjarian. This delightful boat-shaped bread filled with mainly cheese and served with egg and butter on top. It is much like pizza, but better. The best Khachapuri in Tbilisi is served at Sakhachapure N1, located on the Shota Rustaveli Avenue right outside metro stop Liberty Square. Where to drink with the locals

Roof terrace near Mother Georgia.

Mapshalia is a true hidden gem of the city. At this lovely little spot, tucked away from view, is where you will meet plenty of Georgians drinking chacha (grape liquor) and enjoying some local food together. Another great way to discover Georgia’s drinking culture is to join a wine tour. Not to drink with locals, but to get to know more about the rich history of this beverage has and get to taste some lovely wines while you are at it. Best hike or walk Set on top of the mountain bordering the city, Mtatsminda Park is a great way to escape the city for a day. The walk uphill takes you along pathways other tourists tend to overlook. If you’re down for a proper hike, take a daytrip to Lagodekhi for an amazing trail to a stunning waterfall. Best view The best way to adorn the dynamic skyline of Tbilisi is from the top of the hill where the Mother of Georgia monument is watching over the city. Right beside it is a little terrace that gives a wonderful view and serves some great homemade lemonade to enjoy at the same time.

5 MINUTE GUIDE Skyline of Tbilisi featuring multiple well-known landmarks such as the Bridge of Peace.



Culture cooking: the significance of bread in Central Asia Text: Sanne Moonemans | photography: Gettyimages


Cooking Culture: the significance of bread in Central Asia For many of us in the west, food always has to be quick and easy and we do not think twice about what we eat, why we eat it and with whom. This lead me to explore the relation between culture and food abroad, which lead me to an interesting revelation: the significance of bread in Central Asian culture.


ood is an important element in every culture. Belgium has their chips, Italy has pizza and us Dutchies have our stroopwafels. But the role these foods have in the culture they are part of, are not always as significant. The culture I grew up in, doesn’t hold much value towards food and customs around it, which is a shame. Bread however is something everybody knows and has eaten at least once in their life. It could even be labeled as one of the most important foods known to man. France has the baguettes, the Middle East has pita bread and Germany has their pretzels. Whatever way, shape or form it comes in, bread is in some way universal. No matter the kind of grain or oven used, bread holds an important role in societies across the globe. Aspects such as nutritional value, it being the center in cultural and religious rituals or a way of maintaining social ranks, all are elements of great relevance and meaning. However, we don’t pay much attention to everything that goes beyond it being the centerpiece of your lunch. The production of it, its heritage and the value or symbolism there might be associated with bread, are just as important or perhaps even of greater value. A quick sandwich before heading out the door or an afternoon

snack, our way of eating has become mindless consumption. One particular region where bread holds a significant role in society is in Central Asia. Every country, region within and even every village has its own twist on the baked dough. But one thing all of them have in common, is how bread creates a center point in daily life. The role of bread here is multilateral; in physically sustaining people, being a thing of pride to those who have perfected the craft of baking the bread, or in serving as a means for labor organization and social intercourse for those who are involved in the preparation. Food and identity have fused together over the centuries. Food, and mainly bread, serve as a marker of both identity and ethnicity. Sense of belonging is intertwined with the food’s origin. Something, we could learn a lot from. Today, more bread is consumed in Central Asia compared to the common diet during the Soviet Golden Age (1960 to 1987). After the early 1990s, the role of bread, which already assumed to have a big place in pan-Soviet diets, became of even greater significance. This continued to evolve into the traditions kept and passed on to the new generations in present time.


Local sellers of bread in Uzbekistan.




A local Kyrgyz woman selling her home made loafs.

Rules and everyday consumption During mealtime in Central Asian countries, basically every meal is accompanied by some kind of bread; the three main courses of the day and tea breaks in between. Another phenomena that serves as a cultural norm involving bread in Central Asia, is the rule which prohibits stale bread to ever be thrown out. Depending on where in the region you focus, everywhere methods for the prevention of wasting bread are practiced. The act of the disposal of bread is considered to be obscene and sinful, so when bread gets a bit old, it is for example broken into soups, drunk in tea or placed in bowls of water for softening. The same goes for the act of cutting the bread. According to Central Asian belief, it is feared doing so would hurt the bread. If we look back at our own consumption habits, this most certainly is something we should reflect on and apply to the way we treat food and how wasteful our manners of consumption are.

A similar cultural rule about bread is the ban on placing bread on the floor. Because it is considered to be sacred, hence the rule forbidding to throw away bread, and the floor thought to be quite the opposite. Therefore tablecloths are placed on the floor when getting together for a meal so the bread can safely be sat on top of it. In line with this rule, there is this the local tradition that upon finding a bit of bread lying in the streets, one would often pick it up, plant a kiss on it before proceeding to touch it on their forehead, three times and placing it somewhere higher up. Besides the two main guidelines about bread discussed above, there are a few more region-specific ones that too are worth mentioning. For example, when handling bread in either Uzbekistan or Tajikistan, one must make sure it is never placed upside down, which too is perceived as disrespectful towards the stable item of the region. When not holding it with the right side up, expect your host or other random passers-by to smack you lightly on the back of your head.



Kinds of bread While there are too many varieties to go over, I will introduce the main types of bread upon which most others are based. Uzbek ‘non’, how bread is often called throughout the region, is usually only made by men. It is produced with a high-fat dough and baked while pressed on to the walls of a ‘tandir’ oven, a traditional clay oven used all over Central Asia. It is of medium size and round in shape. Tajik bread is also round and similar in size, but more decorations are made on top of it compared to the Uzbek variety. Another mayor difference, is that it are usually the women who are responsible for the production of bread here. Kyrgyz and Kazakh bread are like a marriage of the two above, while Turkmen bread on the other hand, is fairly different. These breads are often long and flat, much more similar to naan bread. Rituals and tradition People carry a strong belief in ritual blessing received as a reward for sharing food, which is also the main source of common cultural identity. Bread affects many spheres of social life. The biggest sign of hospitality in the region involves bread. This is a two-way street: guests will always be offered bread along with a cup of steaming hot black tea, while those invited will be expected to bring bread as a gift to their host. This way of showing respect and hospitality goes by the term of “bread-taking and bread-giving”. The notion of bread-taking and bread-giving operates on internal concepts of neighborliness and friendship. Bread also carries an important symbolic role. An example of this is the unwritten rule for everybody leaving home. Even if it is for just an overnight journey, one must bring at least one loaf from home. It is important this bread accompanies a person when heading off for a distant trip. In Uzbek culture, it is believed bread delivers comfort and happiness. This is demonstrated in, for example, the ritual carried out when someone is suffering from nightmares. A method practiced to alleviate one’s fright, is to place a loaf of bread under one’s pillow. It is believed this will guard against demons or that birds will take the bread and fly off with the demonic spirits absorbed. Probably the most important role bread has in traditions and rituals, is its importance in meaningful life events such as the birth of a child, engagements, and marriage. During weddings, both the bride and groom both take a small bite of a loaf during their wedding ceremony, saving the bread and eat the rest of it the next day as part of their first meal as husband and wife. While in the event of pregnancy or a child being born, the bread that is specific for the region or village people live is prepared to mark the special occasion.

A family baking bread in a traditional ‘tandir’, a clay oven.

Conclusion The main conclusion that can be drawn from venturing through Central Asian food culture, is how we in the western societies have lost connection with some of the most important things for all of us: food and community. How and with whom we eat it, how we treat our food and each other and to not be wasteful with the essential resources we are so lucky to have access to.



Text & photography: Sanne Moonemans

Letters from Herzegovina: from diving to dividing For centuries, young boys have been jumping off a 29-meter bridge to dive into the freezing cold water of the fast streaming Neretva river. According to the Mostar tradition, this is the moment from which they may truly call themselves a ‘man’. But since 1992, the bridge also became a symbol of a divided community and lost generation.





ince it was built in 1566, the Stari Most, or ‘old bride’, is the biggest tourist hotspot of the city and a place where during the summer months, Mostar’s inhabitants show off their diving skills to dozens of people, including many tourists. The Stari Most is also an important symbol for the peaceful co-existence between three of the biggest populations of the city: the Bosnian Muslims, Christian Croats and above all, Orthodox Serbs. But the rising tensions between the different ethnic groups caused, after the fall of Yugoslavia in 1992, the Russian Bosnian civil war from 1992 to 1996, which by estimation was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and over two million exiles. For a long time, the bridge was a symbol for bringing people together up until the moment it was blown to pieces on November 9th, 1993. This brought up a lot of emotions among the local population. For many, it was as if a part of their own soul was destroyed, along with the century-old diving tradition. Luckily, the bridge was reconstructed after years of hard, meticulous work and was opened to the public again in 2004. Later, the historical bridge was registered as an UNESCO monument. But despite the restoration of the geographical separation, the tension and dichotomy between the different ethnicities have remained up until today, making Bosnia Herzegovina a very unstable country. Like a saying among local people goes, every generation will experience a war. When visiting Mostar as a tourist, you notices very little about the slumbering conflict at first glance. You can walk from one side of the bridge to the other without experiencing any problems or visible

“The bullet that hit me in my leg, came from my own neighbours’ gun”

aspects, unless you try to order some Croatian beer on the Bosnian side of the bridge or vice versa. If you try to do so, be prepared to be heavily frowned upon and have your waiter request you to leave. This might sound unreasonable until you talk about it with someone from the local community. As an example, I got to hear all about the personal war story of Zika, a Mostar local and my guide during the second time I visited the city. He lost many loved ones during the war and was eventually shot himself. The bullet hit him in his leg, which was fired by his own neighbour with whom he was good friends until the war broke loose. Just because he is of Bosnian origin, and the household next door identified himself as Croatian. Today, the Stari Most is no longer a symbol of connectivity, but of cultural division. The westside is mainly inhabited by Croatian Christians, the East by Bosnian Muslims. Both sides have their own hydropower plants, electricity suppliers and have separate schools. The city

therefore offers a special form of education: two completely different schools, in the same building, where children are separated in different groups where they attend different classes, all based upon their ethnicity. This emphasises even more how they are not one nation, not one people, maintaining the division within city borders. Will this situation change any time soon? Probably not. Is there a real possibility of another war anytime soon? Maybe. What can be said with certainty is that keeping the division between Mostar’s people in place, and pointing fingers at each other, must be stopped. The only question is how. Maybe the bridge-diving tradition, that, just like the war, is passed on from generation to generation, can bring people together again once more. In the meantime, I hope Zika continues to amaze people with his story on a path to an united Mostar once again.

23 A mosk peaking through the landscape at the Bosnian muslim side of Mostar.

Zika wandering off for a bit, walking carefully to not trigger any remaining landmines.


Saffron & rosewater: tastes from the Persian empire Text & photography: Sanne Moonemans


Saffron & rosewater: tastes from the Persian empire Food is culture. And culture is the great wealth of the historic Persian empire. Is it Iran or Persia? A question asked by many. Persia and the Persian empire, where the Persian speaking Persians live. Persia is the name given by the Greeks, centuries ago. But it has always been called Iran by its citizens, called Iranians that speak in their mother tongue Farsi. But whatever it is you call this place, smells of saffron and rosewater, sweetness of dates and honey and the delight of nuts and fresh vegetables are what awaits you.


1 VAAVISHKAA Made with spicy beef, egg and scallions, this dish is perfect for those nights you don’t feel like cooking but do fancy a good meal. The name of this rustic dish from northern Iran suggests a Russian origin, which might be possible because of the centuries of trading along the Caspian sea.

Ingredients: 500 gr ground beef 1 big onion 400 ml cold water 1 tsp turmeric ½ tsp black pepper 4 tomatoes 2 tbsp tomato puree ¼ tsp cayenne pepper 1 tsp sea salt 2 tbsp sunflower oil 2 eggs 2 spring onions 1. Add the ground beef and chopped onion in a pan and pour in cold water. Sprinkle turmeric powder and black pepper over the mixture and give it a good stir. Put the lid on the skillet and let simmer on low heat for 20 minutes. 2. In the meantime, skin the tomatoes. Using a sharp knife, carve a small cross in the top and


bottom of the tomatoes and let them sit in a bowl of boiling water for 1 minute. Drain and rub off the skin. Cut the tomatoes in half, take the seeds out and toss them. Cut up in little squares. 3. Add the tomato squares, tomato puree, cayenne pepper, salt and sunflower oil to the beef mixture and put the lid back on. Simmer for 15 minutes and stir occasionally. Take the lid off again and bake the beef for five more minutes. 4. Break the eggs above the skillet. Let them cook for one minute and continue by breaking the yolks with a wooden spoon. Be careful not to over stir, you want to maintain big pieces of egg. Put the lid back on the pan and let the eggs solidify. 5. Have a taste and spice up with salt and pepper to preference. Before serving, sprinkle over chopped spring onions. Extra tip: Vaavishka is great paired with some bread.


2 PERSIAN LOVE CAKE This enchanting cake looks just like a Persian garden around the end of spring. Smells of citrus and rosewater come towards you when it leaves the oven. The green pistachio decoration will instantly make you fall in love with this cake.

Ingredients 200 g butter 150 g fine granulated sugar 4 eggs 12 cardamom pods 100 g flour 275 g ground almonds zest of one lemon 1 tbsp rose syrup 1 tsp baking powder For the syrup 2 tbsp granulated sugar juice of ½ lemon ½ tbs rose water For the icing 150 g caster sugar juice of 3/4 lemon 1 tsp cold water For decoration 2 tbsp coarsely chopped pistachios 2 tbsp rose petals

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees celsius and grease a 22 centimeter circular mould with butter. 2. Mix the butter and sugar together until creamy, proceed to add in eggs one by one while continuing to mix. 3. Remove the seeds from cardamom pods and ground them using a mortar and pestle. Add the seeds to the mixture and mix in flour, chopped almonds, lemon zest, rosewater and baking powder. Mix well and transfer to the mould. 4. Bake for 45 minutes until golden brown. Check with a cake tester if it is cooked, otherwise bake again in steps of 5 minutes. 5. While your cake is rising in the oven, take a small saucepan. Mix the lemon juice, rose water and sugar on low heat until the sugar dissolves. 6. Once your cake is done, take it out of the oven and let rest on a cooling rack until fully cool Poke holes in the cake and pour over syrup you just made. 7. Make the icing with caster sugar and lemon juice. Add in water if necessary; the icing should be rather thick and slightly yellow in colour. Spread the icing over your cooled down cake and decorate with pistachios and dried rose petals.



3 POMEGRANATE & ROSE FIZZ From early on, Iranian children are thought about the beauty of the pomegranate fruit. It is not only their national fruit, but the fruit has been praised in Persian art and literature for centuries. It also is a symbol of eternal life, and that’s exactly what this cocktail tastes like.

Ingredients: 50 ml Pomegranate Juice 50 ml Ophir spiced gin 10 ml Rose syrup 25 ml Sugar syrup 25 ml Lemon juice Soda water Ice cubes Pomegranate seeds and sprigs of fresh mint to garnish.

1. Measure the gin and pour it into your cocktail shaker. Continue by adding in the pomegranate juice, rose water and lemon juice into the shaker and shake gently. 2.Add in the sugar syrup along with however much ice cubes you like to your glass, pour over the gin mixture and stir. 3.Top up with soda water and decorate with a sprig of mint and sprinkle over a few pomegranate seeds.


BEIRUT LIVE Text & photography: Sanne Moonemans

BEIRUT LIVE: HOMESICK TO A PLACE YOU’VE NEVER BEEN Beirut for me is nothing but nostalgic bliss, so when I got word Beirut would be coming to Brussels for a liveshow, I got truly extatic and bought myself a ticket as soon as I could. Their both melancholic and romantic tunes inspired by their singer Zach Condon’s travels performed on stage are an amazing experience, making you homesick to places you have never been.


merican frontman Zach Condon, who could easily be mistaken for a Frenchman, takes home various elements during his travels and melts them together in the cinematic compositions the band presented during this April evening in the south of Brussels. Zach noticed how Forest National was quite a bit bigger than Ancient Belgique, where Beirut played during their last visit to the city. “Qu’estce qui s’est passé?” he wondered aloud. The audiences was first introduced to a few songs from their new album ‘Gallipoli’ which, just like the name of the band, is inspired by a European city. This most recent EP is a commemoration of cultures and features bits in seven languages, including both Portuguese and Japanese. But Beirut has not forgotten their origins and their most recent songs still carry those gloomy Balkan vibes and polka influences

we all love them for. This celebration of the beauty of cultural collision is exactly what we need today. Despite the many new songs played, there is still room for old work and golden classics that makes one immediately desire to plan a trip or two to the eastern region. Their tunes form the melodic equivalent of a holiday at the lake among wild growing plants during romantic, sultry summers. Back in 2006, equipped with a ukulele, violens, trash bins as drum sets and Zach’s deep voice, they released the romantic in everyone when they gave a spontaneous concert in the streets of Paris. As soon as frontman Condon grabs his ukulele, you know tears will be flowing down your cheeks. The little instrument lifts new songs such as ‘Varieties of Exile’ and ‘When

I die’ instantly to the level of live-classics. To give us a moment to dry our wet cheeks, the melancholic classics are switched up by a set of happy and more upbeat hits such as ‘Santa Fe’ and ‘No No No’. Strengthened by trumpets and trombones, perfect harmony is created on the low lit stage. Overall, Beirut reached atmospheric and warm perfection during this live performance. They are on stable rails with no specific high or low peaks and the live experience is even better than playing their studio recorded album at home. Beirut truly is the musical embodiment of sunny afternoon strolls and adventurous train rides through Eastern Europe and the live experience and evokes nostalgia to exactly that.


Beirut performing live at Forest National Brussels with their dreamy setup




Text & illustrations: Sanne Moonemans

LIFE UNDER SANCTIONS IN IRAN: “MY MOTHER IS DYING RIGHT BEFORE MY EYES” At the end of 2018, the United States withdrew from the nuclear deal with Iran. President Trump stated the deal was one sided and Iran did not comply to the rules that were set. This was followed by “the toughest sanctions in history”. But what does this mean for the everyday Iranian? Four Iranians give their testemony.



merican president Donald Trump announced it as “the toughest sanctions in history”, after withdrawing the United States from the 2015 nuclear deal. By imposing new sanctions, Trump wants to force the country to completely shut down its nuclear program, even though this had already shrunk massively. Iran was put under strict supervision and met all requirements set up in the deal. Besides the US, the European Union and a few other countries, also signed the deal. Unlike the States, they have until this day not withdrawn from the agreement.

Although the rest of the world does not impose nuclear sanctions, countries risk huge fines from the US if they break American rules and trade with Iran. Besides nuclear activity, Iran is involved in multiple armed conflicts in the Middle East. Trump wants Iran to withdraw from the region, even though the US is also active in the same wars. The American president sees this as an additional reason to impose sanctions. In June 2015, the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action is set up. After a long history of sanctions around Iran’s nuclear program,

Timeline the countries’ officials are finally willing to sit around the table with world leaders. This is how the JCPOA is established and Iran promises, among other things, to shrink the nuclear program. In January 2016, the IAEA confirms that Iran meets all requirements and the sanctions are lifted. The International Atomic Energy Agency supervises compliance with the terms of the deal and the agency confirms Iran meets all requirements and complies with all agreed rules. In May 2018, Trump withdraws US from the deal. The deal expires and for it to be extended, a presidential signature is needed. Instead of doing so, the US officially withdraws from the JCPOA. In his speech of May 8 President Trump calls, he calls the deal “terrible and one-sided.” He also mentioned he wants to work on a “real” solution to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. In August 2018 the first phase of new sanctions is rolled out. From this moment forward, Iran can no longer trade using dollars, gold, aluminum and steel using the Iranian currency: the rial. On the other hand, this also means that countries worldwide can no longer trade with Iran. In November 2018 the second phase of new sanctions are imposed. Starting in this second phase, the sanctions are extended to the oil industry, shipping, insurance providers and the country’s central bank.

Although the United States firmly claim the new sanctions only target the Iranian regime, they have the strongest impact on ordinary citizens. It doesn’t matter which Iranian you ask about the sanctions, everyone has a story about how dramatically the sanctions impacted their lives in different areas. From financial complications to problems when going onholiday, everyone feels it.

Financial The biggest impact the sanctions have is on financial level. For example, the rial, the national currency of the country, has gone in free fall after the introduction of the sanctions. This not only reduces the purchasing power of Iran’s citizens, but also imported goods or luxury products, and even everyday food have become unaffordable for the ordinary people. Many products have tripled in price in just a short time. Some experts even state that the country is on the verge of a serious financial crisis. Since the introduction of the sanctions many jobs have been lost and family businesses have gone bankrupt.

“Last year, a kilo of meat cost around 300,000 rials (6 euros), but today it is already 1,000,000 rials (20 euros). I haven’t been able to buy meat for at least four months now” The first person I spoke to about these issues is Eve. She feels the severe sanctions in various areas of her life. She once was an importer of chemicals as a representative of a large British company. This company was later taken over by an American holding company. But from the moment Trump took office, her agency was cancelled without notice. She lost her well-paid job after 15 years and had to fire her four employees.To this day, she has still not succeeded in finding new work, which does not make the times of inflation any easier. Many people in her life have similar stories. For example, one was forced to close his company after 30 years and the other had to fire 100 employees.



Medical Due to the sanctions imposed by the United States, the availability of many important drugs is limited. Millions of sick people, including cancer and MS patients, have no or difficult access to life-saving medicine they need to function. In addition to medication for serious conditions, normal, very common medicines are becoming increasingly scarce, including for example acetaminophen and insulin. The import of medication is not directly limited by the sanctions. But because of the blockade of financial traffic between Iran and foreign banks, it is almost impossible to import such products. In addition, Iran is forbidden to purchase chemicals that can give a certain reaction when combined. With many medicines, or the production thereof, this is the case and therefore Iran cannot purchase them. Many sick people and their families are forced to buy medication on the black market. This is not always safe and it is much more expensive than at a pharmacy. People who can afford it, go abroad for treatment. In addition to strong growth in the black market for medication, the illegal trade in organs is also increasing. A clear example of the severity of the medical shortages is the situation in which Eve and her family find themselves in. Her mother suffers from cancer, which requires expensive and intensive

“When you see how the sanctions have an impact on my quality of life while I have been thousands of miles away from Iran for many years, I’m scared for the people still living in Iran” treatment. Before the sanctions were introduced, treatment was already unaffordable for many people. Back then, the price of treatment was about 15 million rials (320 euros) every 21 days, an average monthly income. But Eve used to have a good job and could take care of her mother. Until the sanctions returned. The price of treatment has since risen dramatically to around 40 million rials (800 euros) per three weeks. After losing her job and therefore her income, it became unaffordable. Besides financial difficulties, it is extra difficult because many resources required for treatment cannot be imported.



10 years ago for a new life in Malaysia with an Iranian passport. Once settled in another country, he felt more secure and stable. He found himself a good job and hoped he could grow in this new country.The plan was to later also fly over his parents, of whom he is the only child, to create a safe home together. At that moment he did not know that serious problems would come his way later. Mahdi is suddenly informed that his health insurance policy is being canceled.

Mehdi (26) was denied basic health care services due to sanctions Many of these stories are also confirmed by Iman. He is anemployee of the pharmaceutical company Pars Isotope. They develop and provide the technology needed to diagnose and treat various types of cancer. They are the only company in Iran that have this technology. Because radioactive substances are a key element, the sanctions also apply to this. Despite the exception to medical supplies. The company was even specifically named in the treaty behind the sanctions. The many cancer patients in Iran are dependent on treatment using this technology, but this is made almost impossible by the sanctions. This puts many lives at risk. Cancer is the third most common cause of death in Iran. The medical sanctions also have far-reaching consequences outside Iran. Mahdi tells us about this, who left his homeland about

Without any possibility of extending it because of the sanctions against his home country. The US also forbids the provision of insurance to people who have the Iranian nationality. For years Mahdi has been a model citizen in Malaysia, he has a good job and pays his taxes. Yet there is no possibility of insurance unless he changes his nationality. Mahdi now lives thousands of miles away from the sanctioned country and yet he feels the consequences. Previously, he experienced problems while applying for a credit card, but Mahdi says he is now being denied a basic right. He is being denied health insurance because of his origin. Mahdi’s situation will not change for the time being. The end of the sanctions is not in sight and insurance providers do not want to make an exception for him. That is why he is considering leaving everything behind again and building up a new life somewhere else. “Maybe in Europe, but I need something. I can call neither Iran nor Malaysia home. I don’t know what they will do to me or people like me in the future,” he says.



Mona (28) struggles to obtain a US visa to visit her family in the United States


Travel and family One of the drastic measures introduced by the United States together with the sanctions is the entry ban for people from a number of countries, including Iran. It is therefore difficult or often impossible for Iranian passport holders to travel to America. Visiting family, studying abroad or simply going on holiday will therefore become extra difficult. Although the US does not have an explicit ban on access to the country for holders of an Iranian passport, it has been found that most of the visa applications are denied, thereby denying entry and losing all the time and money that was invested. For most countries, a visa is required for those with an Iranian passport. The process of obtaining such a visa can take months and can cost hundreds of euros. Mona, an Iranian national living in Belgium, still has many people in her country of origin with whom she keeps in contact. “We need a visa for many countries. Such applications are expensive, and the chance that they will be rejected is big. You will not get your money back.” Like many Iranians, Mehrzad and his mother have family in the US. When his mother became the grandmother of two grandchildren who were born in the United States, she was unable to visit them. Her visa was rejected without

“Our visa is often rejected despite all our efforts” explanation The impact of the sanctions is undoubtedly large, but a solution for all affected is not in sight. As long as President Trump resides in the White House, the sanctions aren’t going anywhere any time soon and the chance of a new deal with Iran is small. For example, one of the latest statements made by Secretary of State and Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo is not exactly hopeful; he stated that the sanctions are intended to affect the more than 82 million Iranian citizens, and not just the regime. Pompeo is convinced that by making life so difficult for the people of Iran, they cannot help but rebel against their own government in order to force change. But in reality, the sanctions only cause more hatred, division and misery. Not only between the United States and Iran, but throughout the world.




Text: Sanne Moonemans | photography: Lada Pevunova

The Twelfth Time Zone: A visual journey through contemporary Russia From Kaliningrad at the Baltic coast to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky bordering the Pacific Ocean, the country of Russia spreads over eleven time zones. The Bozar exhibtion The Twelfth Time Zone will be coming to BOZAR this summer. This visual report from Russia will guide visitors through the cultural heritage that goes beyond the known metropolises such as Saint Petersburg and Moscow.



Earth-Sky (1994), painting by Erik Bulatov

Ekaterina Kaplunova


Factory of Found Clothes/FFC Triumf of Fragility, St-Petersburg (2002) Gluklya/Natalia Pershina, Yakimanskaya & Tsaplya/Olga Egorova - © D. Vilensky


his exhibition is part of another exposition at BOZAR, Russian Turn, and is set up in partnership with the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, the Vladimir Potanin Foundation and Sibur. Russian Turn is an interdisciplinary cycle of meetings with famous Russian artists and intellectuals from all disciplines. In a time of increasing tensions within and outside of Europe, Bozar is joining forces with artists and intellectuals from across Europe to work on a new perspective on Europe and the future of the continent. Instead of restricting our gaze to contemporary politics, Russian Turn wants to involve Russian artists and intellectuals in a debate about shared ambitions and current fears. As a reference to the vastness of the country, the project was titled ‘twelfth time zone’. This twelfth zone symbolises art, which is perhaps the only way in which the geographical vastness can be comprehended. However, it is not just an ordinary exhibition. Visitors will be introduced to a wide range of flourishing artistic works displayed in twelve stops

along the railway line, referring to the Trans-Siberian railway. On the train itself, somewhat creating a thirteenth time zone, visitors can see an artist from Kaliningrad working live on his newest creation. In collaboration with Russian artists and intellectuals, the BOZAR Art Foundation focuses on the Europe of tomorrow and explores the role that Russia can or will play in this. Come and discover this unique experience and familiarize yourself with the still very unknown and misunderstood Mother Russia. Step aboard the train and head east of Moscow, travelling to Perm, Ulyan-Ude, Tyumen, and Irkutsk. Don't miss the transit of the Trans-Siberian train, which is exceptionally stopping a stone’s throw from Brussels Central Station. The twelfth time zone will be on show starting June 28 2019 to September 8 2019. Russian Turn, however, has already been on since 2017 and will be up until December 31 2019. Entrance for both exhibitions is free.


Road Trip: a journey over the Military Highway through the Caucasus mountains to the top of the world Text & photography: Sanne Moonemans

Road Trip: A journey over the Military Highway through the Caucasus mountains to the top of the world Before getting on a 7 hour flight with a very stressful layover, I was fed with all kinds of stories and expectations of those who went before me. Every single one of these “Georgiaphiles” were lyrical about the same three things: the nature, the locals and Georgia’s cuisine. I decided to go on an epic road trip along the infamous Military highway to find out for myself.



bilisi is everything, and more, most tourist overflowing Western metropolis are. Modern architecture and a cute old part of town, great restaurants and a nightlife scene Berlin should be intimidated by. But that wasn’t what I came to Georgia for, so after a few days of exploring the city, I got packing again to head north. Four things that are unavoidable while road tripping in the Caucasus: crazy drivers, cows causing traffic jams, incredible views and countless of watermelon vendors along the way. With these things in mind, I threw my backpack with mainly outdoor essentials in the back of a 4x4 Lada, on route for the real adventure. A sign displayed above the road leading out of the capital wishes us a happy journey in both Georgian and English, on to the famous and historic Military Highway; a 212 kilometer long slab of asphalt connecting the Georgian city of Tbilisi to the Russian town of Vladikavkaz. Almost immediately upon leaving the city behind us, I can see the change in scenery along the road. Our car swiftly swinging through mountain ranges, winding along green scenery going up and descending again quickly in a dangerous and steep abyss; confirming the warnings I received beforehand.

Onwards to the “devil’s valley”


Fellow adventurers suggested me to be cautious about the driving culture. I told them it would be fine, because I had experienced such dangerous behaviour before. But Georgian drivers hit a complete new level of craziness behind the wheel. Wearing a seatbelt is out of the question; many cars don’t even have them. Same goes for traffic rules and respecting your fellow road users. The crazy speeds these drivers reach are often switched up with moments of slowly crawling forward because of blockages created by either old Soviet lorries in front expelling horrendous fumes, or herds of cows preferring the wandering over the asphalt than a grass meadow. One thing about making a road trip through the birth ground of Joseph Stalin is for certain; these madmen will make you fear for your life, but it will let you go home with exciting stories and a newfound appreciation for order and traffic laws. This single lane road doesn’t feel much like a highway, let alone an important trading lifeline, unlike the easy, practical road its name might imply. Yet it has been a mayor route since its construction in 1799 and with the chronicle of events piled up much historical value, making it a physical embodiment of the regions rich history.

Cows obstructing the road


Take a moment for a cliche but fun tourist photo in traditional Georgian dress.


Over time, the trail has been used by traders and invaders and eventually even lead to the dividing of the Caucasus during the Russo-Circassian war. In recent years however, its importance declined due to natural disasters occurring frequently and massive delays at the Russian border, which was later closed off completely for a couple years. It was however reopened in 2013 by Armenian demand, gaining back importance by reconnecting Armenia and Russia. Without a doubt, the highway celebrated by poets and feared by military leaders over the centuries is a true adventure of its own, no matter your final destination. We pass an entertaining mix vehicles. Mainly lorries, of which many imported from the west as they were written off there. Funnily enough, the recognisable Dutch company names remain on the sides. And of course countless of Ladas, the four wheeled symbol of the Soviet Union and the occasional military vehicle.

Georgia has an amazing topological divers landscape. Within miles from the city of Tbilisi, one has access to a sub-tropical coastline, vast desert areas and mountainous scenery. But the Military Highway mainly takes us past the latter. A few stops along the journey to be able to fully appreciate the breathtaking views are therefor mandatory. Medieval ruins of Ananuri The first stopover is at the fortress of Ananuri. The castle, church, bridge and view over the underlying lake are true postcard material. Medieval walls stand tall in the ever so green landscape, and I am not the only ones who figured out this amazing spot. Here one can pose for a picture to send home in traditional Georgian dress. Next to the small car park, every need of the occasional tourist stopping by is catered for. Multiple stands serve food, sell watermelons and one of Georgia’s best known snacks: grapes covered in sugary roux called Churchkhela. I buy a few for the last couple dozen miles to Kazbegi and hop back in our 4x4.

friendship monument: celebrating the 48The relationship between Russia and Georgia


Food vendors at the Ananuri fortress

View from the bridge besides the Ananuri fortress

Devil’s valley From here on the rugged mountain tops peaking through the landscape start getting more brutal and intimidating as I climb higher up. I head onwards to our next stop: Jvari Pass, better known as the devil’s valley among locals. As I rush past more breathtaking views, carpeted with deep green trees, I reach yet another spot to take a moment and appreciate the true beauty Georgia has to offer. On a plateau situated right above the cliff stands the Georgia-Russia friendship monument, dating back to 1983. The large, circular concrete structure decorated with tiles, displaying important aspects of Georgian culture, was build to celebrate the continues friendship between what was at the time Soviet Russia and Soviet Georgia. A friendship that according to many, never existed. At this point the sun starts to set and the mountainscapes surrounding us turn into a dark, grim decor.



Stunning view over the lake at the Ananuri fortress.

Roadsides in the Caucasus are crowded with watermelon sellers.

ROAD TRIP Mother of all hikes Hours after sunset, I arrive in the small village of Stepantsminda, better known as Kazbegi. Although the Military Highway continues on to Vladikavkaz, on the other side of the Russian border, this hiking paradise is our final destination for now. Not long after daybreak, I head out to the sleepy little village Stepantsminda of for the final episode of this epic trip; conquering mount Kazbek. Equipped with sturdy boots, a suspicious looking packet of food our host for the night gave us that later turned out to be dried fish and yet another 4x4 car, a more terrain proof Mitsubishi this time, I continue my adventure. The first passage upward is a sandy road crisscrossing towards the first plateau, where the trail ends for most of our fellow tourists. This is where Gergeti Trinity church is located, a site many people take pilgrimage to. After all, Georgia is one of the oldest Christian countries with countless of churches and monasteries located on the most enchanting locations. I


have a brief look inside and quickly move on to what I really came all this way for for: hiking all the way up to the glaciers near the top of this part of the Caucasus mountains that peak, at their highest point, 5,642 meters above sea level. Many moments of having to stop and stare back down at the truly magnificent view behind me, the climate seems to transform while it gets colder and a wave of fog washes over me. A welcome change after days of summer heat in the city. As daylight slowly starts to fade once more, I take a few last pictures before descending again; already deciding I cannot get enough of not just this stunning national park, but the incredible country as a whole. I will to return to Georgia and explore more, sooner rather than later. On this journey the soul and history of Georgia engulf you. While driving a Lada there is no escaping it, no matter if you’re getting in or out. Embrace your fear of road rage, heights or simply the unknown. Pack your bags and go explore this wonderful country. You can thank me later.

Watching a flock of sheep being guided back to the farm, somewhere at the beginning of my hike on mount Kazbek.



Text & photography: Sanne Moonemans

24 Hours in Baku: your guide to a day in the capital of the country of fire From bubbling mud volcanoes to luxury sky bars, here are some of the more surprising highlights found in the little-visited capital of Azerbaijan. Although just one day is too little to explore all the amazing things the city and its direct region have to offer, making it easy to wander around for at least a day or three, twenty four hours allow you to get a proper taste of this thriving oil city.

The Nizami Museum of Azerbaijani Literature 24 HOURS BAKU 53 withIN its stunning blue tiled facade


24 HOURS IN BAKU Canals of ‘little Venice’

Market in the Old City where, among other traditional goods, carpets are sold


hile Baku is a city that holds and shares a strong opinion, the bustling east-meets-west destination has enough charms to blow away even the greatest skeptic. Here is how to spend 24 hours experiencing the best things in Baku. For a day this packed with activities, it is best to start the day off with a good breakfast along with a strong cup of coffee. After your caffeine fix, head to Baku’s old town. The historic stone walls and cobbled streets of the Old Town of Baku, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are a welcome distraction from the gleaming glass skyscrapers and luxury apartment blocks that dominate the rest of the city skyline. Relive ancient times in the Old City Within the wall surrounded old town, time seems to have stood still; ancient buildings and roads were left alone over time. Climb the 12th-century Maiden’s Tower for aerial photos of the maze of alleys and tall minarets of the Old City before visiting the sacred palace of the Shirvanshahs - a grand monument with the mausoleum of the philosopher Seyid Yahya Bakuvi, a 17th-century bathhouse and a pavilion with ornamental stones. End this little city trip within a city by looking around in the wonderful antique shops in between small mosques. Other historical highlights in this part of Baku include traditional tearooms, art galleries and the Baku Museum of Miniature Books. On your way to the other side of town, have a quick tea or coffee break with a piece of ‘halva’. Halva is a paste like snack made of chopped nuts, jammed in between thin layers of fried dough.

Paris? Or Baku?

Baku’s most prized architectural structure: the Flame Towers

Baku’s futuristic skyline 24 HOURS IN BAKU

Brush up on your history While a museum dedicated to carpets sounds like a bit of a gimmick, the Azeri Carpet Museum emphasizes the turbulent history of the country through carpets and floor coverings. As a prominent stop on the ancient Silk Road, Azerbaijan is known for its carpets and the colorful works on display here are impressive. Of course you can also get some authentic wares in the store on site. Still not convinced? Then it might help to know that the entire building itself has the shape of a rolled up carpet, which is worth at least a photo or two. Eat like a local For lunch, or dinner if you explored everything above to its fullest extend, experience Baku’s food culture which really got off the ground during recent years. Zest Lifestyle Café (JW Marriott Hotel, 674 Azadliq Square), Yuukai Restaurant (Jumeirah Bilgah Beach Hotel, 94 Gelebe Str) and Fireworks Urban Kitchen are some of the most popular culinary hotspots in the city and offer everything from Mediterranean to Japanese rate. If highfalutin restaurants and eye-catching bills leave a bad taste in your mouth, book a table at Kafe Araz (Fountain Square), a traditional eatery serving cold beers and authentic Azerbaijani food in a casual setting. Open 24/7, Araz is full of small wooden tables and the air is thick with shisha smoke. Squeeze in and browse the

comprehensive menu that offers everything from steak to plov (a traditional Azeri rice dish). The nearby Firuza (Eliyarbeyov kuc 14) is another nice establishment, where traditional regional dishes are served at fair prices. Stroll along the European-esque boulevard It is refreshingly green and spacious and benefits from a sea breeze. Baku Boulevard, roughly three kilometers in length, is one of the most pleasant parts of the city. Especially when the sun starts to set, it is nice to wander along edge of the Caspian Sea. It connects two of the city’s most historic squares: National Flag and Freedom. Somewhere midway, you might get confused and think you ended up in Western Europe. A big square with little canals, gondolas passing through, which is also known as ‘little Venice’. The plaza is surrounded by tall buildings with cute balconies, making one imagine to be in Paris, but no, you are still in Baku, a city which never ceases to amaze. End your evening with a visit to the famous flame towers. This impressive building with three towers resembling burning flames. During night time it is especially dramatic to witness, as the towers light up in various warm colours, making it look like actual fire. After all, Azerbaijan calls itself the ‘land of fire’.





PAGE 8 TO 11: 5 MINUTE GUIDE TO TBILISI all pictures taken by myself in the city of Tbilisi, Georgia. PAGE 12 TO 17: CULTURE COOKING pictures from Gettyimages, please see note in the beginning of this magazine PAGE 18 TO 19: LETTERS FROM HERZEGOVINA all pictures taken by myself in the city of Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina PAGE 22 TO 27: SAFFRON & ROSEWATER all pictures taken by myself in my own kitchen, without burning my house down PAGE 28 TO 29: BEIRUT LIVE picure taking by myself at the concert at Forest National PAGE 30 TO 35: ROAD TRIP all pictures taken by myself across the country of Georgia PAGE 36 TO 49: 12TH TIME ZONE images from works displayed during the two expo’s discussed, credits to the creators and BOZAR PAGE 50 TO 53: 24 HOURS IN BAKU all pictures taken by myself in the city of Baku, Azerbaijan