- Welcome, did you return to stay, dear?
- I'm only visiting as always, but let's hug!

HOTEL HELLAS (ongoing since 2017)

"Home is not where you were born. Home is where all your attempts to escape cease." 

On the way back home, I can barely recognise my own face in the mirror, sick and ravaged by the trip. Once there, all I see around me are tired and homeless bodies.

Since my family's migration to Athens from the Lebanese civil war, first in 1976 and then in 1989, my relationship to Athens and Greece evolved through the years into a impermanent place of Return.  

These images convey glimpses of fleeting presence, of this attempt to visit a fictional homeland, an ephemeral past existence in perpetual exile, instant projections of a worn nostalgia, and the death of a precarious chronology of History.  

These dialogues are the echo of a conversation never started with my sister, brother and 23 first cousins, all born in Beirut, all except one uprooted...

All are mostly fragile strands of an unfinished poem, dedicated to singing the ruins of belonging, in a time of war.

"La patrie n'est pas le lieu où vous êtes né. La patrie c'est lieu
où toutes vos tentatives d'évasion cessent."
Naguib Mahfouz

Sur le chemin de retour à la maison, je peux à peine reconnaître mon propre visage dans le miroir, malade et ravagé par le voyage. Une fois là, tout ce que je vois autour de moi, ce sont des corps fatigués et sans abri.

Depuis la migration de ma famille à Athènes de la guerre civile libanaise, d'abord en 1976 puis en 1989, ma relation avec la Grèce a évolué au fil des années en un lieu impermanent du Retour

Ces images véhiculent des aperçus de présence fugitive, de cette tentative de visiter une patrie fictive, une existence éphémère passée en perpétuel exil, les projections instantanées d'une nostalgie usée et la mort d'une chronologie précaire de l'Histoire. 

Ces dialogues sont l'écho d'une conversation jamais entamé avec ma sœur, mon frère et mes 23 cousins germains, tous né à Beirut, tous déracinés sauf un...

Ce sont principalement les traces fragiles d'un poème inachevé, consacré à chanter les ruines de l'appartenance, en temps de guerre.

"Η πατρίδα δεν είναι εκεί που γεννήθηκες. Η πατρίδα είναι εκεί
που σταματούν όλες οι προσπάθειές σου για απόδραση."
Ναγκίμπ Μαχφούζ

Στο δρόμο της επιστροφής στο σπίτι, δεν μπορώ να αναγνωρίσω το πρόσωπό μου στον καθρέφτη, άρρωστο και λεηλατημένο από το ταξίδι. Μία φορά εκεί,, το μόνο που βλέπω γύρω μου είναι κουρασμένα σώματα, άστεγα.

Από τη μετανάστευση της οικογένειάς μου στην Αθήνα, αρχικά το 1976 και μετά το 1989, κατά τη διάρκεια του εμφυλίου πολέμου του Λιβάνου, η σχέση μου με την Ελλάδα εξελίχθηκε με την πάροδο των χρόνων σε ένα μόνιμο τόπο Επιστροφής

Αυτές οι εικόνες μεταδίδουν μια φαινομενική παρουσία, μιας άλλης αποτυχημένης προσπάθειας να επισκεφτώ μια φανταστική πατρίδα, μια εφήμερη περασμένη ύπαρξη σε διαρκή εξορία, στιγμιαίες προβολές μιας φθαρμένης νοσταλγίας και το θάνατο μιας επισφαλούς χρονολόγησης της Ιστορίας. 

Αυτοί οι διάλογοι είναι η ηχώ μιας συνομιλίας που δεν ξεκίνησε ποτέ με την αδελφή, τον αδελφό και τα 23 πρώτα μου ξαδέλφια, γεννημένοι όλοι στη Βηρυτό, όλοι εκτός από έναν ξεριζωμένοι...

Ολά είναι ως επί το πλείστον, εύθραυστα σκέλη ενός ημιτελούς ποιήματος, αφιερωμένα στο τραγούδι των ερειπίων του ανήκειν, σε μια εποχή πολέμου.


- Many pigeons landed on Noah's ark today!
- But no sign of life on board ...

- Are you going somewhere?
- No, I'm just returning home.

- A politician once told me that Greece is a ship sailing on a sea of olive oil.
- I guess now it is sailing on an ocean of rooms for rent!

- I thought you were a bridge between people, identities and shores!
- Yes, I would be such a bridge, but if there is no more water flowing under it, then I will be obsolete.

- One day I will return home!
- Try to knock at any door on your way back and may be you will already be there...

- What have I really become here?
- An uprooted migrant impatient to die, if I judge from your looks.

- How did he describe the spirit of a woman who walked and encouraged the defenders of the besieged city of Missolonghi?
- In the same way he described the beauty of spring.

- We lost sight of each other for years now!
- But you remain bound by a hidden string, your common uprooting.

- He left and never looked back.
- You watched him leave and never said goodbye !

swimming pool
- Are you always carrying around a backpack?
- I often come across a figure, mirroring my image, and it's always with a backpack.

- You often come here, but never with a fishing rod?
- For one terrible night, my friend, this white boat was my only hope for a better future in Europe. Today I walk here all the way from the camp, to watch my "hope" sinking slowly slowly in this beautiful bay looking at the fish trapped in those "concentration camps".

- They killed him because he was dirty, infected and a thief!
- Yes, that's exactly what we blamed him for, and of what we stink of.

- At the monument for Asia Minor Catastrophe the stairs lead to a stone blocking the entrance!
- Isn't this what always happen to all immigrants?

- I'd like to have the determination to erase the barriers in my daily life.
- Why not let these barriers become ornaments in your intimate garden?

- War is so theatrical!
- But if we look at the words that express it, we find body parts and endless bloodshed.

- When the flood comes, you will be the first to get crushed!
- And when the earthquake hits, I'll probably be one of the few to survive.

- What happened here during the war?
- Nothing, really! The enemy forces camped here for a few days and then left.

- The stone archways, thyme and anise smell like home!
- That same smell reminds me of the long distance from home.

- They came to Amorgos from Palestine about 1300 years ago to save a holy Icon.
- My ancestors came from New Zealand but I was born and grew up here.

- You did some pretty bad things in your life!
- But now I'm retired and resting here on this wild island of the Aegean.

- I wonder how summer will end this year ?
- When autumn comes, I guess...

- We never learned anything about our grandfather Dimitris's childhood!
- That's the first thing to be erased when you experience a catastrophe in your youth.

- When you step out of this doorstep, don't look back!
- So you're not coming with me?

- Happy New Year, dear!
- A lot of work has been done this last year. But why do I feel so empty honey?

- These hundreds of cisterns in the Lavriotiki region are the source of Athens' wealth and prosperity in ancient times!
- It wasn't the cisterns, but the thousands of slaves who worked day and night for the first private entrepreneurs, large and small, who supplied Athenian democracy with precious metals.

- The war's over, but you never came back!
- I came back, but I didn't recognize myself amongst the ruins, so I left again.

- Now that we've become friends, don't leave me!
-Because we became friends, I will abandon you. Maybe one day I would come back as an enemy.

- Do you think "Annetta + Dimitris" are still in love?
- The real question is why is that cockpit resting in a fishermen's shipyard on this island!

- What's that monument about?
- Forty-eight mattresses for forsaken dreams!


- My mother's name is fading day by day from this monument!
- But still, your separation is deeply engraved in your heart.

- Sister, I dreamt last night of our refuge, the Larco hotel, in Larnaca, back in 1983!
- Were you playing video games in the lobby?

- I can not see the world as it is and prefer to imagine that I am living a knightly story.
- But what reality is nowadays, don't let you imagine anything else.

- Seven ways to resist and defend your homeland.
- But not a single way to flee and save your own life.

- You tried really hard to stay here more than anyone!
- Not really. As soon as I felt anger and danger, I ran away in a hurry and left behind everything I loved.

- Years ago, a power station occupied the nearby lands, so they abandoned their place of origin.
- And now it's become the ghost house in the prairie !

- Still in waiting !
- Impossible waiting. Each time you wait, it is death that you recall in waiting.

- Have you ever dreamt of a new beginning?
- I dream of ruins, ashes, burnt land, and Justice.


- Where do you come from?
- From lands that uprooted me and left me floating from shore to shore on the Mediterranean.

- I am waiting for the summer !
- But you know they're not coming to visit us anymore.

- Do not worry about things that can be fixed.
- But also don't worry about things that can not be fixed.

- Luck has abandoned us!
- Faith in luck will never abandon us, my friend.

- Make some space for me to come and stay.
- Once I make it you'll leave me again!

- Your son is almost 18 years old!
- And he still hasn't visited my country of origin.

- I sometimes find refuge in the silence of Athens' churches.
- But saints are easier to find on the streets, wrapped up in their tiredness.

- They seem to have forgotten me here!
- No, you just became part of a new great vintage museum collection.

- Where do that choked scream come from?
- From the last cry of a slaughtered goat - τράγος, origin of the word tragedy - τραγωδία, birthplace of songs - τραγούδια.

- The restoration of our ruins today is more like a home of an utopia.
- You know that about two hundred years ago these Pillars of Olympian Zeus temple were still home to a few monks.

- Sometimes I want to pray but I can't find the right place!
- Maybe you should act better than pray.

- Listen carefully to what a home land have to say!
- Come closer so it can whisper you.

- What about your new mustache!
- It's in full harmony with our times, no?

- Today, where do you identify yourself from?
- I feel like I'm on my way there, the Mediterranean Sea...

- Why don't you look at me?
- In your foreign gaze I see my Cain's face!

- What would you choose to take of your belongings in a box and save them from a calamity, if you could?
- My grandfather chose the photo albums, 8 mm films, his pens and a typewriter.

- Why did you stop traveling?
- So as not to encounter myself in the eyes of others who are longing for their homeland.

- What are you muttering again in your corner ? Aren't we lucky to be here in the middle of a global epidemic ?
- I didn't plan to go on summer vacation and stay there forever !

- Before departure, journeys always seem intricate though tainted with hope...
- Not if you're a migrant in a state of limbo.

- Stop fueling your nomadic life by building virtual dreams of a home!
- If I stop, I'll perish.

- This year ends with an enormous weight in my heart.
- When the clouds of barbaric wars darken the skies over our homeland, an invisible net suddenly binds us all together in the same pain !

- My home city seems void of hospitality!
- There are also times that we will feel as foreigners in an abandoned hotel.

- Mom, are we going to school with this new bus today?
- No honey, this bus takes us far away, so we become invisible.

- The neighbour's house is burning!
- Don't just stand there watching, call the firefighters or the building will burn.

- Imagine we were walking on a slow pace and heavy steps!
- I wonder if we had the power to drag to our rhythm some of those fast forward tourists in Athens.

- What is so Ancient and precious about those Eleusis stones?
- Since the time or people who took shelter in their shade are gone, I suppose!

- Despite everything, you never left your homeland!
- Someone had to stay behind for future archeologists.

- Please don't go!
- I'm not leaving, I just don't want to see you anymore.

- Where do you take refuge and hide?
- Where eternity can see me.

- I came back from travel to find an empty refrigerator!
- It stayed empty since you emigrated, waiting for you.

- Can you see your city being abandoned by its citizens?
- Only when I cry, I can.

- When was your last Christmas holiday?
- Before the fall of the Empire.

- How deep can one slide into the abyss of nostalgia?
- Until the depths of grief, I suppose !

- Chinatown is empty today!
- The whole world might be empty one day, soon.

- Go get a haircut and come join the family!
- But I prefer to be alone.

- I forgot where we're going!
- Where sacredness is a playground for children and longing a trap for exiles.

metal door
- Call my name and I will open my heart to you...
- I've been whispering it for years now, in my exile, but I haven't had the courage to shout it aloud, not even once, for fear of the grief and longing it would bring.

- I walked all day with an aim, only to discover that I was completely lost!
- Did your destination reveal itself through a mountain of empty thoughts?

- I don't want to see you again, period.
- I'm going to kill you, you hear me, and I'm going to destroy your house... Hello! Hello!

- Where are you?
- Somewhere in between two places, where I feel at home the most.

- Rubble upon rubble this the only thing I remember.
- Oblivion you mean. Ιt manifests itself in a place like this as our collective memory. 

- Let's do a selfie to send to your son.
- I constantly send him selfies but he never says anything!

- They burned my home, my garden & my landscape!
- You burned yourself, your present and future and remained surrounded by the remains of your past.

- My home is where I lay my head to sleep.
- My nest is where you choose to live for a season.

- Why are you hiding?
- I'm barely hiding from myself.

- I had no choice but to leave.
- In these dark times, your absence is vigilant.

- I have sought all my life to be the noble heir to a tradition.
- But you found yourself at the end of the road before of the ruins of an obsolete idea of the world.

column heads
- When did you return to Athens?
- This recurrent question, as if I always "return" when I come here or anywhere else !!!

- Are you hiding your old identity in your new homeland?
- The longer my exile lasts, the more I reveal my origins.

- How did you end up here, on this gloomy august day?
- Ask the heart-weather forecast!

- I came here just for the luxury view and the swimming pool!
- You just came to forget who you are.

- Summer is coming and going and I still can't build my own sea view apartment, before it's definitely blocked!
- Stop complaining and enjoy suntanning.

- Are you leaving me?
- I'm still here, it's you who is drifting away.

- What kind of hospitality is offering just unlimited time and shade!
- Their state of limbo is our shame.

- I wish I could live here in solitude!
- With snakes, hedgehogs, butterflies, partridges, chameleons, lizards, goats, eagles... and those are only few of the species that we encountered coming here.

- I've had enough of moving from place to place all my life, and settled here.
- But this movement was fueling your life, now you look lifeless!

- I wanted to gaze at your magnificence but your beautiful veil caught my attention.
- Do not expect me to undress for your eyes.

- Guarding slave laborers who mined silver and precious metals!
- Nope! Guaranteeing the birth of private entrepreneurship that built and enriched the Athenian city-state.

- Who are you running away from?
- I've been so many years in this wilderness that I stopped running, now I walk.

- What a beautiful landscape!
- I can only see a mirror of my own ruins.

- Whenever I cross a border, I remember that I am not particularly welcomed !
- Once you learn that, all borders become wide open.

- I bowed to the difficulties of the crisis.
- Try to stay grounded in your convictions for the future, because the storm will eventually die out!

- Summer is at the gates!
- But our failures this winter are still tearing us apart.

- What exactly are you looking for with winter swimming?
- I'm just seeking to get my heart healed.

- Was it a song about a stone or a wooden bridge?
- Either way, it was about longing for a lost rural culture.

- I no longer have the strength to leave!
- The hard job of staying is much more difficult than leaving.

- As if someone had built a nest to hide us here!
- Let's look each other in the eyes, as if it were the only homeland we know.

- Are we at the gates of the promised land? 
- There we are. And a strange receptionist, with his red mantle is guarding the entrance.


- Are you longing for the homeland you never left, my dear?
- I am just listening to the exiled chirping of those nightingales.

- What is beyond the gates of heaven?
- The same hotel room that you ended up on your first night in Cairo, under a dust storm.

- Are you new here ?
- Yes, and you ?



(Athens, Greece, Nov. 2018-Jan.2019)

(Samos, Greece, August 4–September 30, 2019 )

(Athens, Greece, May-June 2022 )

Λαυρεωτική Γη  (Lavrio, Greece, September 2023)