CHANGE UNIVERSE: Magazine Jewels
Haifa | Art & CultureJuly 30, 2009

Nostalgic Haifa-Glam

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At the age of 6, my parents left me in the lobby of the Haifa Dan Panorama hotel for a little more than an hour, I had been opposed upon for some reason and I needed some time alone ...When they came back they found me at the trendy bar completely recomposed having a cocktail side by side with Omar Sharif.

For many years I proudly carried the interesting event secretly in my heart and after having spent a few days in Tel Aviv, Safed and Jerusalem , on my arrival to Haifa I suddenly felt the need to  reconnect to that same gratifying emotion who contributed for many years in the building up of my young self-esteem.

The day had been warm.  All along , the sea reflected an imaginary landscape painted by a blowing  Saharan wind called Hamseen or Scirocco. The clouds acted like curtains who temporarily hid God from the scene, deliberately replacing him with the warmth of the  blowing wind. I am exhausted by the morning activity at a shore that carries nothing less than the dryness of a close desert air .

I decide to get out from the suffocating beach and find that neighborhood on top of the Mount Carmel when once my grandfather lived and passed away. The same place where I met the  renowned and charming Egyptian actor Omar Sharif. I ask my friend to take me to the Dan Panorama hotel, I need some fresh air and some time away from crowds  like I felt once before...

We jump on the Jeep, Haifa's exciting Dan Panorama Hotel rises twenty-one stories high above Mount Camel, offering thrilling views of Haifa Bay and miles of Israel 's beautiful Mediterranean coastline.  The gorgeous Louis Promenade provides a romantic spot to take in the spectacular views and the magnificent Bahai Temple and its hanging gardens.

This charming hilltop promenade overlooking the temple and its amazing hanging gardens, cascades down the Carmel towards the picturesque German Colony and the port. In this area  at the foot of the Bahai Hanging Gardens, delightful restaurants provide enchanting views which are delicately illuminated at night, creating a magical background.

Visitors can enjoy the charms and the natural beauty of this relaxing seaside city and the surrounding hills in a myriad of venues. I walk  towards the hotel direction among the . 21-acre Mount Carmel National Park  nature reserve.  The entire park is dedicated to nature conservation, and specifically to maintaining the Mediterranean habitats of Israel . So much time has passed as I am persistently walking in this same place, in an attempt of reconnecting with that same strong, powerful emotion I experienced at the age of 6.

The light breeze of Haifa caresses my hair whispering in my year that this is the best spot of the whole city to sit still and talk to the self, trapped so far by the heat, and the continuous unexplainable search. And here , walking on the hilltop of mount Carmel's  narrow alley inhabited by mostly  Pinus Haleppensis trees , I discover a strategic location: the Rotunda.

There something magical about this place. Built in the 7oth's this small interesting architectural marvel has been since that time a fancy glamorous restaurant where the hotel guests admired the city stunning views socializing and lingering over drinks . Suspended by several columns on a diagonal  and a wavy rooftop reminding  Rio's  Copacapana sidewalks, the Rotunda looks more like the legendaty Jetson's spaceship than a restaurant itself.

My friend, and architect from the  prestigious Haifa institute of technology the Technion located just a few miles down to the port, suggests I close my eyes and allow him to take me to the focal point of the restaurant basement where four strategically placed benches have been waiting for me to sit there forever...

I sit and relax with my eyes closed, I realize the air comes form 360 degrees down at my feet, on my face and at my back. The feeling  is like you are caught floating in an flying oasis the middle of a humid desert heat.

I lean my head back, take my shoes off, the palm of my feet encounter a set of large round, polished stones smartly organized just under the bench where I am sitting, I let the natural reflexology massage my feet as I recall far in the past,  Omar Sharif  consolatory walk  towards my direction.

My friends is smiling amused , he's sensing my child inner feelings. He slowly takes my hand and leads me out of that imaginary flying deck into a small path filled with bamboo plants mostly all dried by the the intense heat . He knows I am going to like this. The path looks familiar, it's similar to many of  Sao Paulo old farms where bamboos sometimes reach heights of several meters.

We pass an abandoned house called Beit Kish and on our way to the Tikotin Museum  of Japanese Art dedicated exclusively to the preservation and exhibition of some 7,000 Japanese art works, the only one of its kind in the Middle East aiming  Israelis to learn and become acquainted with Japanese culture.

The exhibition on view , ' The art of love" is about Shinto belief deriving from fertility - of mankind and of the earth.While I look a little distracted at the sublime erotica, I recall Barbara Streisand in Fanny Girl , a stage-struck teen who meets the sophisticated Arnstein ( Omar Sharif)  after her debut performance as an actress vaudeville. They continue to meet occasionally over the years, becoming more romantically involved as Fanny's career flourishes and she becomes a star.

Omar Sharif is definitely not around physically, I searched everywhere. But my Israeli friend is just waiting for me patiently talking on the phone under a shade of a palm tree...Apparently we have plans for dinner. I gaze silent overlooking the Haifa bay. It's a beautiful day and it I realize in the distance of my thoughts that it has been interesting to notice I've grown to come back to a moment in my past where I transcended gracefully to peacefully reconnect with my present moment and the future to come.Haifa and Omar Sharif thank you  for the perfect moment. Shalom

Joelle's Tips:

The Baha'i Terraces; Shrine of the Bab; Baha'i Shrine and Gardens Hadar, Haifa, Israel / Shrine daily 9am-noon; gardens daily 9am-5pm

The Israel Nature National Parks

The Museums:

Tikotin Museum of Japanese Art - Address: 89 Hanassi Ave. ,Haifa. Tel: 972-4-8383554 Opening hours: Mon., Tue., Wed., Thurs. 10:00-1600, Fri.Holidays eves 10:00-13:00, Sat. and holidays 10:00-16:00, Sun. Close

The National Maritime Museum - Address: 198 Allenby Rd. Tel: 972-4-8536622. Opening hours: Mon., Tue., Wed., Thurs. 10:00-16:00, Fri.and Holidays 10:30-13:00, Sat. and holidays 10:30-15:00, Sun. Close

To discover its exceptional topography:  Follow the many stairways running from the Carmel ridge to the sea. The aerial gondola that glides from Stella Maris to the seashore is another enjoyable way of viewing the city.

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