Perhaps the most famous living Georgian today is Katie Melua – or Ketevan Melua (ქეთევან მელუა) as she was originally christened. Although her parents moved to the Northern Ireland when she was only eight years old she has become known as one of the UK’s most successful singers. Melua has always remained hugely faithful to her native land. In 2016 after recording In Winter in Tbilisi with the Gori Women’s Choir and doing a European tour with them, they all appeared on the Graham Norton Show – where they ended up doing selfies with Norton, Dame Helen Mirren and Will Smith.
Katie Melua – The Little Swallow (feat. Gori Women’s Choir) (Live in Concert)
In a 2104 interview in the travel section of the Telegraph, Melua said that “the Georgians will treat [visitors] like royalty, and the odds are you’ll do a lot of eating, drinking and toasting.” She recommended traditional Tbilisi bathouses such as Chreli Abano, popular with famous historic visitors such as Alexandre Dumas and Pushkin, where one is privately massaged and washed in private rooms, directed tourists to the British House Hotel and suggested they eat khinkali dumplings and other local dishes at the Kartuli Sakhli or Tsiskvili, and enjoy some cool modern Georgian jazz at the Café Kala.
Katie Melua also strongly recommended listening to some of Georgia’s unique polyphonic choral music which is on offer in some the magnificent churches, but also as an accompaniment to dinner at the highly recommended Phaetoni restaurant.
Art lovers are increasingly flocking to Tbilisi galleries to explore the latest developments in contemporary art. Among the most popular Georgian artists working today, Levan Mindiashvili is attracting particular attention in New York, where he is now based. His work is on show at the Vanda Gallery.
Studies for Shared Intimacies.04 by Levan Mindiashvili | © Levan Mindiashvili
Levan Mindiashvili’s work at
Despite its small population, Georgia is a keen participant at international sporting events. Two thousand years ago, the Romans were impressed by the sporting prowess, and the training regimes of the Georgians. Wrestling is an old tradition and is still popular. Many Georgians discover judo via wrestling and it was for Judo that Lasha Shavdatuashvili
won an Olympic gold medal at the 2012 games in London. Another highly physical sport that was developed by Georgia is Lelo
, a local variant of Rugby in which entire villages take part and there are ‘no rules’ other than to get the ball from one place to the other. Other – less rugged – countries have not rushed to embrace Lelo, but Georgia has taken up Rugby Union and now regularly qualifies as one of the top 12 teams in the Rugby World Cup.