If you have asked me 2 months ago if I had plans to travel to Georgia, I’d say yes. But if you asked me when, the answer would be: I don’t know. All I’m trying to say is that my trip to Georgia was organised very last minute, just 2 weeks before I get there. And I’m glad the visa system and immigration is so simple that I did not bother thinking about that. On top of that, cheap flights are connecting Tbilisi to Europe. This quick trip marked my first time in Tbilisi which was a great introduction to Georgian culture and atmosphere but it turns out it is also a general introduction to me to the whole Caucasus region.
As I said, the online-visa is so easy to get. Almost all countries are eligible for an almost visa-free system including Moroccans. This doesn’t require all those steps and documents but a simple application form sent online. On arrival to Tbilisi, the immigration controller was very confident while she was looking at my passport and she quickly stamped it but she didn’t give me a bottle of wine… That’s right! I observed that all people passing by immigration received a complimentary bottle of what I supposed was wine, since the region is famous for that. But I guess that she assumed I was Muslim from my passport.
Arriving at 5am in the morning, I had only taxis as option to get to my hotel in Old Tbilisi. They first wanted to charge me 50 lari which is double the standard price for a ride from the airport to the centre. Since I knew the exact price, I lied and I said: “this is not my first time in Tbilisi, don’t try to rip me off!” and so it worked, he agreed to take me, with a fast and furious look-alike 100km/h on the highway, for 25 lari.
I stayed at Old Tiflis Boutique Hotel right in the heart of the Old Town with amazing views over the city, clean and spacious rooms and a delicious buffet breakfast on the terrace directly looking at the vibrant life of the town and the funiculars frequently passing by. The most famous attractions nearby are Sulfur Baths which looked similar to Moroccan Hamam from inside actually.
My first walk in town lead me to some interesting discoveries. I walked into a synagogue on Leselidze Street where I had an interesting conversation with a stranger reading what it appears to be the Torah. He spoke great English and he was very surprised that as a Muslim I walked into his synagogue, he even congratulated me for doing so! He thought me a little bit about the Jewish community in Georgia which seems to be quite active in town as I observed later when I had dinner at Jerusalem, a Kosher restaurant.
During the rest of my days, I just got lost in the streets of Old Tbilisi to find some interesting and beautiful buildings which I’m sure had a great history. But it was too much to research or ask about, so I was just amazed and taking pictures and moving on. My favourite place was Theatre Square! After all, this trip is more of a teaser to Georgia, as I stayed two nights only, it is quite short!
As I discover the “New” parts of Tbilisi, I encounter some of the largest streets I have ever seen. Some parts I felt so small that it really scared me. I was sometimes the only person walking to only encounter another person 10 minutes later but that was at night. So I had to ask locals: is it safe to walk alone at night? They told me: “it’s safe but be careful, just like any other place in the world”. This was really a relief as I was enjoying those night walks in town. The city is really pretty at night and has different vibes. I also had a tiny taste of what is the nightlife like in the region. I went out on a Monday night to Didi Gallery with Nino and Masho, two friendly Georgian girls from the country’s tourist board. Since Monday is not the usual party day, I was expecting the club would be open for the three of us only but it wasn’t the case. There were so many people with a peak at 1am! It was really cool experience, and I want to do more of that. Next time, I will come back to just party in Tbilisi!
So far, Georgia really feels to me, like the point where different cultures meet: East European and Central Asian with many Russian and Middle-Eastern influences too. But strangely, it is none of those. It is special. It is Georgia. This quick trip was a great introduction to what to expect on future trips to Georgia or even the Caucasus region that I look forward to discover in full with definitely another stop in Tbilisi!
Thanks to Georgia Travel for their help on this trip and their nice company. I appreciate their support but all my views on this article are my own!