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Τhe restoration and promotion of the Imaret in Kavala as a manifestation of cultural diplomacy

Kavala Imaret

       The Imaret in Kavala, Greece, was founded and gradually built in the early 19th century by Mohamed Ali Pasha of Egypt. Mohammed Ali wanted to provide his fellow Muslims with a religious, educational and charitable foundation. Until 1902 it functioned as an Islamic seminary. The Imarets were a key element of the Ottoman cities and consisted of a complex of public buildings (kulliye), that maintained a public character. The building ceased to function as Imaret after 1922, after the beginning of the departure of the Muslim population and was used as a place of accommodation for Greek refugees durig the same period.

       After the completion of the population exchange in the 1960s, the fate of the historic building seemed uncertain. A tavern was founded in one of the courtyards, while the rest of the building remained a beacon of decline that inevitably time and indifference caused. In the late 1990s, Anna Misirian, born and raised in Kavala, decided to take on the difficult task of rescuing and maintaining the Imaret. As in the 1960s the Imaret, together with the house of Mohammed Ali Pasha, were declared protected historical monuments and recognized by the Greek state as Egyptian properties (waqf), Misirian leased the buildings of the house and Imaret from the Egyptian government and with a lot of patience, perseverance and intensive effort, breathed new life into them.

       Since 2004, the Imaret building has been operating as a luxurious monument hotel and includes the MOHA research center, which aims to promote intercultural understanding and communication through the study of Islam and the cultures of the wider Mediterranean. According to relevant sources, the main concern of the restoration was to preserve the original forms and structures of the complex and to adapt to the new uses with the least possible intervention.

       The Imaret’s exemplary treatment by the Missirian family is rightly regarded as a major and notable cultural diplomacy move. Through the preservation and reuse of the historical monuments, the presence of the Ottoman and Egyptian culture in Kavala is recognized and celebrated as an integral part of the history of the city and due respect is paid to its cultural heritage. At the same time, space is given, mentally and naturally, for the conciliation of Greek and Islamic culture, illuminating the common elements and bridging their differences.

Vasiliki Tsaklidou




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