Saturday, December 4, 2010

Olive Oil and Skincare

Besides the presence of olive oil in cooking, another important usage of it is in beauty and skincare. It is high in antioxidants, which protect against the physical signs of aging, and it also works to moisturize the skin. These beneficial properties did not go unnoticed even in pre-Christian times. The Ancient Egyptians used olive oil for body and hair massages, while the Romans, Arabs, and Greeks made it a key ingredient for soaps, perfumes, and moisturizers. Nowadays, it can be found in products such as body lotions, soap, and shampoo. One can even use extra-virgin olive oil by itself for beauty rituals, since it is in its purest form and retains all of its nutrients.

The Olive and Religion

The olive and its oil have been central to religion, and especially to Greek Orthodoxy, since ancient times. The olive tree, for example, is mentioned more than 170 times in the Bible. One such instance occurred after the Great Flood of the Old Testament. Noah had sent out a dove to search for dry land, and the dove returned to Noah's ship with an olive branch in its mouth, a symbol of peace from God. However, the importance of the olive is not limited to Biblical times. In Orthodoxy, olive oil is used during the church ceremonies of baptisms, weddings, and funerals, which are key milestones in an Orthodox Christian's life. It also plays a significant role in the holiest of Greek holidays, Easter. In the church ceremony of Holy Unction that takes place during the week before Easter, the priest anoints each member of the congregation with oil, which is said to provide both physical and spiritual healing. This consecrated oil is called chrism, and it consists of olive oil with various aromatic essences. Olive oil is not used for religious purposes only in a church, however. Many people light vigil oil lamps before icons in their homes, as a sign of respect for the saints depicted on them.

Monday, November 29, 2010


The Embassy of Greece, in collaboration with the Greek Film Center and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece, proudly presents the next film in the monthly film series Panorama of Greek Cinema, called The Little Dolphins (Ta Delfinakia tou Amvrakikou). The film will be shown at the Avalon Theater on Wednesday, December 1 at 8:00pm. The Little Dolphins is a critically acclaimed film, having won awards in various countries including at the Cairo Film Festival in Egypt and the Giffoni Film Festival in Italy. Below is the synopsis:

Synopsis: A young boy and a girl become friends during the summer, some time in the early 1930s. Whiling their time away in a small fishing village in the Amvrakikos region (Central Greece), they discover the world. The faithful reconstruction of the period, the sea, and the landscapes of the Amvrakikos Gulf lend the context which surrounds the young heroes the feel of a fairy tale. Dinos Dimopoulos constitutes an important ‘chapter’ in the history of Greek cinema, having a track record of about forty films, plays and books, three of which he wrote for children. The script for this film springs from his children’s book with the same title. The director embraces the innocence of the world of children and contrasts it with that of adults. The young, childish soul contests the alienated, vain soul of the adult society, and inadvertently gives a lesson in humaneness, kindness and purity.

Directed by Dinos Demopoulos, The Little Dolphins, will be shown in Greek with English subtitles.

The Avalon Theatre is located at 5612 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20015

Info Line: (202) 966-6000, Box Office: (202) 966-3464


For more information and next screenings:

For directions:

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Athens Dialogues 2010

From November 24th to 27th 2010, the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation is hosting the Athens Dialogues, a collaborative conference on Greek culture and its role in modern society. Attending the conference will be leading thinkers, academics, scientists, and intellectuals from all over the world. Just a few topics of discussion at the Athens Dialogues are Identity and Difference, Stories and Histories, Logos and Art, Democracy and Politeia, Science and Ethics, and Quality of Life. The purpose of the Athens Dialogues is to explore the potential of the Greek cultural legacy and how it can be used as a platform for solving problems that our contemporary world faces.

17th Foreigners' Fellowships Programme

The Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation announces its 17th annual Programme of research grants and educational scholarships starting on October 1, 2011. The Programme is addressed to non-Greeks, full Members of National Academies, University Professors of all levels (Ph.D holders), postdoctoral researchers, artists, elementary and secondary school teachers of the Greek language as a foreign one, post-graduate students and Ph.D candidates.
Applications are due January 31, 2011.

For more information on applying for a research grant or an educational scholarship, please see

Also, for questions, please contact

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Importance of Olive Oil

In a Greek household, it is difficult to sit at the dinner table and not encounter at least one dish that contains olive oil. This is no surprise, given the amount of time that the olive has been a part of Greek heritage and the many functions that its oil has. The symbol of the olive tree dates back to ancient mythology, when the goddess Athena gave the fruitful gift to the citizens of her namesake city. Moreover, nowadays, olive oil does not only have a culinary purpose; it is also used for skincare, medicine, and religious rituals. To the outside world, however, it is widely known for its high nutritional value.
Olive oil contains monounsaturated fats, which serve to reduce cholesterol. As a result, the oil can lower blood pressure and minimize the risk of coronary heart disease. Besides its great taste, these health benefits present even more of a reason to consume it daily, either in raw salads or in cooked foods. And the Greeks, whose country is among the top worldwide in olive production, use it frequently in their traditional recipes.

The following recipe may seem simple, but it is an essential part of every Greek meal. Horiatiki, or, as it is known in the United States, Greek salad, is a universal dish in Greece. Its name can be roughly translated as “rustic salad,” which is justified given the simple, pure ingredients it contains. Although it’s not specific to any particular region, the olive oil used to make it often originates from Kalamata, a city in the south of Greece. It is the second largest city of the Peloponnese region and is an important commercial port, with large exports of olives and olive oil. Besides its agricultural significance, however, Kalamata also presents an array of sights for the curious tourist. One can visit the 13th century castle overlooking the city, stop by the Byzantine Church of the Ypapandi to see its famed miraculous icon, or browse through the various small museums.

Horiatiki (Greek Salad)

3/4 pound tomatoes, seeded, diced (about 2 cups)
2 cups diced, seeded, peeled cucumber (from about
1 large)
1 cup diced red bell pepper (from about 1 large)
1/4 cup Kalamata olives
1/4 cup diced red onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 ounces feta cheese

Toss first 9 ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Gently mix in cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
(Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

Makes about 4 ½ cups.
Do you know of any other recipes in which olive oil is a main ingredient? Or do you have any suggestions for improving the recipe for horiatiki above? Your comments are welcome!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Charles Weber: Photographic Exhibition at the Embassy of Greece

On Thursday, November 18, 2010, the Cretan Association of Greater Washington DC will host a photo exhibition by Swiss photographer Charles Weber at the Embassy of Greece. Weber has been living in and photographing scenes from Crete for over 30 years. This particular exhibition is called "Aghios Syllas, Chronicle of my Village and Silent Heraklion". The event will begin at 6:30pm and will be followed by a light reception.
As space is limited, please RSVP by November 16 to Meropi Athanasiou, 301-228-2223 or Irene Drimi Konstantopoulos, 301-983-0055

AFI European Union Film Showcase: Psyhi Vathia

The AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center is hosting its annual European Union Film Showcase from November 4-23, which celebrates popular films from EU member states. Greece's contribution this year is a film by director Pantelis Voulgaris titled With Heart and Soul (Psyhi Vathia). Set in 1949 during Greece's Civil War, the film follows the story of two brothers in the Macedonian mountains who find themselves on different sides of the war.

With Heart and Soul will be showing at the AFI Silver Theater this Sunday, November 14 at 3:15pm. Tickets can be purchased online or at the box office. For more information, please visit

MOCA Exhibits Work by Greek Composer and Architect Iannis Xenakis

From November 6, 2010 to February 4, 2010, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles is presenting a fascinating exhibit on Iannis Xenakis, composer and architect. Born in Romania in 1922, Xenakis became famous for his ability to bring together music, mathematics, and architecture. As part of his creative process, Xenakis would first illustrate his ideas on paper before translating them into pieces of music and works of architecture. For the first time in North America, more than 60 of these drawings will be exhibited to the public at MOCA. These include musical scores, conceptual drawings, and architectural sketches completed from 1953 to 1984. Visitors to the exhibit will have the opportunity to listen to excerpts of Xenakis’ musical compositions that correspond to particular works on display at the museum through iPods and listening stations.

Xenakis also had a very active political career. During the Second World War, he joined the National Communist Liberation front and participated in various protests and demonstrations. Later, he was also part of the armed resistance. While fighting against British tanks, Xenakis was hit by a shell which severely wounded his face, leaving it permanently scarred. In 1947, he received his degree from the National Technical University in Athens, and he went on to Paris, where he worked in the studio of the famous avant-garde architect, Le Corbusier.

For more information on Iannis Xenakis and the exhibit, visit

To hear an excerpt from Xenakis’ 1972 composition, “Eridanos”, check out:

Image courtesy of

Onassis Cultural Center in New York Exhibits Greek Art in its Heroes Collection

Last month, the Onassis Cultural Center in Midtown Manhattan opened a fascinating new exhibit entitled “Heroes: Mortals and Myths in Ancient Greece”. This exhibit spans three periods of ancient Greek art, the Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic eras, and features over ninety works of art from both American and European collections. The pieces represent all different media and techniques, including a black-figure amphora depicting Achilles and Ajax playing a board game outside Troy (which dates from the late 6th century BCE) and a gold medallion with the bust of Alexander the Great (218-235 CE).

The theme for the collection is the concept of heroes, which to the ancient Greeks, was a very different idea from the way we view it today. Ancient Greece, it seems, was teeming with heroes, both mythical and mortal, many of whom were commemorated in art. This exhibit seeks to explore the ancient Greek idea of a hero through the artwork created from the 6th century to the 1st century BCE. Ambassador Loucas Tsilas, Executive Director of the Onassis Foundation (USA) stated, “People today think of the Greek heroes and heroines as great fictional characters invented by poets and storytellers, but to the ancient Greeks, these were real men and women who had lived, died, and then somehow transcended death,” (

The exhibit has three sections, the first of which is titled “Heroes in Myth”. This part of the exhibit focuses on four figures, Herakles, Achilles, Odysseus, and Helen, and the masterpieces that their legendary deeds inspired. The second section, “Heroes in Cult”, focuses on the metaphorical immortality of ancient Greek heroes: even after their death, they were venerated for being figures who greatly contributed to Greek society and civilization. In ancient times, shrines were erected to honor these heroes, and it was at these shrines that they were worshipped by many followers. The third section of the exhibit, “Heroes as Role Models”, investigates the influence of heroes on the common people of ancient Greece, particularly how ordinary people modeled their own behavior on the virtues of popular heroes.

The exhibit runs until January 3, 2011, and admission is free.

For more information, please visit:

Acropolis Museum Receives Prestigious British Tourism Award

The newly-completed Acropolis Museum in Athens has just received the coveted Globe Award from the British Guild of Travel Writers (BGTW). According to the BGTW’s website, the Globe Award is presented to honor the Best Worldwide Tourism Project for 2010. It is awarded to a “major new (less than 2-years old) tourism project worldwide, with projected visitor numbers of over 250,000 per year…It should combine responsible tourism development with local economic, environmental, and community benefits,” (

The award was received by Yiorgos Nikitiadis, deputy culture and tourism minister during a ceremony on Sunday, November 7 in London. In his speech of gratitude, Deputy Minister Nikitiadis commented that a prestigious award like this will undoubtedly aid in the efforts to return the Parthenon marbles back to Athens, where they can be exhibited in the Acropolis Museum.

Photo courtesy of

Euripides’ Ancient Drama Revived by the Washington National Opera

On May 6, 2011, the Washington National Opera will revive the ancient Greek playwright Euripides’ melodrama, Iphigenia in Tauris, with its production of Gluck’s opera Iphigénie en Tauride. This magnificent opera in four acts brims with passion and despair and is expected to delight audiences with the excitement and drama of Euripides’ original play, complemented by the sublime music of Christoph Willibald Gluck.

The plot of the opera revolves around Iphigénie, the daughter of Agamemnon and Clytemnestre, who was to be sacrificed by her father in order to placate the goddess Artemis. Iphigénie was saved when Artemis replaced her with a deer on the sacrificial altar and transported her to Tauride. There, Iphigénie becomes the high priestess of Artemis’ temple, where her duty is to sacrifice foreigners who arrive in Tauride. Desperate to escape her position as priestess and to communicate with her family in Greece, she gets her chance when two mysterious Greeks arrive on the shores of Tauride. These two men, one of whom is Oreste, Iphigénia’s long-lost younger brother, are captured in order to be sacrificed. Under pressure of the king of Tauride, King Thoas, Iphigénie is forced to choose whether to kill her brother or risk her life to save his.

The accomplished soprano Patricia Racette will sing the role of Iphigénie, while world-renowned tenor and director of the Washington National Opera, Plácido Domingo, graces the stage as her brother, Oreste. Conductor William Lacey collaborates with Spanish director Emilio Sagi to produce this performance that is sure to be unforgettable.

Performance dates in 2011: Friday, May 6; Monday, May 9; Thursday, May 12; Sunday, May 15; Tuesday, May 17; Friday, May 20; Wednesday, May 25; Saturday, May 28

Iphigénie en Tauride photo courtesy of the Opera de Oviedo. Plácido Domingo by Karen Cooper of the Washington National Opera.