Reporting from the frontlines of history in Greece

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Athens at First, Second and Third Glance


A refugee at Skaramagas camp dives into the food-littered industrial waters near Piraeus.

By Hayley Roth

It has been seven days in Athens, and the experience is somewhat like eating an exotic fruit for the first time. Its surface beauty is striking but bite into it to discover the real content. Our task, as six student journalists from Princeton, New Jersey, is to get to the core of the city in five weeks.

On day one, I was picked up from the airport by the soft-spoken middle-aged Mr. Panayiotis, and we walked together into the blistering Athenian heat. It took me about 30 seconds to realize that he was soft-spoken because he could understand only a smattering of English words, and didn’t like trying. But he loaded me and my suitcase into the little taxi and we zoomed inland in silence on a dusty, near-empty highway with a stunning overlook of the white city below.

whitecityoutlook The city of Athens.

It was midday, and the streets were empty. The heat had driven people into apartments and cafes and even beyond the city limits to the beaches and islands. The buildings, stuccoed and whitewashed, were maddeningly reflective. The sun felt different here– not just hotter, but bigger. Closer. Brighter. The cars were reflective, too. Most are gray, white, or yellow, managing to invoke the colors of the sky and the asphalt together. “Dingy” and “garish” are adjectives that came to mind. But lift your eyes and there is the glistening Acropolis.


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The Muslim Matriarch

Anna Stamou sits in her living room in Athens on June 29. She is the Marketing Director of the Muslim Association of Greece, and one of a small population of Muslims in Athens.

Anna Stamou sits in her living room in Athens on June 29. She is the Marketing Director of the Muslim Association of Greece, and one of a small population of Muslims in Athens. (Alexandra Markovich)

By Alexandra Markovich

Just after the sun sets, Anna Stamou covers her dining room table with platefuls of food to break the Ramadan fast. She pulls a stew of Egyptian sausages from the oven and sets it on the table, followed by a bowl of Egyptian salad.

Then, spanakopita, a Greek spinach pie, unexpectedly becomes the centerpiece. When Stamou finally sits down, the table is crammed with an odd collection of traditional Greek and North African food.

Stamou is one of some 600,000 Muslims living in Greece, making up about five percent of a largely Greek Orthodox Christian nation. Stamou, a native Greek, converted to Islam 17 years ago. She is married to Naim Elghandour, who moved from Egypt to Greece 19 years ago.

When I ask her about the food she is serving, Stamou says it is “all Greek.”  Egyptian salad—chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions—is just the chopped-up version of Greek salad, she says, save the olives.


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First Impressions: Port of Piraeus


Tents at Athens' Port of Piraeus

Tents at Athens’ Port of Piraeus

By Amanda Blanco

Section E2 of the industrial Port of Piraeus was never meant to be called home. But since closure of Greece’s borders, that is exactly what it has become for roughly 1,000 refugees.  Their tents cluster under a highway overpass, squeezing together to escape the blistering sun.

“The image speaks for itself,” says Negia Milian, a volunteer camp director from a Piraeus-based group supporting the refugees. Milian, a former  Cuban refugee, emphasizes that her group is not a so-called Non-Governmental Organization, or NGO. However, there are several NGOs working at Piraeus, including the Red Cross and Save the Children.


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St. Paul’s Day at the Areopagus

By Harrison Blackman and Amanda Blanco

The Book of Acts describes how the Apostle Paul traveled to Athens in the first century A.D. and visited town leaders on a large outcropping  below the Acropolis, at a spot known as Areopagus Hill.

Acts 17:23 quotes Paul as saying; “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”

After the homily, the passage tells us, “Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed.” The sermon’s influence had been established for history.  

More than two millennia later, on June 29, 2016, the celebration of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul was alive and well on the Areopagus Hill. 

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