New York City, United States by Maria Contreras

“I feel it would be like visiting another planet…”

You may have already come across Maria Contreras’ artwork in magazines and on social media. She has become known for addressing her anxiety through her art, and here it is injected into the bustling, hustling metropolis of New York City. In June, Contreras’ imaginary plane window will become a reality as she embarks on a vacation from her home city of Santiago in Chile. She imagines what a postcard may look like from the island of Manhattan – the towering buildings, yellow taxis and just a hint of American Psycho – where she dreams of walking through Central Park. Her first order of business, however? “Eating a hotdog before jumping on the subway.”

Follow Maria Contreras @mariajesuscontreras

Cappadocia, Turkey by Ahmed Emad Eldin

“It would smell like nature, it would smell really pure…”

Follow Ahmed Emad Eldin @ahmed.emad.eldin

Reykjavík, Iceland by Chaymaa Sobhy

“I’d love to see the magic of the aurora with my own eyes someday…”

Egyptian-born Chaymaa Sobhy – who is best known for writing and illustrating picture books from her home in Cairo – says she has always approached her work with a “child-like imagination towards the wonders of the world.” Sobhy dreams of visiting the Nordic city of Reykjavík, the capital and largest city of Iceland, when the pandemic eventually ends. From September through to March, the mesmerising Northern Lights can be seen dancing in moody shades of green and blue throughout the night sky. This is just one of many sights that the artist hopes to experience. “I would definitely start by visiting a café, then I’d visit the waterfalls and mountains and explore the beauty of the natural landscape,” she imagines.

Follow Chaymaa Sobhy @chaymaadraws

Montreal, Canada by Justine Allenette Ross

“What intrigues me about Montreal is the beauty of it…”

Justine Allenette Ross admits that she knows very little about the Canadian destination, other than that the people largely speak French. Despite this, the artist paints a lively and accurate picture of Québec’s largest city. She describes her style as cartoony, playful, and figurative with “a touch of umami”. She explains, “Since I’ve never been to Montreal, I used my personal aesthetic to guide me on how I rendered the location. My imagination runs wild. I take the world as I see it and try to enhance the things that I find beautiful. I love how old school European it looks [with] the French influence.” To accompany her dreamscape of the metropolis, her wish list of places to visit include The Montreal Biosphere, a museum dedicated to the environment.

Follow Justine Allenette Ross @stinallenette

Pamukkale, Turkey by Emma Eubanks

“I imagine being engulfed in a dense heat while smelling sea air…”

For years and without any context, Minnesota local and illustrator Emma Eubanks says she has had an image of Pamukkale, Turkey saved in her camera roll. “I didn’t know anything other than that it was beautiful,” she admits. The town is found within west Turkey and neighbours Hierapolis, an ancient Roman city founded around 190 B.C. Its hot springs are also known as the Cotton Castle, famous for a carbonate mineral left by the shimmering blue water. “What intrigues me the most about this location is how tactile it seems to be,” she says. “One of things that really fascinated me about this region is its documented history. I like imagining a personification of the history there and the traces of people that came before interacting with the landscape.”

Follow Emma Eubanks @emmastopdrawing

Cartagena, Colombia by Laila Ekboir

“I miss warm and sunny days a lot…”

Currently based in Cambridge, illustrator Laila Ekboir has endured yet another grey winter in the eastern pocket of the United Kingdom. She reminisces about early mornings at the beach, afternoons spent exploring the coast by foot and balmy evenings listening to live music over dinner. For Ekboir, she immediately dreamt of the vibrant city of Cartagena in Colombia when asked to pick her first destination after the pandemic. The artist is known for exploring texture, shapes and colour through her work so it comes as no surprise she is intrigued by the historic city. “The architecture of the Ciudad Amurallada and the colours of the Getsemani neighbourhood caught my attention,” she says, reflecting on the bougainvillea flowers hanging amid the cobblestone. “I prioritised the use of colour and patterns and I tried to find spaces where tropical plants might be.”

Follow Laila Ekboir @laila_ekboir

Peruvian Amazon, Peru by Amber Badger

“I’d expect to see a rich verdant harmony from all angles…”

Although she now lives in remote Wales, Amber Badger owes her creative success to the artistic scene around her native Liverpool, drawing influence from organic form for her celebrated ink artworks. It comes as no surprise that she one day hopes to swap the grey skies and lanes of England to travel to the Amazon in magical Peru, peeking out at the vegetation from her imaginary plane window. “Illustrating organic form comes naturally to me, so I just went with the flow,” Badger says. “The diversity of life in the rainforest makes it easy to play around with shapes and form.” The Falmouth University graduate admits that while she has always been fascinated by the region, she has not yet had the chance to experience it for herself. “Plants are often overlooked, but they are
the starting point for all life.”

Follow Amber Badger @amberbadgerillustration

Venice, Italy By Laura Stitzel

“I imagine that Venice is full of overflowing lanes and alleyways…”

Hailing from Melbourne, Australia, illustrator Laura Stitzel is well-acquainted with bustling inner-city transport culture and it’s one of the many reasons she hopes to visit Venice. The historical island, which is connected by tight streets and winding canals, first piqued the artist’s interest during lockdown in 2020 when reports emerged of thriving plant and wildlife being seen through the clearer water. It is what inspired her window seat view from the plane, and now she dreams of getting lost throughout the Italian destination. “The canal system of Venice recalls this charming fantasy, it seems almost too whimsical to be real,” she says. “I would find some coffee and pastries before heading to an art gallery in a fascinating old building. I would finish the day with perhaps a classic movie on a rooftop cinema.”

Follow Laura Stitzel @laurastitzel

Cappadocia, Turkey by Danica da Silva

“I would imagine the place to be vast, an unimaginable sight to the eyes…”

For three years, Danica da Silva and her partner have been planning a trip to Turkey with the pandemic preventing their travels. By combining layers of illustrations with different textures – reminiscent to printmaking if you will – da Silva lets her “brain run wild” as she illustrates the Cappadocia region, “a scene that I would hope to see from a hot air balloon in the sky.” Hailing from Cambridge in the UK but born in India, the artist admits she has seen nothing like it in her own vicinity. “It’s natural and beautiful landscape is a wonder of the Earth and is not even close to the little brick homes [we have here],” she says. “The former homes carved into rock formations are a wondrous sight and I’m amazed that they were inhabited by communities up until 1952!”

Follow Danica da Silva @yetanotherbydanica

Positano, Italy by Bayan Dahdah

“I always had this image of tumbling cliffs with colourful houses that meet the sea…”

Overlooking a bay on Italy’s Amalfi coastline, the small village of Positano hosts a population of just under 4,000 people. It is, however, a popular tourist destination thanks to the stunning scenery. Multimedia creative Bayan Dahdah believes it is every artist’s dream to paint this view from a window. “The azures of the water, the terracotta of the buildings. It always felt dream-like to me,” she says. “The first [sensation] that comes to mind would be a gentle breeze, followed by the smell of the salty air by the sea. The sound of gentle waves hitting the shore, the buzz of people walking.” Dahdah is known for her hand-drawn illustrations layered with digital elements.

Follow Bayan Dahdah @bayandahdah

Chefchaouen, Morocco by Helen Zughaib

“I would walk up as many stairs as I could, taking in each tiny surprise waiting for me behind the twists and turns…”

Colloquially known as the “Blue City”, Chefchaouen is nestled between the Rif Mountains in far north Morocco. Illustrator Helen Zughaib, who hails from Washington D.C. in the United States, has travelled to many of the country’s glorious cities but daydreams about the day she can fly to this particular colourful, cosmopolitan place. With bright accents from flowers and orange-tiled rooves, textiles hanging off balconies and iron work in the windows and doors, it now provides a stunning backdrop to daily life at the gateway of Africa. An oasis from the rest of the world.
“It is so beautiful and has a serenity that is very appealing especially after these past two years dealing with the pandemic,” Zughaib says. “It almost seems like a secret hideaway.”

Follow Helen Zughaib @hzughaib

Tokyo, Japan by Sasha Haddad

“I feel that one can travel in time there…”

The most intriguing aspect of Japan’s capital for artist Sasha Haddad is the culmination of historical architecture and modern technology. “It triggers my curiosity,” the Beirut-born, Athens-based artist notes. The liveliness of Tokyo also reminds her of Beirut. “I have always imagined Tokyo to be a mix of lit signs, futuristic features, tall buildings and paper lanterns flying above small alleys,” she says. “To be a city where my eyes will be constantly amused, and I tried to translate that into my drawing.” When international travel fully resumes, the creative plans to “have a breakfast I never imagined existed and see as many cherry blossom trees as possible. I’d visit the temple of Sensō-ji, have lunch in a famous Japanese restaurant before [visiting] the Yayoi Kusama Museum,” she says.

Follow Sasha Haddad @sasha.haddad.illustrations

Cairo, Egypt by Dané Stojanovic

“I was super curious about Egypt and its history in school…”

GRAZIA’s creative director and illustrator Dané Stojanovic, has always been intrigued by the Arab country. Its towering pyramids and complicated history are just a snippet of the mesmerising culture, so it comes as no surprise that Cairo is his dream destination. Set on the Nile River, it serves as Egypt’s capital and is the most developed metropolis in the sprawling, sand-dusted country. “The modern side to the city opens up an entirely new place of what I imagine Cairo to be,” Stojanovic says. Within his artwork he has attempted to combine what we already know of the city at face value combined with a sense of modernity. “It’s pretty much exploring the dichotomies of modern Cairo and clichéd stereotypes of what we know Egypt to be and merging those two themes together.”

Follow Dané Stojanovic @danestojanovic


This feature y is published in the third edition of GRAZIA Middle East. Click here to discover more from THE JOURNEY, and click here to see the fashion shoot.