March 2013
A Utopian World Apart

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Self-proclaimed emperor Michel Elefteriades has done many things, from soldiering to crafting art and composing music to founding the utopian Republic of Nowheristan. One thing he has never done is fit in

By Nadine Fares Kahil

M ichel Elefteriades is a man who cuts a striking figure as he naturally displays his Greek and Lebanese origins. He’s tall and handsome with long curly hair and an even longer beard. Together these features make him suitable for the role of a king or an alchemist of antiquity. Elefteriades’ appearance is completed by his affinity for luxurious robes, which he tends to wear inside and outside his home, with scant heed to social norms. From his eccentric fashion to his easy-going manner, you would never guess you were in the presence of a longtime soldier with a history of commanding amidst instability. But Elefteriades is just that, and so much more; he’s an artist, musician, warrior-poet and self-proclaimed Emperor, founder of Nowheristan, the utopian world of tomorrow.

A conversation with Elefteriades will let you capture a glimpse into the mind of one of Lebanon’s most novel personalities.  "People always thought I was different when I was younger," he begins. "When I was young I didn’t care, but as a teenager with hormones and wanted to fit in, it was difficult. I was faced with the burden of my surroundings, a world I was part of, yet didn’t belong to."

In his teens, Elefteriades joined the military, but found little to relate to in the regimented uniformity of the ranks. "I wanted to be somewhere where I could have powers," he says. "I see things differently than others... When people say something is not going to work, I know that to be a sign that it definitely will."

With positivity as the foundation for his mentality, it’s only natural to wonder where his political opinion lies. When he speaks of Lebanon Elefteriades says: "The country needs a "dictateur éclairé," or an enlightened dictator. The important thing is that the person holding this position must be clean and should not be with one specific political party. I think he should be from the army."

"People might think that Nowheristan a joke, but I know from experience that it’s better to reach people in a light way and show that it’s serious at the end," he says. "Most of the parties in Lebanon have very serious plans but how are they going to achieve them? We are all against things but what are they offering?"

Currently Nowheristan has over 70,000 citizens worldwide and is growing. Organizing, publicizing and developing the Great Empire takes the majority of Elefteriades’ time these days, he says, but he is also a family man.

Leading a community of 70,000 might make Elefteriades a difficult person to get a hold of, yet he still makes times for his kids as he explains, "I raise my kids to be strong men, to be fighters and to value hard work... Success tends to always jump a generation, and I don’t want my boys to be failures. I tell them, ’You can have the best books, but brand names are not allowed in the house.’"

With such a lofty vision of his destiny, it’s hard to imagine Elefteriades looking up to anyone. And certainly, he takes visible figures as his role models. He admires those who have made historical changes in the world, listing Jesus Christ, the Prophet Muhammad and Karl Marx among the top of his inspiring role models. And when he talks about these iconic men, he makes it known that to him, they are people who have left giant marks on the destiny of men, rather than in the contexts they’re most popularly known for.

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