ULIS celebrates fourth anniversary with Japanese Taiko and belly dancing

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Text: Chris Graeme Photos: Chris Graeme and Martinhal Group

The United Lisbon International School (ULIS) celebrated its 4th anniversary on 27 June with a cocktail party and cultural entertainments for around 150 guests at the Terrace restaurant in the Martinhal Lisbon Oriente & Residences in Lisbon’s Parque das Nações.

The event also marked the first anniversary of this innovative hotel and branded residences which within one year of opening has become one of the top 15 family hotels in the world alongside established and big brands such as the Fairmont Chateau in Whistler, the Shangri-La in Singapore, Four Seasons in Bali, and other such high calibre hotels around the world.

The occasion included colourful masked Japanese Taiko ritual dancing from Kaori Shiozawa, Middle Eastern belly dancing by Al Badawi, and uptempo jazz tunes from Blueberry Moon. The evening included a finger buffet with a variety of delicious amuse bouche influenced by cuisine from the Middle and Far East and South-East Asia.

Addressing the guests, ULIS and Martinhal Group founder and Managing Partner Chitra Stern said the event was to celebrate a few of their “latest milestone” projects in Lisbon.

“Many people don’t realise that Roman (Roman Stern) and I have been in Portugal since 2001, and that’s when we started our lives in the Algarve in Lagos and acquired Quinta do Martinhal, which we shortened to Martinhal, and that’s how the name and brand was born and became the beach resort Martinhal Sagres,” she explained.

“We opened the resort Martinhal Sagres in 2010 during the global financial and banking crisis. We then grew our group to further properties in Quinta do Lago, Quinta da Marinha (since sold) and Lisbon’s Chiado”.

“Fast-forwarding to 2017, the stars, luck and our efforts all aligned and we began three very important projects: the future Martinhal Oriente, the future AGEAS Lisbon headquarters, and the future United Lisbon International School”.

What the Sterns did not know at the time was that these projects would define Martinhal for the next decade as the world faced the Covid-19 crisis. Despite this, the Sterns opened ULIS in 2020, handed over the AGEAS building in 2022, and opened Martinhal Oriente in 2023.

“We made it! It was quite a time, but really defined us as entrepreneurs and as a group” said Chitra Stern.

A world-class international school

“ULIS – a Dukes Education School – and the EDU Hub project was born of a dream to create a first class private International school in the East of Lisbon and a united world to make a positive impact and solve global problems.

“It has become a reality with ‘United Lisbonites’ with the ‘United DNA’ and a community of staff and families”, said Chitra Stern.

“It started with an idea because this area of Lisbon really needed an international school to cater to foreign direct investors to move here, as well as the Portuguese families in the area to have a high-qualityIB international school, and it is an important project,” she explained.

“Here we are in 2024 with the first cohort of students having just graduated, the first ‘United Lisbonites’ and I promise you that we do not take this trust lightly. We will do Lisbon proud and do our utmost to make our contribution to the economic growth, social fabric and innovation of this city”.

Since opening its doors in September, 2020, ULIS has been offering world-class K-12 international education and now has more than 630 students and 80 teachers across 53 nationalities.

The school delivers English-language academic programs from Early Childhood (from 3 years old) to grade 12 (IB DP).

It provides education that matters for tomorrow by seamlessly integrating technology into the learning environment with light-filled classrooms, state-of-the-art science laboratories, art rooms, a technology maker space and a modern library.

United Lisbon is connected to a variety of outside institutions to ensure enriching experiences for after-school activities and boasts 65,000 soft (6,500m2) of outdoor play and sports areas. It also connects the children to the ecosystem of education through shadowing projects, internships, and entrepreneurship experiences.

A growing luxury family hotel group

The Martinhal Oriente Residences is the Martinhal Group’s 5th property in Portugal. Martinhal is now a well-known name among the most discerning family travellers in Europe and beyond.

The multiple award-winning luxury family hotel group was the brainchild of the Singaporean/Indian/British/Swiss couple – Chitra and Roman Stern.

When the couple started out with their first project, the Martinhal in Sagres, Algarve, the destination was perceived as being too far away from Faro Airport for a high-quality tourism project.

The Sterns saw it with different eyes: Sagres was an area of unparalleled beauty and nature; the Algarve with its amazing white sandy beaches and low-density development was a spectacular destination comparable to the South of France, South of Spain and South of Italy with friendly people and great cuisine enabling it to compete comfortably with these other countries,

Since then, the couple has grown their business with the opening of Martinhal Quinta in Quinta do Lago in the Algarve, Martinhal Cascais and Martinhal Chiado in the heart of Lisbon between 2015 and 2016.

Martinhal Cascais was sold when a local family repeatedly approached the Sterns to buy the hotel. Within six months of the sale of Martinhal Cascais, Martinhal Lisbon Oriente and Martinhal Residences opened in June 2023.

An innovative hotel and branded residences in Lisbon’s modern Parque of Nations (Parque das Nações) neighbourhood, it was built during the tough Covid-19 times.

Through 14 floors, Martinhal Lisbon Oriente combines a high-end selection of 82 touristic and residential apartments for leisure and business travellers on the first four floors, while the Martinhal Residences has 70 luxurious residential units, from floor 5-14 for those who want to indulge in a five-star service in their everyday lives.

Both the hotel and residences (combined in the same building by award-winning Portuguese architect Eduardo Capinha Lopes), have 24-hour reception, heated indoor and outdoor pools, a lovely bar lounge, a versatile workspace, enticing play spaces and Kids Club for children, amazing contemporary art works and installations throughout by Portuguese artists, and the sophisticated Terrace restaurant providing unique food experiences.