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food / travel

The Russian Cafe That Sells Cups Of Time

"Anti-cafes" are flourishing in Moscow
"Anti-cafes" are flourishing in Moscow
Frank Nienhuysen

MOSCOW – Natasha writes "Frank, 11:20 a.m." on a slip of white paper and hangs it on the pin board behind the counter next to "Nina and Katya, 10.55 a.m.," "Sergei, 11 a.m." and other names. Then she opens an antique cabinet filled with dozens of old alarm clocks and watches, all different, but with one thing in common – none of them work.

Symbolism plays a big role at the Clockface Café. Every guest puts their clock of choice – on which time has stopped – on their table. It may seem paradoxical, but the idea is for this to make you forget time even as the tab here is contingent on how much of it you spend in the café. Every minute costs two rubles, which means an hour costs 120 rubles ($3.80).

You could order, say, a frothy Caffè Americano, drink up in ten minutes, and leave. That would be quite a deal – even at cafés in inexpensive neighborhoods you’d pay more, and this one is on Moscow’s fancy Tverskaya Street, between Pushkin Square and the Kremlin.

But that’s not what people do here. Guests ensconce themselves on couches and armchairs in and among Singer sewing machines, a piano, lamps with fringed shades, a portrait of Pushkin, shelves of Jack London books – spread over nine small rooms. The net result is part artsy café, part chill out lounge, and part grandma’s living room.


For their money they get coffee, tea, toast, biscuits, and as much as they want. They also know that no matter how much time they actually spend here, there’s a ceiling on tabs – nobody can be charged more than 480 rubles ($15.25).

The idea has really caught on and there are now many imitators – so-called “anti-cafés” that also charge by the minute and hour. But Ivan Mitin was the first one to come up with the idea, and he’s asked me to meet him where his other Moscow Clockface Café is, two subway stations away.

Up a narrow iron spiral staircase and I’m in what looks like messy student digs from the 1960s. Mitin, 28, is just back from London. This is where it all started he says, in this very room, three years ago. He started inviting friends and neighbors, who in turn brought their acquaintances, and he had an old suitcase he left open for people to throw in whatever amount of money they could.

"More and more people kept coming, 50 a day, so the space quickly developed into a café." A year later he opened the first Clockface Café next door. Now there are two in Moscow, others in St. Petersburg, Rostov, Kazan, the Ukraine. And soon, Mitin hopes, Berlin and London.

Why is it so successful? "I’m not selling my customers tea and coffee,” Mitin says. “I’m selling them time.”

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Palestinian Olive Trees Are Also Under Israeli Occupation — And That's Not A Joke

In the West Bank, a quieter form of oppression has been plaguing Palestinians for a long time. Their olive groves are surrounded by soldiers, and it's forbidden to harvest the olives – this economic and social violence has gotten far worse since Oct. 7.

A Palestinian woman holds olives in her hands

In a file photo, Um Ahmed, 74, collects olives in the village of Sarra on the southwest of the West Bank city of Nablus.

Mohammed Turabi/ZUMA
Francesca Mannocchi

HEBRON – It was after Friday prayers on October 13th of last year, and Zakaria al-Arda was walking along the road that crosses his property's hillside to return home – but he never made it.

A settler from Havat Ma'on — an outpost bordering Al-Tuwani that the United Nations International Law and Israeli law considers illegal — descended from the hill with his rifle in hand.

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After kicking al-Arda, who tried to defend himself, the settler shot him in the abdomen. The bullet pierced through his stomach, a few centimeters below the lungs. Since then, al-Arda has been in the hospital in intensive care. A video of those moments clearly shows that neither al-Arda nor the other worshippers leaving the mosque were carrying any weapons.

The victim's cousin, Hafez Hureini, still lives in the town of Al-Tuwani. He is a farmer, and their house on the slope of the town is surrounded by olive trees — and Israeli soldiers. On the pine tree at the edge of his property, settlers have planted an Israeli flag. Today, Hafez lives, like everyone else, as an occupied individual.

He cannot work in his greenhouse, cannot sow his fields, and cannot harvest the olives from his precious olive trees.

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