Travel: A mixed view

The Golden Crown Hotel in Nazareth caters to a wide range of guests.

By
September 1, 2011 12:07
4 minute read.
Golden Crown Hotel in Nazareth

Golden Crown Hotel Nazareth 521. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The reactions of friends and acquaintances when I told them I had been invited to a newly reopened hotel in Nazareth were fascinating. Nearly all the Jewish Israelis dismissed the location, which does not jump to mind as a major holiday destination, while the foreign non- Jews couldn’t believe my luck.

As it turns out, the Golden Crown Hotel caters to everybody: During the two nights I spent there toward the end of August, it was fully booked with a mix of tour groups coming to visit the Christian holy sites of Nazareth and Israelis looking for an affordable, family-friendly hotel.

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There are also facilities suitable for visiting businesspeople and conferences, but I didn’t see any evidence of such guests during my stay. Some of the rooms are also suitable for the disabled.

Many of the Israeli guests were lastminute bookings, including those who had to change plans after Ashkelon and other sites on the Mediterranean came under missile fire. This was a stark reminder that while the residents of Nazareth I spoke to were interested in promoting coexistence, however awkward it might be at times, there are still factions in the Middle East who hate to see people living normal lives and enjoying themselves.

Some of the guests I spoke to, who had come from Jerusalem, Beit Shemesh and Petah Tikva, were looking for an all-inclusive or package deal in which the pool, spa, fitness room and activities for children were the main focus. Others were using the hotel as an excellent base for trips in the North, including nearby Tzipori and Beit She’arim. Hence, while pilgrims toured the Basilica of the Annunciation and the “Nazareth that Jesus knew” or traveled farther afield to Megiddo (Armageddon) and Mount Tabor, Jewish day trippers were brushing up on the talmudic period and the life and times of Judah Hanasi or biking and hiking along an attractive section of the Israel National Trail.

Anybody who doesn’t mind crowds can enjoy the Old City’s bustling shuk, and Kfar Tavor offers a charming marzipan museum with workshops, if you’re already in the area.

The full tourism potential of Nazareth and the surrounding region is only just being realized, and the city is undergoing a welcome growth spurt.

The Golden Crown, located along the Mount of the Precipice, on the outskirts of the city, is part of this development.

It is also the perfect place to appreciate the full beauty of the Jezreel Valley, a somewhat neglected destination despite its fascinating history from biblical to contemporary times. The name Jezreel comes from the Hebrew for “God will sow,” and its fertile farmland, surrounded by mountains, can be seen from almost every room of the hotel. I have yet to decide what was more stunning, the daytime vista or the sunset, which I watched from the balcony, although the breeze – atop the mountain – stopped being gentle at that point. The landscape also provides an incredible backdrop for the swimming pool.

The food at the hotel was plentiful and tasty, consisting of mainly Israeli-Mediterranean dishes, with just enough Western fare for those who prefer it (or perhaps the hot dogs, hamburgers and French fries were meant for the kids).

Another sign of the hotel’s mixed clientele: The kitchen is kosher (under the supervision of the Upper Nazareth Rabbinate), and there are Shabbat elevators and a synagogue. The hotel staff, friendly and helpful, spoke in Hebrew or English with guests but chatted in Arabic among themselves.

The attractive pool offers an anthropological study with many religious Jews, Christian Arabs and Russian immigrants from Upper Nazareth.

Since it was still Ramadan, the Muslims were largely absent, but the call to prayers by the muezzins in the nearby mosques could be heard periodically – lending, I suspect, another exotic touch to the experience of the Western guests.

The hotel consists of 243 rooms, including four suites, one of which was our home for two nights. All the rooms were large but not as luxurious as promoted in the publicity material (although I appreciated the fact that the suite had a bathroom off the main bedroom and another toilet off the living room).

However, possibly due to the lack of staff during Ramadan, we found the general maintenance and the cleaning service to be deficient, a complaint echoed by other guests I spoke to.

And although it is billed as a five-star hotel, it lacked some of the essential touches.

Newspapers, for example, were not delivered to guests’ rooms. A small number were provided in the lobby, but they were not allowed to be removed.

The lobby, however, was elegant by day and the pleasant venue for a mixed bag of entertainment in the evenings. This ranged from a talent show for young guests and a magic show for the whole family to latenight dancing for couples.

All the guests I spoke to felt they received value for their money. We also enjoyed our stay, although the hotel has a way to go before it can live up to its five-star promise.

The view, location and friendly atmosphere, however, mean it has great potential.

The Golden Crown is still more of a diamond in the rough than the jewel in the crown, but with a little more polish it could really shine.

The writer was the guest of the Golden Crown Hotel in Nazareth (www.goldencrown.co.il).


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