THE AMERICAN COLONY is like a bubble where you travel back in time, to a paradise where Arabs, Jews, and foreigners sit next to each other enjoying a relaxed stay..
(photo credit: MIKAELA BURSTOW)
The American Colony Hotel celebrates Christmas with lots of holiday spirit, hosting a large banquet on Christmas Eve that will be accompanied by carols and drinks. The historical hotel is ready for the holiday, boasting a tree in front that stands six meters tall, while at least a half-dozen trees are placed around the hotel and green, red and gold decorations are on display throughout the premises.
As we entered the hotel on a Friday evening, the first thing we noticed was the huge Christmas tree and the thousands of lights decorating the hotel’s buildings.
In mere seconds it felt like we had entered a different country – perhaps in Europe or the United States. Everyone spoke English and the hotel was decorated from top to bottom with the holiday symbols. Each corner of the lobby, the restaurants and the corridors was filled with Christmas decorations, and Jingle Bells played in the background.
The hotel made its message clear: If you are missing some Christmas spirit, looking to celebrate the holidays or curious to feel Christmas as it is celebrated abroad – you are in the right place.
The American Colony is like a bubble where you travel back in time, to a paradise where Arabs, Jews, and foreigners sit next to each other enjoying a relaxed stay, a meal, or a drink on the patio.
The small 92-room boutique hotel is a historical estate that belongs to the descendants of a Christian family from Chicago with Norwegian roots. It houses an archive on the founders as well as photographs and original artifacts from 19th century Jerusalem, which are also displayed in the corridors and rooms. When staying at the hotel, plan some free time to roam around the hotel since it is a living museum – albeit one with a seasonally heated pool and a gym.
The main building was once the palace of the pasha’s harem, where his four wives lived, and some of the suites and rooms were the wives’ summer and winter residences. The decor of the hotel is Arabic, with arched windows, high ceilings and romantic gardens.
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While each spacious room is different, all have some things in common – reconstructed or replicated vintage furniture, old-fashioned bathrooms, a lot of wood, handmade carpets, and small antique knickknacks. But there are also all the modern amenities you would want, including flat-screen TVs, air-conditioning, Italian toiletries and a “rain-like” shower.
The American Colony Hotel is part of the Leading Hotels of the World chain and thus meets the standards of an extraordinary luxury hotel. It recently won the World Travel Awards for best boutique hotel in Israel for the fourth time.
The hotel is always in a renewal process, as the manager, Thomas Brugnatelli, told us. “We are replacing the TVs for larger ones, improving accessibility and adding additional family rooms, [which] are added to meet the needs of our guests. The aim is to keep the hotel’s ambience and looks unchanged while upgrading the infrastructure and amenities to the most modern available.”
The hotel is located in east Jerusalem, right on the border of west Jerusalem and a block from Sderot Hayim Barlev. Despite the conflict that surrounds it, the hotel has always kept its neutrality and is therefore a popular place for Palestinians, Israelis and the international community – especially for the press.
Over the years it has been a diplomatic meeting place, while also being popular among public figures and celebrities. The visitors album in front of the reception displays the names of many recognizable names of people who had stayed there over the years, including Winston Churchill, Sir Herbert Samuel, Omar Sharif, Tony Blaire, Peter Ustinov, Sting, Richard Gere, and many others.
The official language at the hotel is English but some of the staff also speak Hebrew and French. At dinner, as we sat at the Arabesque restaurant for some fine elegant dining, each table spoke a different language. The couple near us spoke Dutch, two elder American women spoke English, and others spoke French.
The restaurant served Arabstyle food, like Shishbarak as well as more Western dishes, like Fillet Mignon. The food was not kosher.
The hotel also has a less formal restaurant called “Val’s Brasserie,” a summer terrace cafe and a fancy bar. Breakfast was a rich buffet-style meal and was also not kosher. High tea was served every afternoon.
On Christmas Eve, the hotel is planning to offer a six-course banquet accompanied by carols and a Santa Claus who will give the children gifts. For New Year’s Eve, the hotel is planning a party that will include a seven-course gourmet dinner, Champagne and dancing through the night.
Also in Jerusalem, the YMCA hosts Christmas fairs and concerts, and other holiday events will take place in the various churches in town.
The writer was a guest of the hotel. Information: American Colony Hotel, 1 Louis Vincent St. Jerusalem, www.americancolony.com, Tel: +972 2-627-9777, Reservations: +972 2-627-9707
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