Israel travel: Airbnb vs hotels

As the founder of a startup, I have traveled a lot for work and often searched for deals or debated where to stay.  A friend and I have a running argument about whether it is best to stay in hotels or to use Airbnb ( Airbnb is a startup which was founded in 2008 and is one of the leaders of what is called the new “sharing economy”.  It’s name stands for “Air Bed and Breakfast” and it is website and app which helps connect people who are looking for a place to stay and people who renting out either a room or their entire home.
Up until recently, I always thought hotels were better.  They were professional,  had cleaners, turndown service, privacy and I thought that I could never be comfortable staying in someone else’s house.  I am not ashamed to admit that I was wrong. 
The first place that I visited was the Rova Arches in Old City of Jerusalem, it is at the very heart of Israel and an area which is notorious for being surrounded by expensive hotels but difficult to actually find a place to stay within the Old City itself.
The apartment is over 600 years old and was built during the Mamluk period. It was a private residence and was recently artfully renovated to become guest accommodations. It is 3 bedroom apartment that accommodates 6.
The apartment has domed ceilings and walls that are several meters thick, and the legacy and history is obvious from the moment that you walk in but so is the beauty and elegance with high end furnishings, state of the art appliances and beautiful photographs on the wall.  The transition from ancient to state of the art is seamless. On one hand, the arched windows have custom made middle eastern cushions from the Christian Quarter  and on the other hand, there is a flat screen with apple TV loaded with shows and movies to watch on demand.
Our journey started on a Friday afternoon with a visit to the open air market Mahane Yehuda.  We were forewarned that the food choices in the Old City are limited and so we stocked up before we arrived.  We enjoyed the hustle and bustle of the market as we picked up our supplies for the sabbath.  We also stopped in at Fish n’Chips (12 HaEgoz St. which I highly recommend for some lunch and a beer.
As part of our stay, our host offers a car service and arranged to pick us up. This was an amazing way to start our visit because the driver found us in the market exactly on time, was able to bring us to the front door of the Rova Arches with our baggage and I am sure that this would have been difficult if we had to arrange the logistics on our own.
The apartment is located next to the Hurva Synagogue just off the main square of the Jewish Quarter. The outside of the apartment complex is fresh and modern with a quaint courtyard and the real age and history of the building is only revealed after opening the door and seeing the arched dome room which was part of the original structure built hundreds of years ago.
In the main living room has a baby grand piano, two couches, two window seats, the TV and a complete dining room set with plenty of room for a full party. A credenza against the wall held everything we needed to set the table plus came with games like backgammon and scrabble.
There was a fully equipped kitchen with large appliances that accommodates to both people who keep kosher and those who don’t. It was clear that the hosts have a deep respect for their religious visitors as there were not only meat and milk dishes, sinks and dishwashers but there was also a set of dishes for people who do not keep kosher at all. There was a hot plate for the sabbath, a hot water urn, a place to light candles and everything needed to make havdalah.
The kitchen came stocked with some basics like milk, juice, cereal, and most importantly- an easy to use espresso machine and plenty of coffee.  In addition to the expected amenities there were some extras which were very much appreciated including prepaid parking cards to the nearby Mamilla parking lot (parking in the Old City is basically impossible), an iPhone kept in the safe for use of visitors, and a small guidebook to local attractions and restaurants.
The bedrooms have soft comfortable mattresses, high thread count linens and plenty of closet space and had fresh flowers in vases when we arrived. Each room also had shutters which closed completely and would be welcome for any jet lagged traveler seeking a good nights sleep.
The most surprising part of the apartment was the bathroom. It was large with beautiful tiles made in the Armenian Quarter, a jacuzzi bath, a separate shower and Sabon artisan soaps. After a long day of walking the streets of the Old City, it was the ultimate pleasure to scrub down with dead sea salts and lounge in the bath by candle light.
While it was tempting to just stay in the apartment, the magic of the Old City is impossible to resist. We lit the candles for shabbat and then set out on foot to the Kotel (western wall).  We choose to eat at a friends house but the apartment was a perfect place to host and I wish we had invited our friends to come to us as every moment out of the Rova Arches felt like a moment lost.
While we were walking through the city, we saw that stages were being set up and we were lucky to be there during a music festival which lasted for a few days.  The festival brought hundreds of visitors and we meandered around listening to amazing music and returned to sit on our porch and enjoy a glass of wine as the festival wound down.
As the music played once again through the ancient streets of the Old City, I felt that I had made a perfect choice for my first Airbnb visit. The apartment was unique, the location was stunning, and it rivaled even the best hotels for comfort and amenities. 
Checking out was as simple as collecting our things and leaving the keys on the table because similar to hotels, the heavy secure door locked automatically after we left.
I entered into the apartment a skeptic of Airbnb and I left a convert. Through an online startup I was able to find a hidden gem in the center of the very ancient Old City of Jerusalem.
Writer was a guest of the Rova Arches Luxury Suite - Old City