In with the new - and the old

Jerusalem's Mamilla Hotel's minimalistic aesthetic is at once both modernistic and reflective of the history around it.

From the moment of entry into Jerusalem's newboutique hotel, Mamilla, one is struck by an air of exclusivity andEuropean chic. Valet parking, well-mannered doormen and service with asmile - even if there is some sort of complication with the reservation- are all a welcome relief from the hustle and bustle of our busycapital city.
While those working in the hotel have obviouslybeen trained to treat international patrons on a level they areaccustomed to abroad, the most staggering aspect of the hotel is in itsinterior design. Courtesy of world-renowned architects Moshe Safdie andPiero Lissoni, the Mamilla Hotel, which officially opened on September1 and is run by the Alrov group, also responsible for the shopping mallbelow, is simply a work of art and, perhaps, even a revolution in hoteldesign in Israel.
The spacious and airy lobby with its Italian minimalisticaesthetic is at once both modern and reflective of the history aroundit. Limestone walls reflect Jerusalem's classic architecture, and theopen-plan communal areas allow a full flow of positive energy to fillevery corner.
The two architects, who also collaborated with local designers,seem to have considered every detail both big and small. Although thefurniture is neatly spread out, visitors can get comfortable on thelobby's couches or opt to sit in the espresso corner with a book or acomplimentary newspaper.
A welcoming central staircase at the back of thelobby leads visitors either down to the dining hall or upwards to thewine counter, where drinks can be purchased by the glass or per bottle,and also to the intriguing and well-stocked Mirror Bar.
The openness of these communal areas is also featured in thehotel's bedrooms, even though the darkened hallways allow for acomfortable level of privacy with their dark wood décor.
Doors are not numbered in the standard way butrather with the lettering painted on the floor outside - and that isnot the only unconventional design choice of this hotel. Although notlarge, the use of glass and mirrors in the rooms helps lend them asense of openness and spaciousness.
The most stunning feature, however, is undoubtedly thebathroom, which is housed in a glass case, allowing one to look outonto the room while using the facilities. A toggle, similar to a lightswitch, can automatically fog the glass for more privacy, although ourguide advised us to switch on the "Do Not Disturb" sign whenever takinga shower.
Time spent in the overly modernistic bathroom reveals morehidden secrets. The bath and sink are square in shape, with the tublooking more like a coffin than a luxurious oval place to relax for asoak. And the shower is part of the glass room, with an oversized headpouring water down from the ceiling. Obviously, the French range ofbeauty products L'Occitane only adds to the quality of the place.
Talking about quality, now is the time to describe perhaps themost important feature of any hotel room - the bed. King in size, theMamilla Hotel boasts 100% cotton sheets, enormous pillows for a reallygood rest and a mattress perfect for a great night's sleep.
Another feature of this hotel is the dimmer switch for thelight, which allows guests to create the perfect romantic ambiance. Thebathroom also offers mood lighting, a clear departure from the usualbrightly illuminated hotel bathroom.
The mini-bar is also revolutionary to Israel. It isn't stockedin the usual way, and guests who fancy a nightcap in their room areautomatically charged via a computer-generated message sent to thefront desk. Certainly a step up from the old-fashioned honors system!
Mamilla doesn't end with the special features in the bedroom, however, and its eating experience is also worthy of mention.
The Rooftop Restaurant, with what is perhaps one of the moststunning views in the capital, is an exceptional dining experience.Located, um… on the roof of the hotel, overlooking the Old City's JaffaGate and the Tower of David Museum, this kosher eatery offers one ofthe best steaks in the capital and a wide variety of wines and spirits.The staff is attentive, and it is definitely worthwhile to book inadvance. Due to its location, the restaurant is not open during thewinter months, closing down after Succot and re-opening after Pessah.
On the topic of food, one must also mention, of course, thebreakfast buffet. Offering health-conscious and less healthy options,the breakfast fare follows in the footsteps of the hotel's chic. Whilemany such buffets in Israel cater to gluttons, this breakfast bar issimple and classy, while not limited in variety.
The dining hall is spacious, like the rest of the hotel, andits huge glass windows open out onto a small sun-trapped courtyard, asort of secret garden hidden in the madness of Jerusalem. A simple butperfect touch.
While the hotel is now officially open, there are some elementsstill in need of completion. The swimming pool, according to staff,will not be ready until the end of the year, as well as what the hotelclaims will be Jerusalem's most comprehensive spa and wellness centerto date.

A studio room at the hotel costs NIS 1,350 per couple a night,including breakfast. The exclusive suite, ideal for honeymooners, isNIS 13,000 a night, including breakfast.
The writer was a guest of Alrov Mamilla Hotel.