From the 1960s until the eruption of the Second Intifada in 2000, the Saint George Hotel was the most luxurious and famous hotel in East Jerusalem. Last week, a decade after its closure, the hotel on Salah a-Din Street was re-opened due to surprising economic cooperation between a Palestinian contractor and Jordanian investors.
The re-opening of the hotel is a benchmark for the recovery of East Jerusalem. In the last year, the Palestinian PADICO building company and the Jordanian Landmark Hotels Company together decided to renovate the hotel with an investment of about $10 million. Last Tuesday [April 17], the hotel opened its doors to the public in a festive ceremony. The edifice is located near the Israeli Justice Department and Jerusalem District Court, on a street that has hosted numerous cultural activities and has become very lively over the last year.
Jordan’s King Hussein initiated the construction of the hotel in the 1960s, when the Hashemite Kingdom still ruled East Jerusalem. In 1965 the hotel was inaugurated in a grand ceremony with the king’s participation, but only two years later it was conquered by the Israel Defense Forces and the Jordanian investment went down the drain. Nevertheless, the hotel was successful for more than 30 years. Over the years, numerous public figures frequented the hotel as well as wealthy tourists who wanted to be close to the Old City. It is only a five-minute walk from the hotel to the Nablus Gate entrance.
When the Second Intifada broke out, the Israeli government decided to close down the hotel, as well as additional cultural institutions in East Jerusalem — the Orient House, the Al Quds Cinema and more — due to concern over Palestinian political consolidation in the capital.
The hotel’s renovation included a major upgrading of 130 rooms to five-star level. Conference rooms were built, the hotel was re-furnished and its managers promise that it will soon become one of the leading hotels in the Middle East. A spectacular swimming pool was built on the hotel’s roof, from which the guests can enjoy a panoramic view of the Old City.
The rates are expected to be rather expensive, in comparison to average East Jerusalem prices: $190 a night for a standard room, $210 for a larger room and $400 for a suite.
According to businessman Munib Masri, owner of PADICO, this is the first joint investment of Palestinians and Jordanians. “Jerusalem is the capital of the Palestinian state,” says Masri. “This investment demonstrates the desire of the Palestinian nation to remain in the city, close to the Al Aqsa mosque, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the Orient House. Our message states: We are here to remain in this land and we will not move from it.”