Uri Jeremias peered over the roof of his restaurant back in 2001 and fell in love with a large abandoned building. It wasn’t for sale, but the restaurateur persevered, and eventually converted the Ottoman era palace into a resplendent boutique hotel.
Located in Acre, a well-documented UNESCO heritage site 150 miles north of Tel Aviv, The Efendi Hotel is named for the builders who were responsible for the last bit of construction done on what are actually two enjoined Ottoman palaces.
The southern structure is the Afifi House or Wizo House, according to the hotel website, while the northern structure is the Hamar or Shukri House, named for a family of musicians who once resided there.
“The two structures together contain within their walls the stories, secrets, mysteries, and enchantment that have been gathered for over 1,500 years.”
In the 18th century, a soap manufacturing business thrived in the lower part of the house, according to its owner. The soap was made from olive oil and remnants of the factory can still be seen today.
Painstakingly restored with help from the local Antiquities Authority, the soaring buildings boast such gems as a 1878 Frescoe of Istanbul and a 400 year old claw bath.
Built on even older historical sites, the wine cellar dates back to the Crusades, and all of this history has been carefully preserved – sometimes with professional craftsmen flown in from Italy.
As We Heart notes, however, the historical aspects of the renovated palaces merged as one boutique hotel are carefully combined with fresh, modern finishings and furnishings.
The rooms have soaring, palatial ceilings, minimalist decor, as well as natural daylight that seeps deep into the hotel. Tall windows and regal balconies offer spectacular views of the nearby Mediterranean Sea.
Hundreds of fine local wines are available and it’s even possible to enjoy the traditional Muslim Hammam experience at the hotel, and some rooms have been adapted for people with disabilities.
Naturally one should expect to pay a pretty penny for the honor of wining, dining and sleeping at this beautifully-renovated boutique hotel, which means that only a small portion of the population will be able to enjoy the experience, but it might be worth a splurge for those who love design matched with history.
:: We Heart
Photography Assaf Pinchuk