Leaving the noise, pollution and traffic of Tel Aviv behind, it was with great enthusiasm and anticipation that I set off with my girlfriend for a weekday mini-vacation at the world-renowned Efendi Hotel situated in the heart of Acre’s Old City.
Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Old City is an enchanting mix of markets, mosques and vaulted Crusader ruins. As a hub of international trade, this 4,000-year-old port city was once home to the Canaanites, Romans, Crusaders, Turks and the British. Each left their mark. As a result, the city contains many historical structures and sites, such as the Crusaders’ Fortress, the Synagogue of the Ramchal and the Acre Bahá’í Gardens.
After a very comfortable train ride (approximately an hour and a half) from Tel Aviv to the Acre train station, we took a taxi (normally a fixed rate of NIS 14) to the entrance of the Old City. The driver said the Efendi was about a five-minute walk from there.
However, we didn’t realize that the Old City was a maze of small streets and alleyways, so naturally we got hopelessly lost. I phoned the Efendi, described our location, and within a few minutes we were rescued by the amiable front desk manager Merav, who graciously escorted us to the hotel.
THE MOMENT we walked through the doors of the impressive building, we were greeted by Roi, the hotel manager, who emphasized the fact that he wanted us to enjoy ourselves. And that we did.
Opened in 2012, the Efendi Hotel is the pet project of Israeli restaurateur Uri Jeremias, the chef and owner of the famous seafood restaurant Uri Buri. The renovation of the hotel took eight years, conducted under the watchful eye of the local Antiques Authority.
Craftsmen were flown in from Italy to restore the plaster work and frescoes, which date back to the 19th century.
The five-star boutique hotel is composed of two adjacent Ottoman- era palaces. The southern structure is the Afifi House, or WIZO House, while the northern structure is the Hamar, or Shukri House, named for a family of musicians that once resided there.
With just 12 guest rooms in the grand hotel, it feels like you’re staying in your own private residence (rooms range from NIS 1,500 to NIS 3,000 a night.) As our room was not ready yet, Merav offered us some chilled date juice and took us on a short tour of the hotel, highlighting an original 400-year-old Turkish bath/hamman, still used for spa treatments, as well as a 900-year-old Crusader-period cellar stocked with the finest Israeli wines. She also told us about the sunset happy hour on the hotel’s rooftop terrace.
When we entered our room, the Presidential Suite, it simply took our breath away. A striking blend of old world charm and modern luxury, it felt like stepping back in time while enjoying the most modern amenities. Not only did this 38 sq.m. room offer marvelous panoramic views of the Mediterranean Sea, but it was also beautifully decorated with marble floors, leather upholstered chairs, a writing desk, LCD TV and a king-size bed covered with Egyptian cotton sheets and goose down comforters and pillows.
The writer (SHAWN RODGERS) was a guest of the Efendi Hotel. For more information about the Efendi, visit http://www.efendi-hotel.com or call 074-729-9799.