Jerusalem's 7th wonder

Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem is Condé Nast’s top Middle East hotel

Lavishly refurbished 226-room hotel places 7th on world list; building was previously the Palace Hotel, built by mufti of Jerusalem Haj Amin al-Husseini

The Waldorf Astoria hotel on Jerusalem's Agron Street. (photo credit: Flash90)
The Waldorf Astoria hotel on Jerusalem's Agron Street. (photo credit: Flash90)

Jerusalem’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel took the top spot in the Middle East and seventh place worldwide in Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Readers’ Choice Awards.

“More than 128,000 travelers took part in our 28th annual Readers’ Choice Awards survey — the most in its history — submitting millions of ratings and tens of thousands of comments to help us create a list of winning favorites,” Condé Nast Traveler said in announcing the rankings Tuesday.

The world list was headed by the 16-room Singita Grumeti in the Serengeti, Tanzania, followed by The Lodge & Spa at Brush Creek Ranch, in Saratoga, Wyoming.

Places 2-5 on the Middle East list were filled by hotels in the United Arab Emirates, with Jerusalem’s Mamilla Hotel at 6, and the King David Hotel at 8. Also in the Middle East top 15 were the Inbal Jerusalem at 12, the Dan Tel Aviv at 13, the Hilton Tel Aviv at 14, and the David’s Citadel Jerusalem at 15.

“What an honor! We are thrilled,” the Waldorf posted on its Facebook page.

The 226-room Waldorf opened in March 2014, after a reported $150 million refurbishment.

The former Palace Hotel in central Jerusalem, it had stood empty for years and then been used as a government ministry. The renovation and preservation of the building, which also features the city’s largest ballroom, was carried out by architect Yehuda Feigin. The three-year project included extensive work to restore the building’s blend of Roman, Moorish and Arab architecture.

Haj Amin al-Husseini (photo credit: American Colony (Jerusalem), Photo Dept./Wikipedia)
Haj Amin al-Husseini (American Colony (Jerusalem), Photo Dept./Wikipedia)

An Israeli TV report last year revealed that Israel’s pre-state Haganah military force spied on the meetings of Britain’s Peel Commission at the hotel. The Commission headed by Lord William Peel, which was set up to investigate the causes of unrest in Palestine and wound up recommending the partition of the Holy Land, was headquartered from late 1936 to mid-1937 in what was then the Palace. The hotel was built by the then mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, a fierce opponent of Jewish statehood who would later collaborate with Hitler’s Nazi Germany. The Haganah planted listening devices in chandeliers in the hotel, the TV report said, exploiting the expertise of two of its officers who had been involved in the building’s construction.

The mufti has been in the headlines this week, after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alleged that Adolf Hitler only decided on the mass extermination of Europe’s Jews after receiving input on the matter from al-Husseini.

Read: Plush luxe at Jerusalem’s refurbished Waldorf

Read: Israeli spies ‘bugged Peel Commission’ at mufti’s Jerusalem hotel

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