There is not enough space to write about the years of living dangerously on the edge of Jerusalem at the American Colony as the backdrop to a city that has seen everything and everyone: East Jerusalem is definitely not West Jerusalem. And thank goodness! However, if you want to splurge just once on your trip--take a suitcase stuffed with Jordanian dinars, Israeli shekels or US dollars and book a room, or better yet, a large suite with oriental carpets, a deep tubbed tiled bathroom and arched windows that open out to the courtyard below at the American Colony and don't look back. Plunge over the invisible wall and stay on "The Other Side". Just once. Do it. Worry not about rooms, size, the small things; instead soak in the atmosphere of an old Pasha's villa that is still the center of all things political, social and secret. If money is an issue, just drop by after a marathon of sightseeing and order tea or coffee in the delightful courtyard complete with one particular palm tree given by the Peter Ustinov family, along with a lush garden of flowers trickling water fountains and stone floor and open sky encased by ancient stones from Roman ruins. Once you sit down and begin to admire the beautiful Armenian tiles from Palestinian Pottery—the originals, mind you, you’ll never break away.
If you are lucky enough to stay the night, you’ll wake up to a delicious and yes, enormous breakfast buffet with endless offerings (houmous, lebane, tens of cheeses, fruit salads, oriental salads of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, zatar, ripe fruits that just dropped from the trees, baked breads of all kinds, and the best coffee this side of Starbucks. (btw: REAL French roast coffee that comes in silver pots you can pour into your own ceramic coffee cup over and over)—no Styrofoam in this place. Haram! Not to mention a courteous staff of E. Jerusalemites who have worked at this gem of a hotel for as long as I can remember–and that is a long time---since 1969. I was just a young girl at the time I was first introduced to this secret world of journalists, UN diplomats, rock stars, spies, international foreign peace talk negotiators and other assorted suspects in the never ending drama one knows as “the Matzav” (“The Situation”) meaning the endless back and forth tugs of war between East and West Jerusalem, and Israel and the world in general. A French photographer, Marc Ribaud, on assignment for Life Magazine's coverage of Israel's 25th anniversary, plucked me out of a dreamy respite in the Independence Garden where I was waiting for my “toos toos motorbike” to be fixed, and after clicking me lounging on a bench a dozen times, I mustered up the energy to ask who he was and what he was doing as he was obviously not a tourist type. He held the Leica cameras, and I held the key to the city. He soon asked if I would like to show him around Israel. The exchange was more than mutual. As I was just a struggling student living in West Jerusalem, my world was defined by the Hebrew University in Givat Ram, and my housing in the infamous Shikunay HaAleph dorms built as a quick prefab nightmare that ringed the edge of the university campus in layer cakes of buildings that were meant to be temporary but turned into a permanent site-still standing to this day, mind you. But lucky me: Marc opened my eyes to another world. – to The Other Side, actually. I got a peek into the Jerusalem from the Arab and Christian point of views, and as payment for my insider knowledge, he first treated me to an upper class dinner at the American Colony and my 18 year-old eyes took in the spectacle with absolute amazement.
But back to the Colony review. I never really left the place. Whenever I travel and land in Jerusalem, I drop back into the scene at the Colony as if it was home. My home. Along with the late, social and political doyenne of Jerusalem; owner, Mrs. Vester, with whom I was lucky enough to enjoy a glass of lemonade along with an insider’s look at the historical photography archives of Jerusalem from the 1800’s to the War of Independence in 1948, and then the renowned photos from the Six Day War in 1967. Yes, indeed I was fortunate to be there as often as possible.
Expensive, yes, but worth every penny if you want to be part of the ever unfolding action. I have watched the Middle East drama unfold over the years from a seat in the Colony courtyard and nothing has changed except that the Colony remains intact, as it always looked, and you feel as if you are living within the “no fly zone” of Jerusalem, watching and absorbing the history in the present, yet cocooned within a solid stone buffer zone between East and West. A safe haven for all. And this is just the beginning of the story.
If you venture out of the gate and turn left, walk yourself down the narrow stone streets and discover another world, and don't forget to visit the Balians at Palestinian Pottery right up the road, and say "hi" to Neshan for me.
At the Colony, read all about its history and even buy the books. Don't come home without learning the story behind the story. And say hello, or Ma-salam to Diana for me. She has always made each voyage and stay special.
Fearful of the unkown? Ignore the news and take a walk on the wild side. The American Colony is definitely the place to be.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Elegant, historical Boutique Hotel with complimentary hi speed WiFi in all guest rooms and public areas, complimentary use of business centre and 20 minutes free local & international calls. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- American Colony Jerusalem
- American Colony Hotel Jerusalem