The Mayans got it wrong: 2012 won't mark the end of the world so much as the opening of The Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem hotel in Israel.
A mere hop from Jerusalem's Old City, this luxury joint rises over the busy corner of King David and Agron Streets. Its history is just as eventful.
The Waldorf's prior incarnation, the Palace Hotel, was built in the 1920s by the Supreme Muslim Council, helmed by the mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini. Grand and opulent, the Palace was the Arab answer to such Jewish-owned delux hotels as the King David. That it was partially built on the remains of a Muslim cemetery only added to its mystique. After opening in 1931, the Palace was soon leased to the British authorities; later it would house the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
Still today one of the jewels in Jerusalem's crown, the building has undergone a nip/tuck restoring its original façade with the soaring arches and arabesque flourishes. A mix of Greco-Roman, Renaissance, Gothic, Romanesque, neo-Moorish and Mamluk elements, it boasted private bathrooms (unheard of in the country at the time), three elevators and central heating.
What didn't original architect Nahas Bey include in his designs? The Waldorf Astoria's new fitness suite, two spas, two restaurants and a lobby bar -- not to mention 223 rooms spread among five extra floors, bringing the total to ten. If you're tempted to book a room or merely to fantasize that you could, head over to www.waldorfastoriajerusalemhotel.com
The Waldorf Astoria Jerusalem
30 Agron Street
Jerusalem, Israel 94130