In order to reach Imperial Hotel, enter through Bab al-Jadid and walk south until the street crosses Casanova Street. Here, the author will not direct visitors, but prefers to leave them to find their own way, walking through the maze of allies, following their natural instincts and finding the directions which lead to the Imperial Hotel. Whatever the choice of direction, the allies lead to Bab al-Khalil square, where the Hotel is located, and the trip will only take a few minutes.
Imperial (or New Imperial) Hotel, a strange name in the Holy City, is the last station of this trail. The hotel was known during the 1940’s and for a short period of time as the Marcos Hotel, after inscriptions were discovered in the building carrying this name.
Imperial Hotel is located a few meters from Bab al-Khalil, with the building occupying a sensitive, central location in Umar ibn al-Khattab Square. It has three façades, most prominent of which is the southern one where the entrance is.
Imperial Hotel is one of the oldest hotels in Jerusalem, in the modern context of the hotel business. The building was completed in 1889, and it is believed that Emperor Wilhelm II and his wife Victoria stayed there during their visit to Jerusalem in 1889, keeping in mind that the hotel was built between 1894 and 1898, according to the inscription at its entrance. History has it that the Emperor’s entourage built a large camp outside the walls of the Old City.
In addition to its splendor and grandeur, the hotel played an important role in the Old City’s history and social life. Most likely, Lord Allenby stood in one of its balconies towards the end of 1917, admiring the Holy City and its citadel, after vanquishing the Ottomans ad occupying the city. In the 1950s, a cinema theatre occupied one of the hotel’s halls, and in the 1960s, it was a preferred location for holding local marriage and other celebrations.
During the hotel’s construction work, archaeological remains were discovered on the site, including the body of a column with inscriptions related to fulfilling a promise in the name of Liggat and Marcos Julius Maximus. The column currently adorns a lighting fixture in the hotel.
Imported Architectural Influences
The Imperial Hotel’s architectural fabric is influenced by a number of Greek elements, though slightly altered. The building is composed of three floors and the façade is characterized by double-columns, and wide and long balconies overlooking the citadel and the city wall, as well as long windows ending with semi-circular arches. The end of the building is ornamented with a group of Greek, clay crocks. The building stone has a pinkish color.
The hotel building is owned by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. In 2005, there were strong rumors about shady deals amounting to $130 million to sell property in the area of Bab al-Khalil, including the hotel building. This controversial issue spread rapidly within the Palestinian community and local and international media, and stormed through the Patriarchy annals.