The Mount Zion Hotel, located on the outskirts of Jerusalem’s Old City, offers sumptuousness in a different flavor and an equally intriguing history. Erected by a British charitable organization in the 1880s, the building, which faces Mount Zion and looks over the sweeping Hinnom Valley, originally served as a hospital for Jews, Muslims, and Christians. It was taken over by the Turkish army during World War I and suffered severe damage in the 1920 earthquake. During Israel’s War of Independence, contact with Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter was possible only by means of a cable car running from a point on Mount Zion to a room in this hospital building. The cable car was used at night, carrying medicine and arms up to Mount Zion and the wounded back down to the hospital; by day, the cable was lowered to the ground so as not to be seen by the enemy. As with so many sites in Israel, the past is embedded deeply in every stone here.
Today, the Mount Zion Hotel retains much of its Turkish flavor: there is a clear Ottoman-Moroccan aesthetic sensibility in the wildly patterned ceramic floors, stone walls and archways, colorful curtains and bedclothes, and the brightly tiled hamam, now a functioning Turkish bath and part of the hotel’s spa. And the Mount Zion serves one of the loveliest breakfasts in Israel: a groaning board of fruits, cheeses, vegetables, olives, baked goods, fish, omelets, breads, fresh juices. On this account alone, many guests wish they had more days here, in order to sample everything.
Photos courtesy Mount Zion Hotel