Described by its owner as having “the worst view of any hotel in the world,” The Walled Off Hotel will open its doors to guests later this month in the occupied Palestinian territories. With just 10 rooms that get around 25 minutes of direct sunlight everyday, guests aren’t going to be staying for the luxury.
Located in Bethlehem, in the shadow of the wall that separates Israel from the Palestinian territories, the Walled Off (a play on words in a nod to the Waldorff) is a hotel, museum, protest, and gallery all in one, decorated with exclusive artwork by its owner, British street artist Banksy.From the ironically lavish presidential suite where water pours from a water tank riddled with bullet holes into the hot tub, to the bunk-beds in the more affordable rooms taken from abandoned army barracks, the hotel is playful and strongly political.
All the rooms look out onto the concrete slabs of the wall, and some have views that look out over an Israeli settlement – illegal under international law, on the hillside beyond.
“Walls are hot right now, but I was into them long before Trump made it cool,” said Banksy in a statement.The artist had visited Bethlehem about a decade ago, leaving behind artwork that has become a tourist attraction in its own right. The town used to be a popular sightseeing and pilgrimage location because of its association with the birth of Jesus, but has since been subject to strong travel controls imposed by Israel. The hotel comes at an opportune time to bolster the town’s tourism.Despite the difficulty and perceived danger of visiting the hotel, Banksy is counting on his popularity to fill the hotel with guests. "It’s a three-story cure for fanaticism, with limited car parking,” Banksy added in his statement.Guests will be able to book rooms on March 20th, through the hotel’s website.
Banksy created several original pieces with which to decorate the hotel, all with strong political themes. One piece depicts an Israeli soldier and a Palestinian fighter in a playful pillow fight. The entire hotel is done in the style of a British colonial gentleman’s club, a deliberate allegory to Britain’s role in the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
Also in the building, aiming to promote dialogue, is a gallery displaying the work of Palestinian artists. It is the first in Bethlehem, says curator Housni Alkateeb Shehada, and a way for artists from the area to reach a wider audience, as they often find difficulties in travelling abroad.