Arcmad Al-Mashtal, a 5 star hotel has recently been opened in Al-Soudania in the midst of poverty stricken Gaza Strip.
The building strikes a stark contrast to its surroundings. Cross-check all the features that make a hotel a 5 star hotel and Al-Mashtal has it all. But to bring any such establishment to life, it requires guests, individuals to utilize the vast variety of services it provides. Thus, it stands, almost lifeless, with empty rooms, empty restaurants and hallways, the air heavy with the suffering of the people of the region.
The hotel looks livelier on the outside than it does inside as those that roam its surroundings can only dream of being able to afford a day in the hotel
Al-Mashtal houses 222 rooms with flat screen televisions, large beds, larger bathrooms and a view of the Mediterranean Ocean. Five beautiful and luxurious restaurants wait to serve their customers and a breezy caf? stands empty, save for its staff members.
Since alcohol was banned by Hamas, keeping in line with Islamic law, it is not served by the hotel. And keeping in line with the traditions of Gaza, women? are not allowed to enter the pool.
Over the years of building and re-building the hotel, the developers were well aware of the risk in their $47 million project. To their dismay, neither is the risk paying off. Management has only made 80 rooms available, less than half the amount, so as not waste maintenance costs. Early this month, the hotel was a host to just 10 guests, mainly international aid officials and a honeymooning couple from Gaza.
After working on the hotel for over thirteen long and tedious years its developers, Padico, finally decided to open it hoping to recover some of its costs, keeping an optimistic view in mind, about the problems that revolve around Gaza. The Palestinian investment company is run by Munib al-Masri, a politically independent billionaire.
Back in 1998, when the construction on the hotel began, Gaza was a very different place, filled with hope for a bright future. Decades of conflict were about to come to an end as the Palestinians signed interim peace agreements with the Israelis. The atmosphere was positive and tourism was expected to rise.
Unfortunately, by 2001, the area was in turmoil. The hotel?s shell was in place by 2006, although there was fierce fighting taking place with Israel. As Hamas raged a brief civil war against their rivals, the Fatah, the hotel was badly damaged, having around 180 of its windows smashes during fighting,? as per the words of Shadi Agha, the public relations manager.
As a result of the fighting Palestinians were split between the Hamas in Gaza and the Fatah in the Western Bank. Israel and Egypt, then brought about a blockade on raw materials and a limitation on several consumer goods from entering Gaza, with the aim of trying to contain the Hamas. This made it impossible for Padico to bring in some key materials, and continue the building of the hotel.
In 2008 , two Israeli missiles hit the hotel when Israel launched an offensive against Hamas, over 3 weeks. Unrelentingly the hotel?s owner had it repaired, but final touches still had to be added, for it to be opened. Israel?s blockade made it even difficult for items like gym equipment to be brought into the region.
Heavy international pressure forced Israel to ease the blockade in May last year. But there was a price to pay. There was a naval raid that killed nine international activists trying to sail to Gaza. Finally, the hotel was finally completed and opened in late July.
The Final Hurdle?
An anonymous Padico official, said that the hotel is expected to operate for a couple of years. Only time will tell where its fate lies, and this greatly depends on that of Gaza. “We’ve done our homework. We are leaving the rest for politicians and militants to decide.?
“Its risky ? but we need to have a change in Gaza,” said Mr. Agha
It survived unlimited blows from the unsettling events that took place in and around its location, but will it survive the limited number customers that can afford seek its refuge? The eight storey structure stands out like a sore thumb. The only difference is that the region is sore, and the thumb is up with giving a green-signal for hope.
?Sources: Huffington Post, The Independent Middle East