ENFNTSTERRIBLES

The Efendi Boutique Hotel: A Destination with a Heart, a View and a Soul

A 9.1 score on Booking.com and 4.5 on Tripadvisor, we had high expectations when heading to the North of Israel for our stay at the Efendi Boutique Hotel in Akko. When visiting the Holy Land, this usually isn’t a top of mind destination. Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and the Dead Sea are overrun by tourists, but besides Haifa and maybe Nazareth, the North is a rather unexplored territory. One more reason to visit the city anyway.

Akko isn’t exactly the newest hotspot around. The city dates back from the Bronze Age and is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in the area.

Akko, different cultures in the mix

A numerous amount of cultures found their way to Akko throughout history. Israelites, Egyptians, Greek, Romans, Arabs, Ottomans and the British, just to name a few. All of them left their mark on the city, some more visible than others. There are the medieval Knight’s Halls, the Ottoman Al Jazzar Mosque, Templars’ Tunnel and Bahá’í Gardens. To keep a very long story short, if you’re into a little cultural trip… Akko definitely will keep you occupied. Nowadays the city is mainly populated by Jews but also Arabs, Christians and Bahá’ís call it their home.

The Efendi Boutique Hotel is located in the Arab neighborhood of the city centre and has quite a cultural heritage of its own.

Efendi hotel Akko Israel Uri Jeremias
Efendi hotel Akko Israel Uri Jeremias

Uri Jeremias turned Ottoman Palaces into a boutique hotel

There’s no talking about Efendi without mentioning the hotel’s founding father, Uri Jeremias. The chef, owner of restaurant Uri Buri and local entrepreneur bought two Ottoman Palaces and turned them into what we got to know as the Efendi Hotel.

In the 19th century, the palaces served a handful of rich and famous Ottoman rulers, but the buildings’ true roots go back a millennium . They were constructed on remnants from the Byzantine Era, 12th century crusader cellars and remains from Ottoman Empire residences from the 16th century. All of these historical elements were carefully preserved and are still visible when you visit the hotel.

In 2001, Uri Jeremias bumped into the two palaces. Even though both buildings were in an advanced state of deterioration, he fell in love with the location and envisioned a better future. A team of experts from the School for Historic Preservation in Venice were flown in. Together with local artisans they renovated every single wall and ceiling painting. The entire hotel was restored with the greatest respect for its history, down to the last detail. Even the 400-year-old hammam was turned into a modern spa.

Efendi hotel Akko Israel Uri Jeremias
Efendi hotel Akko Israel Uri Jeremias

A 12-bedroom gem

After six years of renovations the Efendi Boutique Hotel finally opened its doors. In total there are 12 luxurious bedrooms, two terraces including one on the rooftop, a breakfast area, a spa with the beautifully restored hammam and enough space to quietly enjoy the surroundings.

We got the opportunity to enjoy a night at the Efendi Hotel, an experience that will never be forgotten. It’s not just the next best luxurious residence in town. From the moment you set foot in this place, you feel it has had several lives. Also, it’s not a huge complex and the staff is very friendly so you immediately feel at ease.

Efendi hotel Akko Israel Uri Jeremias
Efendi hotel Akko Israel Uri Jeremias
Efendi hotel Akko Israel Uri Jeremias

Foodgasm alert: Uri Buri

Before opening the Efendi Hotel, Uri Jeremias was already a famous chef in Israel. He’s the owner of one of the best fish restaurants in the country: Uri Buri. When visiting Akko, this is a stop you absolutely can not miss.

Uri Jeremias is a true self-made man. He never studied to become a cook, when he was younger he went fishing to escape the crowd at his parents’ house. He’d prepare his catch afterwards, which was greatly appreciated by his family and friends who enjoyed his cooking. As a young adult he served the Israeli army and lived abroad for a while before opening his own restaurant, 24 years later.

While we had one foodgasm after the other, Uri himself came to sit with us for an interesting chat about food and life in general. It was planned to meet him earlier, but he was invited to an Iftar dinner first. That’s one of the things close to his heart, making sure that all communities in Akko understand each other and live together peacefully. What better way is there than by sharing a good meal.

Efendi hotel Akko Israel Uri Jeremias

Uri Jeremias is all about being straightforward and appreciates the essential things in life most. His restaurant could easily get a Michelin Star if he’d upgrade the interior, turn his staff into penguins and serve the food on fancy plates. But that’s not important to him, a good meal always comes first and the rest is simply a sideshow.

“I don’t understand cars, I don’t understand women. I don’t understand food. I know what I enjoy. Once you try to understand something, it becomes harder to enjoy.” – Uri Jeremias 

 

Efendi hotel Akko Israel Uri Jeremias

Photo credits: ENFNTS TERRIBLES, Eyal Yassky

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