Set up in secret over the last 14 months and set to open on March 11, the Bethlehem guesthouse is expected to run for a year.
Floor-to-ceiling views of one of the world's most infamous barriers, sleeping in sight of an Israeli watchtower and bunking down on abandoned army supplies aren't usually listed among a hotel's features. Nor is a rooftop that no one can set foot upon without prior permission from the Israeli military, everything getting locked down at 11pm each night or buying graffiti supplies to make your mark on an adjacent structure — but, of course, The Walled Off Hotel (not to be confused with the Waldorf Hotel) isn't any ordinary accommodation establishment.
Set up in secret over the last 14 months and set to open on March 11, the Bethlehem guesthouse is the latest project from Banksy. "Enough said," you might be thinking — and yes, in keeping with the artist's usual modus operandi, the hotel is designed to attract attention. You don't just unveil a new place to stay not only in the West Bank, but with a clear vantage of the barrier that separates Palestine and Israel, without making a statement. The site follows in the footsteps of his Gaza tourism ad and theme park Dismaland in giving a dark, topical twist to the holiday trappings most of us take for granted.
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Once inside The Walled Off Hotel, visitors can expect to be greeted by "the worst view of any hotel in the world", as Banksy explained in a statement reported by The Guardian. "Walls are hot right now, but I was into them long before [Donald] Trump made it cool," he continued. Converted from a pottery workshop, the venue's ten rooms will definitely feel the impact of their close proximity to so many vertical slabs of concrete, with none receiving more than 25 minutes of direct sunlight each day.
Anyone keen to book a stay — and given Banksy's involvement, expect there to be plenty — can choose between four levels of accommodation. Perhaps you'd like to kip in one of the rooms customised by different artists, including Banksy, Sami Musa and Dominique Petrin, or scenic lodgings with those not-quite-million-dollar views? Money conscious travellers can opt for budget digs that come with a locker, personal safe, shared bathroom and complimentary earplugs, while the palatial presidential suite will suit those with plenty of spare cash. It boasts a four-person plunge bath, home cinema, Dead Sea bath minerals and water feature made from a bullet-riddled water tank (or, "everything a corrupt head of state would need").
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Throughout the building, Banksy-vandalised oil paintings and statues choking on tear gas fumes line the walls, setting a distinctive tone, but tea and scones are still served daily. Both a gallery and a museum will be open to the public, the former curated by historian and critic Ismal Duddera to showcase many of the most notable Palestinian artists from the past 20 years, and the latter providing a biography of the wall.
In case you're wondering, no, this isn't a joke. As made clear on Banksy's website — which has been revamped to showcase the new venture — The Walled Off Hotel is a genuine establishment. The site is expected to run for a year to mark one hundred years since the British became involved in Palestine.