Much imagination is required to envisage a five star hotel as part of Gaza’s ruins, particularly one constructed using adobe bricks. The building was designed by Algerian-born and –trained Rashid Abdelhamid, a Palestinian architect, the Aldeira Hotel which has 22 rooms, sports domed arches and ceilings with an impressive earth-toned façade.
Located across the Mediterranean Sea in the midst of an age-old political face-off, the only five star hotel in Gaza is more of a monument testifying to the availability of a little bit of luxury than a visible model of consumption.
Abdelhamid who is presently Amman-based spoke not too long ago to Brownbook concerning the hotel constructed in 2000. He informed the magazine that there was some cynicism about the project considering that it was constructed around the time of the Oslo agreements. “I will make Gaza the new Singapore, you know, a horizon of skyscrapers,” he said.
Included in the facilities are a restaurant and coffee shop, a bookshop with essential Middle Eastern books that cannot be found anywhere else in Gaza, as well as wireless internet.
Of course, that dream never became a reality, but the hotel remains standing proud. Most of the time, foreign journalists as well as a small group of affluent families in Gaza assemble at the hotel, particularly just prior to sunset.
Even though the majority of residents do not have the means to afford such luxury, both the start of the project and sustained success of the establishment have been of benefit to the local community.
Abdelhamid taught workers how adobe bricks are made with sand and clay which is then baked in the sun, as well as working with craftsmen and women in designing most of the handcrafted furniture which make the hotel stand out.
“I believe design can be used to honour, develop and enact principles of environmental, economic and cultural sustainability,” he informed Brownbook.
Using adobe is much better-suited to hot climates as the thicker earthen walls aid in regulating temperatures inside the building. It is also commonly used in other desert countries for construction, with the United States’ south-western part included.
Abdelhamid has gained recognition in the region as a leader of sustainable design especially with his contribution to Gaza’s green school project which garnered global support.
In the meantime, the unique Aldeira Hotel remains standing in the midst of the rubble – both metaphorically and physically – to give a people struggling with decades of stagnant politics some sense of pride.