In my recent visit to Israel I had the opportunity to shoot one of the most ‘talked-about’ boutique hotels, The Efendi Hotel in Acre, North of Israel.
Travel + Leisure magazine was doing a book about some of the most beautiful hotels in the world and contacted me for a shoot. Since there was a big buzz around The Efendi already, I was curious to visit it myself, not to mention to photograph it as well as the opportunity to meet the owner Uri Buri was exciting.
Uri Buri is known for his prestigious seafood restaurant in Acre Port (as a little girl, my family always used to make a stop at his restaurant after a long trip to the North) and he is a well known character in Israel for his great restaurant, and now for his luxurious hotel as well. Let it be known that when someone is so passionate about great food and wine, like Uri is, he will be totally involved with aesthetic, good taste and the little details of the hotel he has envisioned.
I asked Merav, a good friend with a great taste in design to join me, so the shoot was even more enjoyable, beside the fact we got a personal tour by Uri Buri himself.
Before you dwell your eyes in the photos of the hotel, I highly recommend to read the history of the building that used to be two palaces and get the details of the restoration process that lasted for over eight years, in order to understand how special this hotel is, and how courageous and visionary Uri is.
The name Efendi by the way, was used in the Ottoman era to give respect and courtesy to a person. It is the equivalent to the English word ‘Sir’. No coincidence that The Efendi house is a combination of two buildings that were once glorious palaces, which served the rulers and rich Ottomans in the 19th century in Acre.
The Lobby of the Efendi and the entrance hall is dotted with blue color armchairs imported from Italy. There is a wine cellar and a restaurant on the lower level and a great Spa with an original 400-year-old Turkish bath, that has been preserved. The lobby, in my opinion, is just the beginning of the beauty you will see throughout the rest of the hotel.
Central Communal Salons
The Efendi has twelve guest rooms spread out equally over three floors. On every floor there is a central communal salon (I love that idea) with appealing sitting areas for the guests to relax and recharge. Big windows overlooking the Mediterranean sea are the perfect backdrop for relaxation. Uri worked closely with an interior designer who chose specific chairs from Damascus, Syria, a wooden table that used to be a trough in Tibet and some heavy brown armchairs from England. The white ceiling is completing the scenery with original and restored Italian frescos. Quilted rugs give warmth to the rooms.
The Original Wall Painting
Another communal area on the third floor is well defined by its colorful ceiling and an original wall painting from the Ottoman time. The original wall painting was a gesture of the Efendi (the home owner) to Turkish emperor at that time. Uri explained us how difficult it was to restore this wall painting and how he gladly hired special Italian painters to do so. The outcome and the final restored wall painting is mesmerizing.
Each room of the 12 guest rooms is different than one another and has a unique style and character. One of my favorite rooms was The Presidential (room number 10) which was actually the first room I shot. This is the biggest guest room with high ceiling decorated with the Italian frescos of course, marble floors and a stunning sea view. I loved the freestanding bathtub next to the window. Imagine taking a bath and looking outside at the sea?
The enormous bed is covered with Egyptian cotton linens and goose down pillows and blankets, quality towels, robes, and pampering slippers. Even though I am an outdoor person, during Winter time, I could stay all day in this Presidential room.
The Royal Room (room number 1) was also one of my favorites, thanks to the beautiful blue view of the Mediterranean Sea from one window and the old city Mosque from the second. This room is quite big as well, with spacious sitting area, separate bathtub and a shower. I loved the colorful dishes in this room (in fact, in every room) from PIP studio. How creative of the interior designer to combine PIP elements.
The terrace of The Efendi is overlooking the sea, the Galilean mountains and the old city Mosque. Turquoise soft pillows are scattered on the marble floors, allowing the guests complete relaxation while inhaling the blue of the sea. A second terrace is located in the upper level, on the roof, where guests can enjoy a BBQ dinner, glass of wine and a great sea breeze, overlooking the old houses of Acre.
Learning about the history of the hotel, and hearing all the details of its restoration made the shooting experience even more meaningful. I made it as a priority to capture all its beauty, even in its little details, so the story of The Efendi will be beautifully told.