Jericho in style - Intercontinental Hotel

by Fred Schlomka -

My wife and I needed a weekend off so we took the kids and headed off to the Intercontinental Hotel in Jericho. Palestinian President Yasser Arafat built it in the heyday of the Oslo era, complete with a casino that attracted droves of Israelis in the mid-nineties. However it was closed for several years after the Intifada erupted.

Today, after extensive renovations it is one of the more elegant hotels in the region with all the amenities one expects of a luxury hotel. The casino however remains closed. Getting there is an easy 40-minute drive from Jerusalem, passing only one Israeli checkpoint staffed by sleepy soldiers, and a Palestinian checkpoint with a smiling policeman. No-one asked for a passport. Turn right just past the checkpoints and there's the hotel.

My kids enjoyed the pool and spent most of their time there, in between lounging in their room watching cable TV which we don't have at home. My wife and I alternated between the pool, the jacuzzi and the gym. The food was very reasonably priced and we enjoyed glasses of Taibeh beer brewed by a Palestinian family in the Christian village of Taibeh, just northeast of Ramallah.

One of the fascinating things about the hotel is that most of the clientele are Palestinians from Haifa, Jaffa, Ramallah and Hebron. It's one of the few places in the country where they can fully relax in an Arab environment and mix freely with people from both sides of the Green Line. There were also a few international tourists and United Nations personnel.

I took the family into Jericho for a few hours. We had seen the archeological and other sites before so spent the time shopping for products not available in Israel, interesting coffee, Turkish delight, and a pair of fine leather sandals. I also got a nice hair cut (20 shekels - $6).

The Intercontinental is 550 shekels for a double room (about $166 at current exchange rates).


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