banksy hotel

In 2015, a Disney castle surfaced in the seaside resort of Weston-Super-Mare in Somerset, UK. In a grand space of grey concrete, this not-so-magical kingdom featured a deteriorating castle, a ramshackle ferris wheel and sarcastic sayings to set the mood. Banksy, the street-art king, was behind it. Coined by the anonymous artist as “A Family Theme Park Unsuitable For Children,” Dismaland was a grim take on Walt Disney’s original; a land far off from the happiest place on earth.

Banksy is internationally known for challenging contemporary social issues through art. And in 2017, the artist has unveiled another live and interactive piece, now known as the hotel with the worst view in the world.

The Walled Off Hotel is located in Bethlehem, right next to the barrier that divides Israel and Palestine. To coincide with the centennial anniversary of British control over Palestine, travellers and natives are invited to understand the wall from all sides.

Guests of the hotel will find that a look past their bedroom curtain reveals a direct encounter with the wall: this is Banksy’s goal. Here, you’re invited to face the reality of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which has divided people by land and belief. All rooms receive a mere 25 minutes of sunlight per day, compelling you to focus less on a pretty view, and more on the history before you.

Creativity is conscious here as every work is designed to open the eyes of its audience. Stay in a budget room detailed with pieces from Israeli military barracks. Get an exclusive, close-up view of the graffiti layered wall, courtesy of the floor-to-ceiling windows in the “scenic” rooms. And, of course, the grand Presidential Room is “equipped with everything a corrupt head of state would need”. That means its own library, cinema, rooftop bar, in-room dining service and an innovative water piece remodelled from a bullet-ridden water tank. Naturally.

The Walled Off Hotel hopes to stay open for the rest of the centennial year. A night here is an engaging experience – from the lobby and suites to the museum, art gallery and piano bar. And for those who want an in-depth take at their surroundings, the hotel’s bookshop is stocked with every volume ever published about the wall. Before leaving, residents can leave their mark on the wall with the tools conveniently supplied by the graffiti craft store next door, which has been given the tongue-in-cheek name “WallMart”.

Banksy is advocating for a greater understanding, but is there too much at risk? The establishment sits in a territory under Israeli military control. The staff warmly encourages young Israelis to visit, but they can only reach this destination by taking an illegal path through Palestinian controlled territory.

And natives are not without their concerns – the establishment may affect the neighbourhood economy and take business away from local hotels. The wall is a heavy political representation and largely disputed controversy of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; visitors may appropriate its history into a gimmicky tourist attraction.

This innovative hotel pushes the boundaries of art, education and hospitality, but ultimately strives to raise cultural awareness. Whether it achieves this end remains to be seen, but its first guests have left having experienced an enriching cultural immersion, unmatched by any five-star rating.

Bookings are now open up until 30 June.

Images: banksy.co.uk

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