The King David hotel first opened its doors overlooking Jerusalem’s Old City in 1931. Built by renowned Swiss architect Emil Vogt who was commissioned by the Egyptian-Jewish Mosseri family, the pink-limestone clad building’s grand interior creates an ambiance of ancient Semitic style that recalls the opulent era of King David, with high ceilings, marble floors, and painted accents. Royalty and heads of state soon began to frequent the palatial hotel, with three world leaders going so far as to seek asylum there for extended periods. King Alfonso XIII of Spain was the first in 1931, after he was forced to abdicate the throne by advocates of the Second Republic. Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia checked in in 1936 after being forced to flee by the invading Italian army; and George II of Greece, set up his government-in-exile at the hotel when the Nazis occupied his country in 1942.
The secluded Jerusalem Suite is unparalleled in the Middle East for its security and safety precautions.
But it was the British who were the most frequent guests, particularly between 1923 and 1948 during the Palestine Mandate. When the Arab revolt broke out in 1936, the British Army leased the top floor of the hotel as its emergency headquarters. They soon added the entire south wing, which became the administrative and military nerve center of British rule in Palestine. In July 1946, a bomb planted in the basement kitchen by the Jewish right-wing National Military Organization tore through the British headquarters, killing 91 people. The hotel was closed and the building became a British fortress until the end of the Mandate two years later. On May 14, 1948, British officials lowered the Union Jack and vacated the building.
In 1961, the ruined wing of the hotel was renovated by the new owners, the Federmann family, and in 1966, two extra floors were added. All of the King David’s 52 suites face the magnificent minarets and domes of Jerusalem’s Old City, many with large verandas, Jacuzzi tubs, and posh living areas. But there is one room above all, the luxurious Jerusalem Suite, that is favored by heads of state and their secret service. The amenity-filled corner suite is unparalleled in the Middle East for its security and safety precautions including bullet- and rocket-proof glass windows, a gas-proof air conditioning system, reinforced metal and concrete floors, and a secluded location. Other security measures, like a private elevator to the roof and parking lot and restricted traffic leading to the building, which is set back from the road, make the hotel the ideal accommodation for VIPs.
The historic hotel has hosted every single American president that has visited Israel this century and world leaders from Prince Charles to Vladimir Putin have all stayed here. The hotel continues to be the lodging of choice in Jerusalem for royals, prime ministers, presidents, government officials, and celebrities who appreciate the hotel’s opulent luxury, historical significance, and top notch security.