Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Magdala hotel – A modern resort on a historic site

Magdala is a unique resort hotel situated on the northwestern coast of the Sea of Galilee near Tiberias. It is a resort hotel with exclusive rooms and swimming pool, a spiritual center, Archeological garden and dining facilities.

Magdala is recognized as the birthplace of Mary Magdalene. The hotel was originally designed to host pilgrims. Yet, Archeological findings on site including an ancient Synagogue delayed its construction. The Covid19 pandemic turned on the coin and the hotel was opened to Israelis instead.

Magdala hotel is of International standard. It was designed by Sofia Aspe the latin interior designer, and local architect Rannin Nakhleh-Koury. As a result of the unique archaeological finds, a change was made in the construction plans, so the site now incorporates an archaeological park and next to it a magnificent church center. The hotel's structure and special design stands out from the entrance, a combination of new and modern with a historic and ancient look from every corner of the hotel. The hotel lobby is impressive, through the glass walls overlooking the spectacular views of the Arbel Cliff, the remains of the ancient synagogue, the Sea of Galilee, groomed gardens, water fountains. and the highlight in the center of the lobby, an original first century fish salt pond built from the ancient market center of Magdala.

The hotel rooms are spacious; most of them include two full beds, private bathroom and a balcony. Modern amenities provided include air-condition, cable TV, free WiFI, safe deposit box, minifridge and coffee making facilities. The bathroom has a double sink, hair dryer and a rain shower, and quality dead sea Ahava toiletries are provided. We stayed in a family room – two rooms with connecting doors. One with two full beds and the other with a king size bed and a sofa. We switched to the robes that awaited us and had a glass of local red wine on the balcony overlooking the gardens to the sounds of the water from the garden’s fountains.

The seasonal swimming pool opens early, at 9am I was able to swim before breakfast. It has a good size and was still empty so I could do laps. Perhaps when the hotel is full it would be a bit crowded.

Breakfast was served at the dining room above the lobby; it is one of the best buffet breakfasts in Israel in my opinion both in terms of variety and quality: fish, cheeses, cereals and a warm buffet with cheese lasagna, stuffed tomatoes, Burek, Shakshouka and of desserts. Dinner is usually served at the dining as well, but because the hotel had low occupancy, we were referred to the nearby chef restaurant Magdalena, the restaurant of Chef Yosef (Zuzu) Hana that serves high-end Arab fusion food. We got a voucher from the hotel to a 3 course set menu. The food was remarkable! Each plate won a wow cheers from us both for presentation and taste. Starting from the bread basket, that included tender seasoned pita bread and an extremely long sesame breadstick, with starters such as cauliflower florets with amba-tahini, mushroom medley with truffle oil, beef carpaccio, seabass fillet and more, and ending with homemade traditional Knaffeh. A totally indulging meal! Note the food at Magdala and Magdalena is not kosher.

Back to the morning, after breakfast, we explored the hotel. We started at the Archeological site accessed from the lobby, Magdalah, a thriving fishing village from the first century AD in the Galilee. As part of the hotel stay and also for external visitors you can take a tour of the ruins of the Old City and the Migdal Synagogue, one of the seven synagogues found throughout Israel from this period which is the most preserved of them. It has a special stone with all the temple features including the menorah, oil jug and more village life to the market, houses, mikvahs and the remains of the city with some nice mosaics. The remains of an ancient synagogue, from the first century AD, considered the oldest synagogue discovered in the Galilee - existed even before the destruction of the Second Temple.

An unusual archeological find is the "Stone from the Tower", a rectangular shaped stone, with a lamp relief among the oldest in the world. It is possible that this stone is a three-dimensional representation of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. This is the only archaeological find of its kind, and to this day no similar finds have been discovered in the world. The site currently houses a replica of the stone (the original is kept in the Israel Antiquities Authority's warehouses).

Next, we headed to the church center called Duc in Altum - "Move to the Depth", which combines a concentration of chapels (the chapel of the boat that commemorates Jesus preaching from the boat, chapels that commemorate various events from the New Testament). On the ground floor of the center is another chapel integrated into the ancient market. The center overlooks the Sea of Galilee and is very impressive.

Magdala is still in development a new restaurant as well as development of the beach is in progress. Also, health and fitness retreats and a cross-cultural culinary festival are planned soon. So there is a lot more to look for soon.

There is access to the nearby beach, but it is not yet developed (and no lifeguard on duty). The hotel and its grounds are still in development so there is plenty to look forward to.

Magdala Hotel, Migdal,  www.magdalahotel.com  0747003204  reservation@magdala.org

The author was a guest of Magdala hotel.

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