The Heritage of the Houses of the Efendis
The Efendi boutique hotel is actually composed of two adjacent Efendi buildings that were connected. The Efendi houses were really splendid palaces, used by the rulers and the Ottoman aristocracy in the 19th century. These buildings reveal the historical cross-section of the entire city of Acre.
These palaces were built on the remains of antique edifices from various historical periods, and they contain to this day Byzantine remains from the 6th century, the Crusader period cellars from the 12th century, and, of course, from the early (16th century) and late (19th century) Ottoman periods, and the late Islamic period. These buildings are named after their last builders – the Afifi House, known also as the Wizo House, on the southern side, and the Hamar House, known also as Shuqri House, named after the family of musicians that resided there, which is the northern building. Both together hold between their walls stories, secrets, mysteries and magic, collected during over 1500 years.
Part of the northern building, which has become known also as The Palace, was most probably partly built in the year 1768 by Ibrahim El Tsabag – a member of a Catholic Greek family. The building was erected over the remains of the vaulted Crusader building that has only lately been exposed during extensive archaeological digs, before which their existence had been unknown.
In the 18th century Ibrahim El Tsabag established a soap factory in the lower part of the building. A workshop for the manufacture of soap from olive oil – a most popular product amongst the contemporary Muslim population. Some remains of the soap factory in can be found here to this day.
In the year 1870 Ouda Hamar purchased the building from George and Alexander Jamal, descendants of El Tsabag, and it was he who turned it into the “Palace”. The largest building of the wealthy in Acre. Ouda Hamar decorated the building with impressive wall paintings, decorated ceilings, marble floors and splendid hallways. Here he resided together with his wives and servants.
Following the end of the Turkish rule, various tenants resided here, and after the War of Independence Jews and Arabs lived here together. The Old Acre Development Company acquired the building, and in 2003 Uri participated in a tender and purchased the building. 8.5 years of immense investment in redevelopment and restoration returned the building to its roots.
Today it stands in its old glory, bringing with it the historical sense of both exciting and surprising culture and heritage.