Dar Sitti Aziza (House of My Grandmother Aziza) is a newly opened boutique heritage hotel in Bethlehem. This recently renovated traditional Ottoman-era urban home is located just next to the Nativity Church, on the junction between Milk Grotto Street Street and Anatreh Street.
Hotel manager, Nabil Rishmawi aims to create a unique and comfortable lodging experience, where the visitors could enjoy the serenity of a boutique hotel and in the same time learn about the history of Palestinians from Bethlehem. He merges traditional with modern and functional.
Who was Grandma Aziza?
According to an old Middle Eastern custom, a house would be rather given a name of a family member than have a postal address. In this case, the hotel was named after Aziza Shaheen, a special member of the family and wife of Issa Shaheen, a son of a Syrian bride that came from Aleppo to live in Bethlehem at the end of the Ottoman Era.
Interior & Rooms:
Dar Sitti Aziza was built as a hosh – a typical Levantine residential building with a open roof common space in the middle, surrounded with different rooms. Now the common area functions as a dining space and is decorated with a small fountain.
Each room in this heritage house had a different use. Today, the visitors could stay in the beautifully renovated hotel rooms that previously functioned as storage areas for wine, grain, olives and vegetables or even as a stable. The purpose of the last one, immediately makes us associate it with the Biblical story of Christ being born in a stable and shows that it was completely natural to keep animals within the living space.
At present, there are nine rooms on two floors. Each room has its private toilet and two comfortable twin or one double bed with a possibility of adding another bed. The rooms are equipped with a desk, TV set, electrical cattle and a small fridge. The interior design of each space aims to reflect its previous function, for example walls of the ‘olive room’ are painted in green.
One of the special rooms is named after Emily Shaheen, mother of the Dar Sitti Aziza manager Nabil Rishmawi. Emily was actually born in 1946 in this room and now she is ready to welcome guests to her family house. It is also her image incorporated in the hotel’s logo. Emily, as a young woman, wears a traditional Bethlehemite dress and takes on water to her jar.
The visitors can also enjoy their time in an outside café in a shadow of two pistacio trees – probably the only ones in Bethlehem.
For more information and reservations visit Dar Sitti Aziza’s official webiste: http://www.darsittiaziza.ps/
Beata Andonia blogs regularly for Travelujah, the leading faith-based social network in the Holy Land. She is originally from Poland and moved to Bethlehem in 2010.