A new hotel will allow you to float softly above beautiful ancient ruins. Turkey sprang from the Ottoman Empire, a thousand years “behind” it, and countless ruins “below” the surfaces of its modern cities. Whenever a new construction project begins, chances are crews will discover traces of a centuries-old culture hidden not far beneath the surface soil. Sometimes those ruins cannot be preserved or excavated, as modern life simply has to press on, and new structures must be built.
But sometimes they can be preserved, particularly when project managers have determination and imagination — and the necessary funding — to pause the work until the site is examined by archaeologists. From there, antiquities from those ruins are sometimes carted away, cleaned, stored and put on display for the public.
In one instance, however, the project owners got creative and decided to do both at once — excavate the site and build their luxury project on top of it. Not so the site is taken elsewhere, but rather so it vividly shows through the floor and other areas for any and all to see.
The Asfuroglu family in Turkey had big plans, back in 2009, for a five-star luxury hotel in Antakya. As soon as the earth was broken, however, the construction crew discovered the remains of the ancient Roman city of Antioch. Rather than abandon construction and turn it over to archaeologists, the family decided to do both: excavate the site and build the hotel so it “floats” above the ruins. It took approximately 20,000 tons of architectural steel to support it, but the hotel is now finished and will soon be open for business.
Originally, plans called for a modern, concrete, 400 room luxury hotel, but when the ruins were discovered, the family shifted gears and brought in an architect who designed a space that essentially sits “above” the ancient city. It’s as though patrons no longer have to choose between relaxing at their hotel and visiting a museum — they can now do both, at the Museum Hotel Antakya. The museum section of the project holds about 35,000 artifacts from the site, which dates back to the 3rd century BC. It took a team of 35 archaeologists and other experts about 18 months just to excavate the site — never mind the actual construction on the hotel.
The room count was reduced to 200 to make room for plenty of spaces for the public to enjoy, such as a more-than-1,000 square metre mosaic, and the only intact statue of Greek god Eros in the world that’s now on display. It has taken more than 10 years to complete, but this summer it opens for guests and visitors from alike. According to a recent item on CNN Travel, the excavation was the largest undertaking of its kind in Turkey since the 1930s, almost a century ago.
The family didn’t shy away from the enormous expense the project incurred, though it was many millions of dollars more than they originally anticipated. Timur Asfuroglu, one of the family’s spokesmen and a member of the board, told CNN, that initially his family was unsure of whether to proceed. But officials encouraged them because of the valuable contribution to history they would make, and what it meant to Turkey and, in fact, the world. The family was soon on board.
“This (is) a world project,” he stated, “and a legacy (to be) left to humanity.” Chances are the Asfuroglus will never recoup their investment, but a hotel that is also a museum, and an extraordinary one at that, isn’t really intended to be a money generating enterprise. It is a teaching tool as much as it is a vacation destination.
When the doors finally open again to this fantastic hotel above ancient ruins, no doubt it will be on a lot of travellers’ “top 10” lists, for the elegance, for the luxury, and perhaps most of all for the history.