Jerusalem’s Mamilla neighborhood has seen a lot of history unfold. It’s where King Herod built a water reservoir in the 1st century B.C. It’s where many of the hostilities between Israel and Jordan unfolded during 1967’s six-day war. And, today, it’s home to the eponymous Mamilla Hotel, where visiting dignitaries (and laypeople) find their zen in a customizable meditation room or via the help of self improvement experts from Israel and abroad. It seems some markers of the “woo-woo wellness” ethos have made their way to the Middle East.
The Mamilla neighborhood of today is a study in contrast, with a glitzy outdoor shopping mall winding amid many historic buildings (the reassembled Stern House, private home of Zionist leader Theodor Herzl, has pride of place on the strip), walls made of gleaming Jerusalem stone, and lodging like the Mamilla, which is part of the Leading Hotels of the World Group and serves as a symbol of just how much has changed in this ancient city. A quick walk from the Jaffa Gate portal into the Old City, the Moshe Safdie-designed building is hewn from white limestone, each slab still numbered from when they were moved in from another location, but the interior is full of sleek details and even sleeker spots for eating and drinking. The most modern feature of the hotel, though, has to be its Akasha Holistic Wellbeing Center. It’s 2018’s self-care mandate, manifested.
The Akasha Center has all the accoutrement typical of a high-end hotel — good exercise equipment, a spinning and aerobics room — but it’s the next-level devotion to wellness that outdoes the others. Designed with an eye towards Feng Shui, the space also houses a Turkish hamam spa treatment room, a yoga room, a bar for juices and shakes, and, most notably, an area specifically devoted to achieving mindfulness through meditation.
The space itself feels like a cocoon inside the bustling hotel, with a vibe that’s markedly different from the aggressive cardio taking place just outside its doors. It’s softly lit, with the walls running images of forests, sunsets, and deserts, and cast in hues that keep in mind the practice of “color therapy,” where a spectrum of seven colors resonate with the seven main chakras (energy centers) of the body. Meditations, which were developed with the help of experts in the field, are computerized, with each 40-minute session available in Hebrew and English. Guests can choose from five different types of meditation, based on their state of mind. The experience is thoroughly soothing, and a welcome respite after a day of jostling with other tourists around the Old City.
The center also offers instruction in breathing techniques, pulsation exercises, and tailored programs of “self-improvement content,” which “inspires visitors to reach higher levels of renewal, empowerment, and improvement.” You’ve got to wonder if past hotel visitors Bill Clinton, Glenn Beck, and Tony Blair gave it a try.