Inside the Middle East

'World's smallest hotel' created in old VW Beetle in Jordan desert

Alma Al Turkmani, CNNPublished 20th October 2017
(CNN) — Most of us get rid of old autos when their engines finally give up, but one man has turned his battered old VW Beetle into what he claims is the world's smallest hotel.
And Mohammed Al Malaheem, 64, says guests sleeping in his converted jalopy in the Jordanian desert village of Al Jaya will enjoy a five-star experience.
"This village is my homeland, I was born here, I grew up here, I lived here," says Al Malaheem -- who goes by the name Abu Ali.
"I wanted to start a project that improves its situation and places it on the tourism map, because it truly overlooks some of the most beautiful scenery in the region."
Largely deserted by residents who have left in search of a more modern lifestyle, Al Jaya is located near Al Shoubak, home to an imposing 12th century castle called Montreal.

Labour of love

Abu Ali set up the "hotel" in his village Al Jaya after retiring in 2011.
Anas Al Rawashdeh/Mohammed Al Malaheem
Visitors to the area have been checking into Abu Ali's VW since he opened the roadside hotel's rusting doors after retiring in 2011.
Furnished by his daughter, the repurposed car is adorned with handmade embroidered sheets and pillows decorated with traditional patterns and embellished with colorful beads.
According to Abu Ali, an overnight stay here is so comfortable, it's equivalent to that of a night in a five-star hotel.
A sign by the side of the VW declares it the "smallest hotel in the world" -- a title that, according to Guinness World Records, is bestowed upon the 2.5 meter wide Eh'häusl Hotel in Amberg, Germany.

VIP guests

The hotel lobby, which is named "Baldwin's Grotto", is situated inside a cave.
Anas Al Rawashdeh/Mohammed Al Malaheem
Abu Ali's passion for the project is such that he took on a bank loan to set up a hotel "lobby" inside a nearby cave, naming it "Baldwin's Grotto," after Baldwin I of Jerusalem, who built Montreal castle in 1115.
He uses it to serve visitors coffee, tea and traditional Jordanian snacks.
There's also a tiny kiosk-style shop selling souvenirs such as antiques, jewelry, gemstones, copper miniatures and historical artifacts, which hotel guests can purchase at the end of their visit.
Although it accommodates no more than two people at a time, Abu Ali says he has welcomed visitors from all over the world -- amongst them VIPs.
Those who don't find a space to sleep, can enjoy a Jordanian breakfast or lunch, prepared and served the traditional Bedouin way by his wife, Um Ali, and daughters.
A night in the VW with full board costs 40 Jordanian Dinars (around $56).

Satisfied customers

Only two guests can stay at once, but the Volkswagen Beetle has hosted many travelers.
Anas Al Rawashdeh/Mohammed Al Malaheem
So is it worth it? One glance around the cave lobby offers a glimpse into the level of hospitality delivered. Business cards and smiling photographs fill the walls, along with "thank you" notes left behind by previous visitors.
A heavy guest book that can no longer take any more signatures -- probably Abu Ali's most precious asset -- sits on a stool in the corner. Its pages are filled with kind words reflecting guests' thoughts on their stay, all promising to visit again at the soonest chance they get.
These satisfied customers may be able to bring some friends along if they stay true to their word -- Abu Ali has plans to add several more VWs to expand his unusual hotel.
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