Turkey's newest hotel 'floats' above ancient archaeological ruins

Maureen O'Hare, CNNUpdated 16th April 2020
(CNN) — You could spend your vacation visiting cultural sites or luxuriating in your five-star hotel. But what if you could do both at the same place?
An extraordinary new luxury hotel opened in Antakya, Turkey, earlier this year and it is at once an engineering marvel, an architectural beauty and a world-class archaeological site.
Like hotels around the world, Museum Hotel Antakya is temporarily closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it's accepting bookings from June onward and is definitely one to chalk up for future travel plans.
Ten years in the making, the modern 200-room hotel "floats" on steel columns above the Necmi Asfuroğlu Archaeology Museum, which contains around 35,000 artifacts dating back to the third century BCE from 13 civilizations.

Ancient city of Antioch

The story began back in 2009, when the Asfuroğlu family broke ground on what was to be a luxury hotel -- and discovered ruins from the ancient city of Antioch, a couple of kilometers from the center of what is now modern Antakya.
The original plans for the site became unworkable, but the family embraced the challenge. They worked with the Antakya Municipality, Hatay Archaeology Museum and Adana Conservation Council for Cultural and Natural Assets on Turkey's largest systemic archeological excavation since the 1930s.
Over the course of the 10-year project, they uncovered the world's largest single-piece floor mosaic -- some 1,050 square meters -- and the world's first marble statue of the Greek god Eros found entirely intact.

Make it float

Museum Hotel Antakya
Walking above 2,300 years of history.
Courtesy Museum Hotel Antakya
So how do you build upon a precious archaeological site you can't even stand on? The Asfuroğlu family engaged award-winning Turkish architect Emre Arolat to design the "floating" hotel.
Around 20,000 tons of structural steel -- four times more than the Eiffel Tower -- were hand-welded in a specialist factory near Istanbul.
Construction costs swelled to $120 million, more than four times their original estimate.
Board member Timur Asfuroğlu says in one of the hotel's videos about the project, "When we talked among us as the siblings, we did not actually want to put that much money in it, as it is something unrecoverable." But Chairman Necmi Asfuroğlu convinced them that "this would be a world project and a legacy would be left to humanity."

Bookings for later in 2020

The 200 suspended guests rooms, as well as the public spaces such as the lobby, bar and the signature Ayan Meyan restaurant, hang over the ruins, offering guests a bird's eye view of 23 centuries of history. The building also offers views toward nearby Saint Pierre, the world's first cave church.
More than 3,000 days and six million labor-hours have gone into this creation.
There are five dining venues, as befits Antakya's status as a UNESCO World City of Gastronomy, and the city's largest spa, wellbeing and fitness hub. Antioch's original Roman baths lie below.
A spokesperson for the museum told CNN Travel that, despite the hotel opening in what is a "difficult and unprecedented time, "we have been keeping all our guests informed and have been taking the necessary steps, and implementing measures in preparation for the future."
Bookings are been taken for the second half of the year directly with the hotel and via online tour operators.
"We will of course be monitoring the situation and continuing to communicate with our guests accordingly," says the hotel's representative. "As things hopefully begin to normalize we anticipate a very busy last quarter of 2020."
Museum Hotel Antakya, Haraparası, St. Pierre Mevkii, Hacılar Sk. No: 26/1, 31060 Antakya/Hatay, Turkey; +90 326 290 00 00