Havana’s Hotel Raquel (Photo Feature)

The Hotel Raquel in Old Havana

By Irina Pino

HAVANA TIMES – Raquel means Sheep in Hebrew. This hotel pays tribute to the Jewish matriarch who had two children late in life, with her cousin Jacob. Her sister Lea was his first wife and gave him seven children.

It’s quite a problematic biblical story for women, which you can all look up, but I just want to tell you about this beautiful building located at 103 Amargura Street, on the corner of San Ignacio Street, in Old Havana.

Created by Venezuelan architect Naranjo Ferrer in the early 20th century, it served as a warehouse for fabrics imported from France, Spain, England and the United States. It had meeting rooms, a library, a huge basement, and its own tram to transport goods.

It passed through the hands of different owners until the City Historian’s Office decided to restore it in 1999 to transform it into a hotel. It was opened to the public in 2003.

The facade is extremely striking for its Baroque style, while the interior is dominated by the Art Nouveau style, with furniture, lamps and stained-glass windows.

There are different decorative pieces by Cuban artists, which are allegories of Hebrew tradition, and are distributed in the lobby, bar and rooms.

The building has three stories and 25 rooms. The special feature here is that every room has a biblical name. So, on the first floor, you have Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Samuel, Joseph, Benjamin, Reuben, Jeremiah, Elijah, Nehemiah and David.

The second story has the women’s names: Esther, Rebecca, Sarah, Lea, Ruth, Miriam, Zipporah, Elizabeth and Hannah; plus the Solomon suite. The third story is the Holy Land: Galilee, Sinai and Jordan.

The lobby/bar is called L’Chaim (For life), an expression used to make a toast. The boutique, Bezalel (Under the shadow or protection of God); and the Garden of Eden, the only restaurant where Jewish cuisine is offered, is decorated all in blue, which is a divine color in Judaism, a reminder of the Heavens, God and the Commandments.

I remember the hours I sat on one of the sofas in this lobby, talking to my friend David (the name is a coincidence) who was leaving for the United States.

He says his life has since changed for the better, he’s even been to Europe. But the only thing he misses is this old part of the city, and the diversity of its architecture.

If only I could stay here, enjoy a traditional meal, and maybe imagine I’m in the real Garden of Eden.

If you have the means to come to Hotel Raquel, come, it’s a charming place and has great reviews. Besides, you can go for walks, and visit churches and museums nearby.

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3 thoughts on “Havana’s Hotel Raquel (Photo Feature)

  • I wish I knew of this hotel when I was in Havana for the jazz festival in Havana. I read about early, pre WWII Jewish history in Havana, and used that info on some walking tours. Wish I found this.
    Thanks, Irina. Please contact me.

  • I hope that changes and economic recovery will allow Cuba to restore its beautiful architectural heritage but also the crumbling residences that the people of Havana live in.

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