The Islamabad Marriott hotel reopened on today (Sunday the 28th December), just three months after it was destroyed in a suicide truck bombing that killed 60 people, the worst attack in Pakistan this year.
“I have made this hotel a fortress,” Sadruddin Hashwani, the owner of the Marriott, said as he lit candles in front of huge pictures in the refurbished hotel of employees killed in the attack.
“My heart bleeds today while remembering these great soldiers, who did not let the bomber enter the hotel,” he said with tears in his eyes.
An army of 2,000 labourers has restored the hotel to its former lustre. A grand piano and glistening chandeliers grace the new lobby. The old one, which had a glass atrium, shattered in the attack.
The facility — located near Pakistan’s parliament and other key government buildings — is also now surrounded by a massive bombproof wall which is 14 feet (3.5-metre) high and 15 feet thick
Hashoo Hotels’ chief operating officer Peter Alex says the wall is capable of absorbing the shock of even a massive explosion like the blast in September, which damaged hundreds of nearby buildings.
Visitors now have to pass through a bombproof room within the wall in order to gain access to the hotel, which will feature sophisticated scanning equipment, he said.
There will however be no parking at the hotel. Even vehicles ferrying VIPs to the Marriott will have to deposit guests at the front gate and drive on.
“The hotel will be fully functional from today, with the re-opening of all eight restaurants, coffee shops and the conference rooms,” Khawar Jameel, a spokesman for Hashwani’s Hashoo group, told AFP.
Travellers will have to wait a few more days to sleep in the 60 rooms now available, with check-in starting from Thursday, as hotel management decided at the last minute to test all the fixtures before allowing guests to stay.
The hotel is due to be fully operational in March, when all 289 rooms — fitted with trendy furniture and flat-screen televisions — will be available to guests.
“People should feel very safe when they come to this hotel because we have provided the best possible security,” Hashwani said.