Qatar emirate to buy iconic Hertzl hotel

Herzl on the balcony of Les Trois Rois in Basel

Herzl on the balcony of Les Trois Rois in Basel

It is the image familiar to tourists and Israelis alike, the face of the father of modern Zionism that appears on mugs, tea-towels and every other flat surface imaginable.

Few people’s casual holiday snaps have become as famous as the picture of Theodor Herzl taken in Basel, gazing idly into the horizon as he leaned over the balcony of his hotel room, overlooking the Rhine river.

Herzl’s exhortation to the future builders of Zion, “If you will it, it is no dream,” has become inextricably linked with this picture. It is, effectively, shorthand for the vision of the future of Israel.

But now the businessman who owns the hotel in Basel, where Herzl relaxed on the balcony during a break in the 1901 Zionist Congress, is about to sell the property.

And Thomas Straumann, according to Swiss media reports, is not just going to flog the Grand Hotel Les Trois Rois to any old hotelier.

One of the keenest buyers is the Qatari national real estate company — owned by the emirate of Qatar. The emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Thani, has already invested millions in hotels in Bern and Lausanne.

Last updated: 7:34pm, October 4 2012