A review of Sarajevo’s Holiday Inn on the Frontline of Politics and War by Kenneth Morrison, Palgrave Macmillan, 2016.
Written by Martin Bell
It is quite without precedent for a hotel to be the subject of a book-length academic study. But then, the Holiday Inn in Sarajevo was no ordinary hotel. For the three and a half years of the Bosnian War it was the most blitzed and best known hotel in the world. It stood 200 metres from an active front line and those of us who stayed there had sometimes to run the gauntlet of sniper fire to get into it or out of it. Its south side was repeatedly shelled by the Serbs and the rooms there were wrecked.
War reporters are birds of a feather who flock together. We will seek out a hotel – not necessarily the best in town – and settle there. Between 1992 and 1995 the Holiday Inn came to rank alongside the Continental Palace in Saigon, the Commodore in Beirut and the Europa in Belfast as our indispensable gathering place. In its great gloomy atrium (for much of the time there was no electricity) we traded news and rumour, enjoyed such comforts as there were and generally kept an eye on each other. The rooms without a view were the ones most in demand. When the war began it was actually the headquarters of Radovan Karadzic the Bosnian Serb leader and his entourage. It then became a target. It held such a special place in our affections that I even wrote an ode to it.
It was the ultimate war zone hotel,
Its south side blown away by shot and shell,
Apparently the lodging place from hell,
And yet, away from where the mortars fell,
It did not just survive but cast its spell;
It was our refuge and it served us well.