The Beyt al Chai is a beautiful old tea house both small and intimate…
Beyt al Chai: Our full report
STOP PRESS Beyt al Chai will be closing its doors on 1st April 2013, when it is being taken over and refurbished by new owners. We await news of its reopening date.
The Beyt al Chai is a small boutique hotel which is relaxed and peaceful, and a favourite amongst our travellers. The building itself is beautiful, with thick stone walls, large shuttered windows and a grand staircase winding up through the middle. Originally built by an Arab merchant, the Beyt al Chai was a popular meeting place, where people would gather together to drink spiced tea. Its name, meaning 'house of tea', is reminiscent of these times, when the ritual of tea drinking was a significant part of the Zanzibari culture.
The hotel only has six en-suite rooms – these are spread over three floors, each with a different name and style. The rooms are large and full of character with high ceilings, authentic Zanzibari furniture and vibrant silk fabrics covering the windows and beds. One feature of Zanzibari beds is that they are slightly higher off the ground than other beds you might be used to.
There is a large lounge on the first floor of Beyt al Chai, which has two sofas covered with lots of cushions. They look so comfortable, it is impossible to resist relaxing on them with a book for a little bit! Enjoy a drink here from the honesty bar (local and imported alcohol) or across the small square from Beyt al Chai is the Serena Inn: convenient to stroll across the road for afternoon tea or a sundowner.
There's also a new, highly-regarded restaurant on the ground floor which is always popular. The décor is traditional with white walls and alcoves filled with beautiful local ornaments. Across the ceiling, is an elaborately-carved beam and the stone floors and shuttered windows enhance the authentic atmosphere. The food lives up to the setting, with a mix of local delicacies combined with other African and world influences. You can sit and watch Stonetown pass you by as enjoy the varied and tasty menu. Though it's strongly advised to book for dinner.
However, there are also an array of restaurants and bars nearby, where you can get fresh fish, Italian food, Zanzibari food or standard international cuisine – and the Serena Inn is right opposite. (See both on a clear satellite map of Stone Town here.)
Our viewBeyt al Chai has a lovely atmosphere and we found staying here a real pleasure. The team are friendly and welcoming, and because the hotel is so small it feels really homely. It is a great place to base yourself whilst exploring Stone Town.
Ideal length of stay: Two nights if you really want to explore Stone Town.
Directions: It takes around 35 minutes to fly to Zanzibar from Dar es Salaam, and then it is a further 10 minutes to Stone Town and the Beyt al Chai.
Owner: Independent / Owner Run
Food & drink
Usual board basis: B&B
Food quality: All meals are served in the main restaurant which is open to the public for lunch and dinner.
Breakfast is served between 8 – 10 am and consists of fresh fruit juice, a plate of fruit, cereal, toast and a cooked breakfast. Lunch is served from 12:00 to 15:30 and dinner is served from 18:00 to 22:00 and is a fine-dining experience, with a mixture of European and Swahili dishes.
Seafood features strongly, along with local specialities such as creamy banana soup!
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor Dining
Drinks included: Drinks are not in included.
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome at Beyt al Chai
Property’s age restrictions: There are no age restrictions at the Beyt al Chai
Special activities & services: There are no special activities for children at the Beyt al Chai
Equipment: Cots are available on request.
Generally recommended for children: Yes
Notes: The Beyt al Chai is a small welcoming hotel, which is lovely for families with older children.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: There are no communication facilities for guests staying at the Beyt al Chai. Though there are plenty of internet and phone places nearby – all of which are relatively cheap.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio at the Beyt al Chai
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: The Beyt al Chai can call a nearby doctor in case of a medical situation.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: There are always two askaris (watch-men) on the front door of the Beyt al Chai.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers in all of the corridors.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Laundry is an extra charge – when we were there last it was $1-2 per item.
Money: There are no exchange facilities at the Beyt al Chai itself, however the team will happily direct you to a nearby bureau which is reliable and has a good rate.
Accepted payment on location: You can pay for any extras using US dollars, Tanzanian shillings, GB pounds and euros cash, as well as Visa & Mastercard.