236 Hurumzi boutique hotel is right in the heart of Stone Town in Zanzibar.
Emerson on Hurumzi: Our full report
236 Hurumzi (once known as the Emerson & Green) is a small boutique hotel right in the heart of Stone Town. Mr Green, of the original 'Emerson & Green' partnership, is still the managing director of the hotel, which hasn't really changed much in character since it acquired its new name. (However, Mr Emerson is, conspicuously, not part of this hotel any more – he is, allegedly, looking into a new hotel venture of his own!)
236 Hurumzi feels vast. It sprawls across two beautiful old buildings dating from 1840–70. The back portion was constructed in the early 1800s, when the Omani Arabs first took control of Zanzibar, and the front building was originally the home of the prominent Ismaili Indian merchant, Tharia Topan.
These were then completely restored, joined into one small hotel, which was then tastefully decorated with antique Zanzibar furniture and carpets, many of which are original pieces from the houses.
There are 16rooms which are all completely different in character and design. But broadly speaking they can be divided into two categories - the nine Standard Rooms and seven larger Suites. Each one is beautifully decorated and all of the rooms have a ceiling fan (most also have air-conditioning), a large Zanzibari bed and an en-suite bathroom.
236 Hurumzi has two restaurants. The Kidude Café, open open between 11am and 10pm for lunch and dinner, is on street level and has an a la carte menu available throughout the day. Local art is showcased here, and bright Zanzibari material hangs from the walls - adding a warm character to the room. The restaurant is furnished with comfortable chairs and benches around a few tables, providing the perfect spot for grabbing a quick coffee or even a meal.
The Tower Top Restaurant is the venue for breakfast, and also a spot that's locally famous for dinner. sits on the roof, and with totally open sides, has a wonderful 360-degree view across Stone Town. Colourful rugs soften the floor and brightly coloured Zanzibari cushions are set around the edge. Everyone sits behind low wooden tables facing into the centre whilst they eat traditional Swahili food. In the evening, guests assemble to watch the sun set over the roofs of Stone Town, before being entertained with traditional singing and dancing, and served dinner. (Dinner here must be booked in advance – and the spectacle is terrific fun; but the food doesn't always match.)
In its heyday, Emerson & Green (as 236 Hurumzi was known) was renowned as one of the best boutique hotels in Stone Town, with a peaceful and slightly bohemian atmosphere. In the last few years, it has expanded substantially – adding a new wing 'Peace of Love', with six new rooms.
During 2006 we had a number of complaints from our travellers who stayed here – and so we were interested to visit in early 2007 to learn if the new '236 Hurumzi' had returned to its former glory, or slipped further.
Our viewSadly, on this last visit, we were disappointed. We had a careful look around the hotel, and it remains beautiful – the rooms are still original and many of them are lovely. However, we were singularly unimpressed with the staff; several of them were rude and unhelpful (both to us, and to guests with whom we saw them interact). We also met briefly with Mr. Green. He dismissed our comments, blankly insisting that his hotel had only got better over the last six years. He swiftly brushed aside our concerns over the service, and commented that 'one or two of the staff are characters' to explain their bad attitude.
We left with a memory of 236 Hurumzi's lovely rooms, which really are special. However, its staff and management stuck in our minds more. We felt sad that they seemed to have little interest in recognising or addressing the hotel's shortcomings, of which 'service' was the big issue for us.
Ideal length of stay: Two nights is typical; one is a little short - and three is too long for most visitors unless they have specific interests to pursure in 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. As 236 Hurumzi is tucked away in the tiny backstreets of Stone Town, the car can't get right to the door of the hotel. There is a short 2-minute walk from where the car drops you off, but your driver will help you with your luggage and show you the way.
Accessible by: Fly-and-Transfer
Food & drink
Usual board basis: B&B
Food quality: Breakfast is served in the Tower Top restaurant and usually consists of fruit, pastries and eggs of your choice. Lunch is available from an a la carte menu, in the Kidude Café downstairs. Both restaurants serve dinner, though upstairs must be booked in advance – it is a very popular spot.
Dinner in the Tower Top Restaurant is a set menu. It is served to you as you sit on the floor on brightly coloured cushions. Everyone sits around the edge of the terrace facing into the middle, in a traditional Swahili style. This restaurant has wonderful views across the roof tops of Stone Town and is well worth a visit. Though you will have to book in advance as seating is limited and it is a very popular place.
Dining style: Individual Tables
Dining locations: Indoor and Outdoor Dining
Drinks included: Drinks are not included.
Further dining info: 236 Hurumzi Hotel will happily do room service, though this needs to be arranged in advance at reception as there are no phones in the rooms.
Attitude towards children: Children are welcome at 236 Hurumzi Hotel.
Property’s age restrictions: 236 Hurumzi has no age restrictions.
Special activities & services: There are no special activities for children.
Equipment: Cots are available on request.
Generally recommended for children: No
Notes: 236 Hurumzi is fine for children, though there are some hotels in Stone Town that have swimming pools. The Tembo Hotel has a great pool which is always full of playing children. The Dhow Palace also has a pool, as does the Serena Inn.
Power supply: Mains Electricity
Communications: 236 Hurumzi has a phone and a fax at reception that guests can use for a fee. There is also WiFi broadband access downstairs, in the Kidude Café, for those who have their own laptops.
TV & radio: There is no TV or radio at 236 Hurumzi Hotel
Health & safety
Malarial protection recommended: Yes
Medical care: 236 Hurumzi Hotel is right in the middle of Stone Town where there are doctors nearby.
Dangerous animals: Low Risk
Security measures: There is night security guard at the entrance of 236 Hurumzi Hotel.
Fire safety: There are fire extinguishers dotted around 236 Hurumzi Hotel.
Disabled access: Not Possible
Laundry facilities: Full Laundry Service - Extra Charge
Money: 236 Hurumzi cannot offer any currency exchange, though there are plenty of bureau de changes in the area – someone from the hotel can give you directions or show you where to go.
Accepted payment on location: You can pay for any extras in US dollars, pounds, euros, Kenyan shillings and Tanzanian shillings cash. You can also use travellers' cheques or Mastercard and Visa – there is no fee for this though it has to be for a minimum of $30.