Round The World and other travels

A frequent flyer's collection of trip diaries

This is: African Contrasts 2015


Hotel 1: InterContinental Nairobi
Saturday 16 May to Sunday 17 May (1 night)
Room 561 (Twin Deluxe)
The InterContinental Nairobi enjoys a prime location close to the Kenyan Parliament, the Kenyatta International Conference Centre and Uhuru Park. As such, it came as no surprise to find that security was very tight - like a latter-day fortress, actually! Once through the front door, however, it was immediately obvious that this was going to be a haven of calm and five-star luxury. The Safari Bar proved to be a deservedly popular venue for cocktails on arrival, and the pool area was an attractive spot in which to spend some free time the following afternoon. The 'Sunday Family Brunch' event appeared to be very popular indeed but we decided - correctly, I think - that it wasn't for us.

Throughout this short stay, we were consistently impressed by the hotel staff, some of the friendliest and most helpful to be found anywhere. We also learned that this was the base chosen by President Obama for his forthcoming visit to Kenya in July 2015.
Hotel 2: DoubleTree by Hilton, Zanzibar Stone Town
Sunday 17 May to Thursday 21 May (4 nights)
Room 301 (King Suite)
This new Hilton-group property showed signs of still 'settling down'; for example, our booked airport transfer still hadn't shown up 45 minutes after arrival, detailed procedure notes had to be consulted when we ordered cocktails from the bar menu, and an inordinate effort seemed to be needed to process breakfast vouchers through the restaurant's computer system. Despite all that, we had a thoroughly enjoyable stay in this refurbished historic building located right in the heart of Stone Town. Our suite was nicely decorated and, importantly, it did not become too warm in Zanzibar's hot and humid climate. The rooftop Taarab bar and restaurant was an attractive facility featuring an outdoor terrace. It served as a breakfast room in the morning before transforming itself into a bar and à la carte restaurant in the evening. We found the staff there to be particularly friendly and welcoming.

One facility noticeable by its absence was a swimming pool, this being due to the severe space constraints of the location. The hotel has its own conference centre, housed in a separate building a couple of streets away. Oh, and this really is a true DoubleTree: guests receive the customary warm chocolate-chip cookie on arrival!
Hotel 3: Hilton Addis Ababa
1. Thursday 21 May to Friday 22 May (1 night)
2. Saturday 23 May to Monday 25 May (2 nights)
Room 1224 (Executive Twin) for both stays
The Hilton is something of a landmark in Addis Ababa, situated close to the convention centre. It consists of a central tower block set in extensive grounds, enabling it to offer a wider than normal range of facilities and activities, including a large swimming pool, barber shop, beauty salon, clothing store, basketball, squash and tennis courts, and a putting green. We were allocated the only twin room on the Executive Floor for both of our short visits, and there was no problem storing luggage while we were away on our side trip to Lalibela. While some of the furnishings were perhaps a little tired, the room had good views across the city - including a nearby shanty town!

The Executive Lounge was attractive and also gave good views. Once again on our African adventure, we were struck by the friendliness and helpfulness of the staff. Apparently - and not for the first time in the course of this travel diary! - I was chosen as 'Guest of the Day' for the first of our two stays.
Hotel 4: Maribela, Lalibela
Friday 22 May to Saturday 23 May (1 night)
Room 104 (Twin)
As we discovered, the town of Lalibela does not have a compact layout. While not in the centre of town, this brand new hotel enjoys a stunning location on a ridge that overlooks the wild and open countryside of the Ethiopian Highlands. I liked the layout and the decor of the building, and especially the spectacular, high-ceilinged dining room where a daily coffee ceremony is performed for guests as a gesture of welcome, featuring the burning of incense. The property is only a few minutes away from the famous monolithic rock-hewn churches, which of course are the reason why most tourists visit this place. For such a remote, rural location in East Africa, standards at this hotel were commendably high.