Africa House Hotel in Zanzibar Town
(15 rooms) PO Box 3246, Zanzibar; Ø 0777 432340; f 0777 439340;
e email@example.com; www.theafricahousezanzibar. com. Re-opened in 2003 following extensive restoration, this sea-facing hotel, which served as the English Club from 1888 until the end of the colonial era, now ranks among the most characterful places to stay in Zanzibar. Situated along the Shangani waterfront, Africa House is perhaps best known for its balcony bar, which formed a popular sundowner venue even when the hotel itself was non-functional and still offers a winning combination of reasonably priced (albeit not cheap) drinks, a great view and good bar food. It also displays some interesting 'before' and 'after' photographs documenting the restoration. The otherwise stylish traditional décor of the spacious en-suite rooms is undermined somewhat by an incongruously tiled floor, and supplemented by satellite TV, AC, bath and minibar. US$125–200 dbl, b&b; substantial low-season discounts Apr–Jun.
Memories of the English Club
We received these reminiscences from a former member of the English Club (now the Africa House Hotel) who served in the colonial government before Zanzibar's independence:
The English Club, Zanzibar, was the oldest expatriate club in East Africa. The Rules and Regulations of 1888 – the year of its foundation – state that 'it is established for the association of an unlimited number of English Residents, together with officers of the Royal Navy stationed in these waters'. At this date the RN officers from no fewer than six warships outnumbered the other members.
By the 1950s eligibility for membership was widened to include 'any British subject or American citizen of European extraction'. Extraordinary members could also be elected from other residents such as the representatives of European trading companies. Honorary membership was extended to resident members of the Universities Mission to Central Africa, the Catholic Mission to Zanzibar, Armed Forces officers, officers of any British Cable or Merchant Ship or Civil Aircraft, and so on. There was also reciprocity with similar clubs in Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Mombasa, which was a bonus when travelling in East Africa.
Bedrooms were available for visitors, and for use by members when departing or arriving from home leave. A Dining Room provided meals for single members, if required, and was popular for entertaining. After garages were built at ground level, their roof formed an attractive terrace – which remained one of the most popular meeting spots in Zanzibar Town, especially for drinks at sunset. There was a Billiard Room and a quite extensive Library. Sporting facilities were available at a separate site at the far end of Mnazi Mmoja Road, where tennis and golf were popular, together with squash, cricket and hockey.
In the latter years of the Club's existence, the fancy dress dance on New Year's Eve was a well-attended event. Among the other communities it was known that the wazungu (Europeans) would be walking through Stone Town, or arriving by car at the Club about 8.00pm, dressed in weird costumes, and there was always a sizeable gathering of local people to look with amusement at these strange antics.
The reader may be of the opinion that this all smacked of a monopoly of club life, but this was not so. There were Goan, Parsee, Bohora, Hindu, Ismaili, Ithnashery and other clubs, each used by a single community, whilst preserving an easy-going and relaxed contact among the various communities resident in the Island.