Beyt al Chai in Zanzibar Town
(6 rooms) PO Box 4236, Kelele Sq, Stone Town, Zanzibar; Ø 0777 444111; f 0777 444112; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.stonetowninn.com.
Behind thick walls and antique shuttered windows, Beyt al Chai is a relaxed and peaceful haven. Standing across Kelele Sq from the Serena, it was originally built by an Arab merchant and its name, literally meaning 'house of tea', bears testament to its past use as a place where the local nobility came to indulge in the house speciality, spiced tea.
Until its recent opening as a boutique hotel, the building had always been someone's home, and its French manageress, Agnes Viellard, and her friendly team continue to offer relaxed hospitality and home comforts. There are 6 en-suite rooms – 5 dbls, 1 twin – spread over 3 floors and each with an individual name and style. The rooms are large and full of character with high ceilings, authentic Zanzibari furniture and vibrant silk and organza fabrics covering the windows and beds. Although all lovely, the 3 room categories, sultan, prince and princess, are distinguished largely by the size and opulence of the rooms, with only the last also having no view over the square. On the first floor, a large landing area leads out onto a small courtyard and b/fast area, whilst the corner of the house boasts a bright and airy lounge filled with stylish antique furniture covered in sumptuous, azure and gold-thread cushions.
An honesty bar (local and imported alcohol), self-service stereo, and views on 2 sides into the square and sea beyond, make this a wonderfully chilled place to read, write, chat, snooze and watch the world go by. Only b/fast is served, but with such a convenient location, it's easy to wander to any of the town's restaurants or bars, and Agnes will happily recommend the current culinary hot spots. Sultan rooms US$250 dbl, b&b; prince rooms US$170 dbl, b&b; princess room US$100 dbl, b&b. Reduce rates by US$25 for sgl occupancy; add US$65 for extra bed. Children under 2 stay free – cot available. Payment in local or international currency. Cash preferred; 5% credit card surcharge.