Zanzibar Serena Inn
(51 rooms) PO Box 4151, Zanzibar; 024 223 2306; 024 223 3019; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.serenahotels.com.
Part of the internationally renowned Serena chain, which has lodges all over east Africa, this large hotel is in the Shangani area of Stone Town, overlooking the sea. The hotel has been converted from two historic buildings, and restored at great expense (see box opposite). All rooms are en-suite and air conditioned, with all the facilities visitors expect of an international-class hotel, inc a large swimming pool, fine restaurant and coffee shop. If you happen not to be on holiday here, there's a business centre with fax, photocopying and email services (although rates are high), and conference facilities. In addition to its standard rooms, the hotel also has state, executive, honeymoon and business rooms. Generous discounts are available in the low season and sometimes also during quiet midweek periods. Cheaper rates are also sometimes available if you book through a tour operator rather than direct. US$210/265 sgl/dbl; US$25 seaview suppt; US$20/35 HB/FB suppt
The restoration of the Serena Inn
The Zanzibar Serena Inn is in the Shangani part of Stone Town. The main building was originally the External Communications ('Extelcoms') headquarters, built in the early 20th century by the British colonial administration. The next-door house is much older and was originally known as the Chinese Doctor's Residence. The explorer David Livingstone stayed here before one of his journeys to the African mainland. It later became the private home of the British consul.
The Extelcoms building had been empty for many years, and the Chinese Doctor's Residence had fallen into a bad state of repair, before restoration began. Their conversion into today's Serena Inn hotel was sensitively handled, the design reflecting Zanzibar's Indian, Arabic and colonial heritage. The regeneration was completed in 1997, and the architects and local craftsmen must be congratulated on the quality of their work and the retention of the building's original character. The walls of the hotel are decorated with historic prints and contemporary paintings, but perhaps the most interesting 'decorations' are the old telecommunications equipment that was discovered in the basement. Abandoned and forgotten by the colonial staff 100 years before, most of the apparatus was handmade in wood and brass. Several items have now been restored to their original condition. The Serena's restoration goes beyond façades and decorations. It is the first hotel in Zanzibar to install a sewage plant, so that waste discharges are treated to international standards. (Most other waste from Stone Town gets pumped out to sea in its raw state.) Although dumping sewage at sea, in whatever state, is never an ideal solution, the hotel owners should be congratulated for this positive step.