“A sumptuously restored merchant's mansion with renowned rooftop restaurant in the heart of Stone Town”
Room size and layout varies hugely, from cosy internal double rooms to palatial suites with semi-outdoor shower area and private terrace. It's worth booking early and requesting the biggest room available. All have a double antique Swahili bed, and a couple have an additional single bed - these are the only options for "twin" rooms. You get mosquito nets, a ceiling fan and an ensuite bathroom; many rooms have stone bathtubs in the bedroom (not enclosed). Most rooms have air-con; but none have TV or phone (it's not that kind of place).
The 2 Standard Rooms are great value, and can handily interconnect for groups or families. We like the top floor Superior Rooms, which have great views, many with wooden lattice walls, vibrant colours and balconies overlooking the town. However, low pressure up here means you need to plan your bath time and they lack air-conditioning (but usually get a good breeze).
We also liked the look of the Suites, in the separate wing. Suite Tour, besides its spacious blue bedroom with brass double bed and large stone bath, has teak steps up to a private tower-top sit-out. Similarly, Keep Suite has a private staircase up to a "tea house" for impressive views over Stone Town; inside, the boudoir has a large sleeping platform like a harem.
A continental breakfast including seasonal fruit, spiced coffee and homemade jam is served in an inner courtyard on the first floor, or you can ask to have it on your veranda.
The hotel’s Towertop Restaurant is perched on top of the building, looking down over Stone Town's patchwork of rusting and ramshackle roofs to the boat-cluttered sea.
We were advised to book early, and to get there for sundowners between 1800 and 1815, (sunset barely varies all year, being so near the equator). We climbed the steep steps, took off our shoes, and squeezed between the low tables and the plump floor-cushions (tables and chairs are also available) to sip Planters Punch and nibble fried coconut and banana chips.
The food provision has altered substantially since our visit. Now it is Persian inspired, you get a choice of three main courses usually (think options such as fish, vegetarian or goat with Pilau rice and side vegetables), with dishes served on large brass plates. The food is bought daily, any requests can be accommodated with a little notice. We found the service to be efficient so that by 8.30pm we were tottering downstairs again. I recommend booking dinner here once, and eating out the other nights. Emerson Spice, nearby, comes highly recommended.
Children are welcome at the hotel, and Zanzibar is very kid-friendly. Under 12s go free in parents' room; 12s and over are charged a small supplement. Baby cots can fit in nearly every room. Note that families are allocated rooms without balconies
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)
Nearly all rooms can fit a baby cot. The Standard Rooms can interconnect, one sleeps 2 while the other, Rose, has a single bed in situ so has space for 3 people. Large Superior Room Zenana has two double beds so can host a family of 4, and has doors which close off the balcony. The Suites are suitable for 2 adults only
Kid-friendly options such as pasta with tomato sauce can be prepared on request
Do bear in mind that there are lots of unprotected steps throughout; the rooftop tea houses are unsuitable for small children