Emerson on Hurumzi

Stone Town & West, Tanzania
Book from GBP Book from £98 per night

Emerson on Hurumzi

Stone Town & West, Tanzania

A sumptuously restored merchant's mansion with renowned rooftop restaurant in the heart of Stone Town

A sumptuously restored merchant's mansion with renowned rooftop restaurant in the heart of Stone Town

This hotel has had a yoyo-ing identity. Back in the 1990s, it was Stone Town's pioneering boutique hotel, founded by (and named after) the American partners Emerson Skeens and Thomas Green. Taking on the tropical rain and sun, African pace and a poor socialist infrastructure, they managed over 10 years to turn a pair of crumbling merchants’ houses into a stylish and luxurious little hotel.

In the noughties, the hotel acquired a third building and the name 236 Hurumzi (its street address) - Thomas Green still had an interest, but the service started suffering. Then, in 2013, it reverted to the original name, and came under new management, with just 9 rooms and lower rates.

One thing remains constant: the larger, ceremonial bedrooms are among the most atmospheric in Zanzibar. Stained-glass windows and wooden lattice-work throw mysterious patterns over marbled bathtubs and oriental rugs, while vast mosquito nets are draped over carved four-poster beds. The view from the Tea House Restaurant over the motley roofs of Stone Town forms a magical backdrop for a Swahili dinner served at knee-high tables by robed waiters.


  • Most rooms have something special: an open-air bathtub, a galleried balcony overlooking town, painted wooden fretwork or, quite simply, palatial dimensions
  • The location is very central, on a busy but traffic-free lane
  • The rooftop restaurant had a great atmosphere when we last visited
  • The Suites are particularly impressive, with private 'tea house' terraces and lots of space
  • The rates represent good value for money, and the extras (including airport transfers) are very reasonable


  • We have not checked service or food in its latest incarnation, though guest feedback is good
  • There's some noise from the streets (inevitable in central Stone Town)
  • Be prepared for steep stairs and no elevator
  • Stone Town can feel a bit rundown to first-time visitors, but stay a while and you'll find a warm and historically fascinating town

Best time to go

All year. April, early June, November and early December can also bring sporadic rain. Spice tours and city sightseeing can be difficult during the rains, and some of the shops remain closed.

Our top tips

We recommend staying for 2-3 days at the end of your Zanzibar trip. If you're there on a Thursday evening, check out the wonderful concerts at DCMA, where students and pro musicians combine their talents, accompanied by sundowners, great sunset views - and dinner if you want. If you can coincide with the Sauti za Busara Music Festival in February, or the ZIFF film festival in July, do.

Bring light, long-sleeved clothes dinner, sandals for general use, and anti-malarial (and any other necessary) medication.

Great for...

City Style
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 9 rooms
  • Restaurant (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • Beach Nearby
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Car not necessary
  • Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • WiFi
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service


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 one has an additional single bed - this is the only option for a "twin" room. 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 Rose Room and Blue Room are great value, and can handily interconnect for groups or families. We like the top floor West and East Rooms, which have great views, 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 Tour and Keep Suites, in the separate wing. Tour Suite, 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.

Features include:

  • Fan
  • Safe box


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 Tea House 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.

Lunch is quite relaxed, with food served all afternoon, but we were advised to book ahead for dinner; everyone arrives at 6pm for a single sitting (perfect timing for sunset, which 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. The Secret Garden at Emerson Spice, nearby, comes highly recommended for its romantic atmosphere and regular live music.

Features include:

  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Vegetarian options


  • Explore the maze of alleys, shops and stalls of this Unesco-recognised town
  • Stock up on fabrics, shoes, spices and other gifts to take home
  • Visit the Arab Fort, the People’s Palace and other historic buildings
  • Sail a boat to one of the nearby islands
  • Take a spice tour into the lush interior
  • Admire the works of Zanzibari artists at the hotel's art gallery and exhibition space, as part of The Emerson's Zanzibar Foundation
  • Visit the Princess Salme Museum, located next door to Emerson on Hurumzi, which looks at Zanzibar's past through the insights of historic women
  • Check out the historic slave chambers, the Anglican cathedral and the covered market near Creek Road
  • Guided half-day city tours are available

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Boat trips
  • Historical sites
  • Shopping / markets
  • Traditional cultures


Children are welcome at the hotel, and Zanzibar is very kid-friendly. Baby cots are available for every room, on request and for free. However, please note that certain rooms are more child-friendly than others as they don't have steps or low rails/balconies. The most suitable rooms are Blue, Rose, Seyyed and Zenana. Please ask us if you would like any further advice.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Blue and Rose Rooms can interconnect - Blue sleeps 2 while Rose has a single bed in situ so has space for 3 people. Zenana has 2 double beds so can host a family of 4, and has doors which close off the balcony. The Tour and Keep Suites are suitable for 2 adults only

Cots Available

Families Should Know:

Do bear in mind that there are lots of unprotected steps throughout; the rooftop tea houses are unsuitable for small children


  • Airport: under 30 minutes
  • Hospital: 5 minutes
  • Shops: 2-3 minutes
Kid Friendly:


Emerson on Hurumzi is in the heart of Stone Town, Zanzibar.

By Air:
Zanzibar (5km) is served by various direct and connecting flights from around the world. It's a 15-30 minute drive to the hotel, we recommend booking a transfer - it's fairly priced and avoids hassle.

By Car:
Hire cars aren't very popular because of the bumpy roads, bad signposting and short distances involved, but work out well if you are a group of 4 or want complete independence.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.


  • Zanzibar 5.0 km ZNZ


  • Beach 0.2 km
  • Shops 0.1 km
  • Restaurant 0.1 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 1 independent review from i-escape guests


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