BACKGROUND: The Zanzibar Serena Hotel is housed within two opulently restored historic buildings on the seafront. It is part of Zanzibar’s history and offers guests an unbeatable location, delectable cuisine and the Karibu Sana hospitality for which Tanzania is famed.
WHERE IS IT? The hotel is in the epicentre of Stonetown on Unguja Island in the Zanzibar archipelago. Airport transfers are available on request and the hotel is seven kilometres from Abeid Amani Karume International Airport. Zanzibar Serena Hotel is situated within walking distance of the UNESCO Heritage Centre and sites such as The National Museum of Zanzibar, the Kidichi Persian Baths, the House of Wonders, and the Arab Fort.
ROOM FACILITIES: With only 51 rooms, the Zanzibar Serena Hotel feels cosy and pays attention to detail. The 41 standard rooms are split between convertible, twin, and king-size beds. There are six spacious prime rooms, a honeymoon suite, two executive suites and a presidential suite. The executive suites are best suited for business travellers or longer stays with a sitting room, L-shaped balcony, al fresco cocktail area and double hammock. Care has been taken for the décor to translate the essence of the island’s and buildings’ heritage and history. Swahili elements in each room are combined with arched niches, ceramic inlays, fretwork cabinets, and a blue-and-white colour scheme. The four-poster beds are draped in mosquito nets and louver doors lead out onto a private balcony with ocean views. If you’re not one for the sultry ocean breeze, then the wooden window shutters, air-conditioning and well-stocked mini-bar will work in your favour, and will complement the free wi-fi and flat-screen TV with satellite channels. If there’s anything else you require, there’s 24-hour room service. The hotel offers a gift shop, currency exchange, laundry and valet services, baby sitter services, and an on-call house doctor.
RESTAURANTS & BARS: The buffet breakfast at the Baharia Restaurant is scrumptious, not just for its fusion of Swahili flavours and international dishes, but for the large windows from where you can watch the dhows glide across the Indian Ocean. Each week the restaurant also hosts an al fresco Swahili banquet by the swimming pool. For the best views of the bay, the rooftop Terrace Restaurant serves fresh seafood that is seasoned with a medley of local spices. Ask for the catch of the day or indulge in the Baharia Platter of lobster tail, king prawns, crab claws, calamari and marinated fish fillet. Though the hotel offers complimentary tea and coffee throughout the day, Ndele Coffee Shop serves a selection of aromatic Swahili coffee blends, freshly-baked pastries and afternoon snacks. In the evenings, make time to relax at Masahani Bar while listening to live Taarab music, as you sip a signature cocktail or premium liquors.
BUSINESS & MEETING FACILITIES: The 621m2 Chaza conference room can accommodate up to 40 delegates in the class-room seating configuration, and can also be arranged in a theatre, boardroom, hollow square, U-shape or cabaret seating arrangement. It supports the latest audio-visual equipment and hassle-free technical support from the hotel’s meetings and events team. They’ll handle every aspect of your conference or meeting. International business travellers can feel at ease thanks to the hotel’s multilingual secretarial support, uninterrupted power, and reliable wi-fi.
LEISURE FACILITIES: The swimming pool – which is necklaced by palm trees and sun loungers – is central to the Serena and is the life of the hotel. There’s an open-air courtyard ideal for reading or catching up on emails. The concierge can organise tailor-made tours at an additional charge.
VERDICT: The Zanzibar Serena Hotel harks back to the island’s days of sultans and slaves, but you might have to force yourself to concentrate on work thanks to the beautiful setting and laid-back atmosphere.