I've traveled to and spent significant amounts of time in 52 countries, including hazard zones like Syria, Lebanon, post-earthquake Haiti, Rwanda, Uganda (the list goes on), but I've never traveled through an apocalyptic netherworld to get to a hotel and still been in it once I got there. The Grand Royal Hotel in the Eastleigh neighborhood of Nairobi looks nice enough when you visit their web page, and, in some ways, the photographs of the interior of the hotel don't lie. The two other Americans I was traveling with and I ended up at the Grand Royal because of a business relationship we have with some American Somalis. I believe the hotel is owned by Somalis, as most guests (all actually except for us) appeared to be Somali. On my nighttime taxi ride to the hotel, the driver and I passed through some of the roughest neighborhoods in the city, but, the closer we got to the hotel, the rougher it got. Turning the corner to the street that the hotel is on, we circled a round-about whose centerpiece was a giant pile of stinky, insect covered garbage at least three feet thick. In the middle of all of the repelling rubbish, a group of ten men were huddled around a fire. Actually, everywhere you looked, there was garbage in the street. Even though it was around midnight, there were still hoards of people walking and milling around. How they didn't choke from the toxic smoke coming from that round-about fire fueled by plastic bags and rubber, I'll never know. Anyway, we finally pulled into the hotel's front parking lot, which was pretty small and provided no more than a 30 foot buffer from the horrid street. The lobby of the hotel was a bit of a relief from the street. It was decently air conditioned, and the staff was very polite. That said, they were very disorganized. It took the front desk clerk a half hour to find evidence of my reservation, this despite the leader of our group pre-paying for it at the desk just a couple of hours earlier in the day. The last thing I wanted was a room with a view, so I requested an interior room with only a view of a courtyard or anything other than the neighborhood surrounding the property. Apart from the shower never running hot water (and I mean "never" during my three day stay there) and the air conditioner blowing air that was neither cool nor hot, the room itself had a decent bed (I slept okay) and a flat screen television that worked. No strange insects made it into my room during my stay, and, despite the air conditioner not really working, I was not terribly uncomfortable. Of course I complained about the air conditioner and the hot water and was told every morning of my stay that the problems would be attended to. Something I figured out during my stay at this Somali hotel and my subsequent three and a half weeks in Somalia is that nearly all of the Somalis I encountered wanted to tell you whatever it is that you needed to hear to make you feel better, and they appeared to feel that that was the extent of their responsibilities. It didn't seem to matter that they had made promises during the conversation. The important thing, it appeared, was that their hearts were at least in the right place. This was a never-ending frustration, but I just decided to go with the flow and take care of things myself. There was no point in complaining. Fortunately, the regular water was not super cold, so I could hold my breath, jump under the water coming from the shower-head, and tough it through a shower. This cooling down of my core temperature made it possible to survive the stale air blowing from the air conditioner. I believe one of the big reasons people at the hotel and many of the people I encountered in both Kenya and Somalia were lackadaisical in their duties was primarily due to their chewing of khat. What is khat? Khat is a plant that grows in Kenya and other countries on the Horn of Africa that people chew to get high? Why do they do this? They do this mainly because, in the Muslim cultures, drinking alcohol is either illegal or looked down upon. Khat contains a monoamine alkaloid called cathinone, an amphetamine-like stimulant, which is said to cause excitement, loss of appetite and euphoria. In 1980, the World Health Organization (WHO) classified it as a drug of abuse that can produce mild to moderate psychological dependence. I also believe khat inhibits short-term memory, probably worse than marijuana does, but at least you don't get the munchies on it. If you did, good food is not easy to come by in the neighborhood, unless you know someone who actually lives in it. The hotel restaurant is the only real alternative, but, fortunately, this is one of the bright spots of the hotel. The breakfast was borderline terrific, and they can fix things to order. Anyway, for the money, I am absolutely sure there are better hotels in better parts of Nairobi. To a man, I am very fond of the Somalis I worked directly with, but I cannot recommend this hotel. It is in a dangerous and horribly deteriorated neighborhood and, unless you are traveling with a group of six or more, you should not set foot on the streets surrounding this hotel.
Location: Kenya > Nairobi
Ranked #87 of 130 Hotels in Nairobi
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Number of rooms: 164