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“Incredible hotel with such wonderful hosts” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Emerson Spice

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Emerson Spice
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Tharia Street, Kiponda, Stone Town, Tanzania   |  
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Ranked #1 of 30 Hotels in Stone Town
Dublin, Ireland
Senior Contributor
41 reviews 41 reviews
11 hotel reviews
Reviews in 15 cities Reviews in 15 cities
38 helpful votes 38 helpful votes
“Incredible hotel with such wonderful hosts”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 23, 2011

Emerson Spice is the epitome of a boutique hotel. Each room has a name, a character, a story and is very different to the next, but no doubt they're all equally excellent. The staff are incredibly friendly and the owner is a joy and a great raconteur.

The restaurant serves the best food in Zanzibar and is a must attend for anyone. The food is of Michelin star quality but always true to Zanzibar. The price, frankly its so low is embarrassing. Expect touches you won't see elsewhere in Tanzania. I think they close on Wednesday's so it's definitely worth booking or ensuring you're in Stone Town just to eat here.

I wouldn't stay anywhere else where in Stone Town and a must visit if ever in the region.

  • Stayed August 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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300 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 stars
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Rooms
    5 of 5 stars
  • Service
    5 of 5 stars
  • Value
    4.5 of 5 stars
  • Cleanliness
    5 of 5 stars
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English first
Plymouth, United Kingdom
1 review
1 helpful vote 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 13, 2011

Emerson what another amazing hotel you have sculptured here fantastic and breathtaking as always....I am an ex owner of a restaurant in Dar es Salaam of fifteen years and now a Landlady in the UK and cannot fault the food atmosphere rooms or service here at Emerson Spice Hotel.... The coffee shop is a must to taste the delightfull Zanzibar coffee teas and other mouthwatering delights and also to take in the wonderful water feature and relaxing atmosphere....The roof top restuarant is just awsome, a complete panoramic view of stonetown the indian ocean and the zanzibari roof tops along with the most beautiful sunset in the whole world. I arrived around 6pm to see the sun go down and was met by Mohammed our barman who made us the most amazing cocktails DAWA medicine of Zanzibar crushed ice limes konyagi and other secret ingredients, and our meal was ten out of ten....if you are visiting Zanzibar you must go to this hotel and find Emerson a truly wonderful man who has the time for his guests making them all feel special as they are to have found this tardis in Zanzibar....well done Emerson and his team

Room Tip: Choose the one with the bath on the balcony
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  • Stayed November 2011, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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1 review
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 9, 2011 via mobile

This hotel I found by walking along the streets in Stone Town. The concierge let me have a look at one of the rooms and I fell in love! I was able to book 2 nights. It exceeded my expectations. The price is more then the average stay in stone town but worth every penny. Even the breakfast they serve on your balcony is amazing. It's very difficult to describe the hotel. It's an experiEnce that should not be missed when visiting Stone Town.

  • Stayed November 2011
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Manchester
Contributor
15 reviews 15 reviews
10 hotel reviews
Reviews in 11 cities Reviews in 11 cities
16 helpful votes 16 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed November 7, 2011

My husband and I booked 3 nights at Emerson Spice, after reading their reviews on Trip Advisor. We made the booking by telephone, directly with the hotel.

On arrival, we were allocated the room called 'KATE (see photos provided).' This is right at the top of the hotel, on the 3rd floor. Note: there is no lift in this hotel and the (approximately 70) stairs to this room are quite steep - so ask for a room lower down if this might cause you a problem. The room was spacious and light, and decorated in a similar 'flamboyant' style to the other rooms, that we had viewed on Trip Advisor before booking. It also had a large balcony, plus a door that opened onto an 'internal' balcony overlooking the fountain in the central courtyard. Our first impressions were good, but there were a few things that could were not quite to our liking, as follows:

1) The bathroom had patio doors onto another balcony which was currently being renovated, plus large windows on the side. All these contained a large amount of clear glass, with no curtains or blinds. Given that the buildings are very close together in Stone Town and there were adjacent ones at the same height, I didn't think this was ideal - especially given that Zanzibar is a conservative, mainly Muslim society. Later in our stay we actually visited the roof terrace restaurant of a nearby restaurant, and we actually sat and watched people in this bathroom - they were clearly visible at night with all the internal lights on!! They had moved into this room after we left (more on that later).

2) This room contained a double bed, plus two single beds - one at either side. These were easily accommodated in the available space, but for us one decent sized (i.e. King) bed would have been preferred. My husband is 6'4 and a big chap, so a small double was a bit too 'cosy' for us!

3) The double bed (only) had a mosquito net, which I was pleased about as I get bitten to death with them wherever I go. However, in the interest of 'aesthetics', the owner had installed it in such a way that the sides were not actually joined to the roof part. Consequently the little blighters managed to get in and feast on me - undeterred by a plug-in repellant.

3) There was no wardrobe to hang clothes in, just some drawers plus some hooks in the bathroom with a few hangers.

4)This room gets REALLY hot, because it is right at the top of the building and the roof is made of corrugated metal (as is typical in Zanzibar). Unfortunately for us, when we came to try the AC unit it wasn't working. We went out for the rest of the day and were told it had been fixed on our return - but it hadn't. What followed was the worst night's sleep I think I have ever had!! Zanzibar is extremely hot and humid, so a working AC unit is essential. Next day we asked to be moved to a different room (even though they said that they would ensure it was fixed). We weren't prepared to risk another night like the previous. The manager (Emerson) told us that it had only been a 1 week earlier. I got the impression from this (and a few other signs of things being a little 'unfinished') that this room had been made available in haste e.g. no curtains under the sinks to cover the ugly pipework, big barcode stickers still on the w.c., doors onto balcony not fully painted etc.

5) There was a phone provided in the room (a mobile) but there was no signal, so if you needed anything it meant a trip back down the 70 stairs, or use your own mobile (if you have a signal). Tip: put the hotel's number in your phone, just in case! There is wi-fi in the hotel, but it can only be used whilst in the reception area.

So, we were then moved to a new room called 'Somele.' This was on the 2nd floor. Again, the decor was stunning (see pics provided). I felt that this room was much nicer in layout and appointment. It felt properly 'finished' and had some comfortable armchairs and a coffee table in the centre. Same problem with the small bed, but at least this one has a fully functioning mosquito net. This room has a much smaller balcony that adjoins that of the neighbouring room, separated just by a wood screen.

A few points to note here:
1) this room is all open plan. The bath is in the centre of the room, and there is a w.c. that has a low screen from one side, but no door. As a married couple, we were OK with this, but If two friends were sharing one would need to stay in the bedroom end of the room to give the other a bit of privacy to use the w.c....and leave altogether to allow the other to shower!

2) the bed had a crochet throw on top of the sheets. This did contain some very large holes! I suppose it adds to the 'rustic' feel of the place, but some people might not be impressed.

3) Again, no wardrobe.

4) The AC unit worked (hurrah!) but it was right next to/above the bed, so it was difficult to cool the room at night without freezing to death from the draught. Zanzibar also has intermittent electricity supply, and it regularly cuts out. The hotel does have a generator, but we noticed that when this was in use the AC unit wouldn't work. It didn't ruin our stay, but it wasn't ideal.

5) This room is facing one of the many mosques in the area, and there are 3 speakers pointing directly at it! Therefore, you will wake up with a jolt when the sunrise prayer call blasts out!! All part of the charm of staying in Stone Town I think, and probably difficult to avoid in any hotel.

Both rooms included a small fridge with 2 complimentary bottles of water per day. In the 2nd room the room service people also laid a nice fresh floral decoration on the bed.

We took breakfast every day on the balcony of our room. This was very pleasant but I did feel sorry for the guy who had to carry it all upstairs! A lovely fresh fruit platter followed by eggs (as you like them) and tea/coffee.

We booked dinner in the rooftop restaurant on our first night. 5 'tasting' courses for $25 per head. It was well worth it - mainly fish/seafood influenced (see photo of menu) but some meat ingredients were also used. I don't eat meat and was told it was no problem for them to adjust my menu to suit. I think they can also cater for full vegetarians, as long as you tell them in advance. Don't worry about still being hungry - the portions are not 'full size' but they are substantial and you will leave feeling very satisfied. Tip: if you like your white wine properly chilled, choose one and ask them in the morning to put it in the freezer a bit before they serve it. Perhaps because the power cuts out regularly we discovered that you won't get it cold otherwise, as they seemed to also have a shortage of ice cubes! Dinner is served at 7pm but when we stayed sunset was around 6pm, so it's best to arrive early and enjoy the view with some sundowners! Book in advance, because they do get fully booked.

Despite the few slightly negative observations earlier in my review you will see that I have still scored this hotel as 'excellent' - based on the fact that we really enjoyed our stay (once we had moved rooms). Perhaps we were just unlucky on our first night. Everything that other reviewers have said about the staff at the hotel and the lovely decoration are absolutely true. Emerson (the owner, American I think) is very friendly and helpful and goes out of his way to make guests feel at home. The front desk manager (Gray, a local I think) is also very helpful and efficient with excellent English. I did have cause to phone the hotel a couple of times before we arrived and spoke to some other guys whose English was not very good - so my tip is to always ask for Gray or Emerson if you have problems!

We also booked 2 trips through the hotel 1) to Prison Island to see the giant tortoises and also do some snorkelling off Bawe island. For this we enjoyed our own private boat. It cost $35 each (based on a party of two) for a half day. Probably not the cheapest way of doing it, but we really enjoyed it. Note that an additional entry fee of $10 per person is also payable to visit the tortoises (but it's so worth it!!) plus a few pounds for the snorkel/flippers hire.

2) The second trip we took was to a Spice Farm. Again a half day tour @$25 per person. Private 'people carrier' and guide included. No extra charges payable, but you feel need to take extra money to tip the boy who gives you the tour, his "assistant" who makes things out of palm leaves as you walk around, and the guy who demonstrates climbing to pick coconuts! You will have the chance to buy soaps made from the spices plus bags of spice. We thought the prices were extremely inflated and found the same products available much cheaper in the local market and even at the airport duty free! An interesting way to spend a few hours if you've never seen a spice plantation before, and a pleasant excursion from the town.

Eating out tip: the hotel's own rooftop restaurant is not open on Thursday evenings. Emerson recommended that we try 'The House of Spice' rooftop restaurant, which is only a short walk away. We tried it and LOVED it! The food there is amazing - loads of choice, fabulous presentation, great seafood and totally delicious. I have to admit we also had lunch there on all the 3 days we were in Zanzibar - that's how good it is. They have a brick oven where they make fresh pizza - I think it's the best I have ever tasted!!

Last tip: The hotel sells a map of zanzibar (just a big paper one with adverts around the edges like you get in many countries for free) and they charge $5. So try and borrow/acquire one before you arrive or print one off the internet!

In summary, if you want to stay in Stone Town and like the idea of staying in a unique 'boutique' style hotel as a change from the major resort type hotels - look no further than Emerson Spice.

Room Tip: There are no lifts in this hotel, so if stairs are a problem ask for a room on the 1st floor when yo...
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  • Stayed October 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes 2
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Senior Reviewer
9 reviews 9 reviews
6 hotel reviews
Reviews in 5 cities Reviews in 5 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 28, 2011

If you are in Stone Town, quite simply Emerson Spice is THE place to stay. When we were staying there, there were only two rooms finished and available, but WHAT lovely rooms they were...magical, mysterious with that combination decor of Arab/African, comfortable and yet at the same time, splendiforous...if you can imagine that combination...for example, comfortable four poster beds! The rooms had vernandas where one could sit enjoying a scrumptious breakfast looking down on to the hub of Stone Town's intriguing maze...in fact, you could spend hours just sitting there watching the ebb and flow below of interesting people! The few photos I have do not do it justice...look for Mambo Magazine on the net for some better and more recent shots. The staff were extremely friendly and helpful as well.

Room Tip: I believe there are more rooms available to stay in now, but if you can get a room with a veranda, a...
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  • Stayed November 2010, traveled with family
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 5 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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Durban
Senior Reviewer
7 reviews 7 reviews
Reviews in 2 cities Reviews in 2 cities
2 helpful votes 2 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 21, 2011

My wife and I stayed here for our first night in Zanzibar on our honeymoon. We found the hotel on tripadvisor and it really does live up to the great reviews it has received.

The decor is is a whole cultural experience on its own. Each room has a unique arabian style to it - no time or effort was wasted in its creation.

The staff are what made our stay the best. Everyone is just so helpful - on two occasions a hotel staff member escourted us to 2 different places in stone town that we didnt know how to get to. Gray, who sits at the front desk is so warm and friendly on arrival and always called me by my name.

We would have loved to stay more nights if we had time.

The price is really reasonable - but I expect as they develop their reputation, the hotel can justifiably cost a whole lot more. Glad we got in there in the beginning!

The hotel is highly recommended.

Room Tip: All the rooms are incredible! I believe the room on the first floor is the nicest though.
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  • Stayed October 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
Was this review helpful? Yes
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kuala Lumpur
Top Contributor
117 reviews 117 reviews
76 hotel reviews
Reviews in 75 cities Reviews in 75 cities
170 helpful votes 170 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed October 19, 2011

The Emerson Spice hotel is an incredible find - a small boutique hotel in the heart of historic Stone Town. And the way it's been done - like stepping into a fairy tale of flying carpets and magic lamps. This seems like you're more of a private privileged guest than a paying hotel guest.

There are 6 rooms, all individually themed. My room was the Belle – high ceiling, antique furniture, an open bathroom with a concrete bathtub, diaphanous curtains and a colour scheme of sky-blue walls in a feathery finish, peach curtains and yellow floors. There’s a wooden balcony outside from which to watch street life below or to have breakfast at. All very exotic.

The room had modern bathroom fittings and air-conditioning and there’s wifi in the lobby as well, but overall it's the way the room decor so convincingly carries off the period theme that makes it so charming and outright exotic. There's a small fountain, Arabic style, at the bottom of an airwell, to cool off the building.

The building is old and majestic, with a long history, massively thick coralstone walls, teak floorboards and ornate carved wooden doors.

The hotel also serves a degustation-menu dinner on its rooftop pavilion. This is an experience not to be missed. You can watch sunset over Stone Town, while each course is prepared by a group of chefs. Our dinner featured fresh seafood and spices - things Zanzibar is best known for.

Staying at the Emerson Spice was the highlight of our visit to Zanzibar - just stepping outside puts you smack in the warren of alleys and streets of Stone Town - it's a great place from which to explore Stone Town. Stay here - you won't regret it.

  • Stayed October 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars Value
    • 5 of 5 stars Location
    • 4 of 5 stars Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars Service
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This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Emerson Spice

Address: Tharia Street, Kiponda, Stone Town, Tanzania
Phone Number:
Location: Tanzania > Zanzibar Archipelago > Zanzibar > Stone Town
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Free Breakfast Free High Speed Internet ( Wi-Fi ) Restaurant Room Service Suites Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#2 Family Hotel in Stone Town
#2 Romantic Hotel in Stone Town
#4 Business Hotel in Stone Town
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $$
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Emerson Spice, a new Zanzibari experience. This labour of love is a journey into the transformation of a near ruin into a five star fantasy that can only be experienced on the beautiful Islands of Zanzibar. We have opened the cafe and Tea House restaurant and we now have 10 of our 12 rooms open to guests. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Emerson Spice Hotel Stone Town
Emerson Spice Zanzibar/Stone Town

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