I came to Kenya for one week's work, to run a workshop for facilitators and to experience something of East Africa, its people and its culture. It was my first visit. I was immediately struck by the warmth, courtesy and welcome I received. Although the baggage reclaim was slow, with a prepaid visa I passed through immigration at the airport with little delay. Maybe I was lucky, but the taxi ride into the city was only about 40 minutes and there was little traffic. My first impression of Nairobi was of a modern international city. It was a sharp contrast with Lagos, where I had been before.
I immediately warmed to the people. Everyone seems to wear a smile and they have an uncommon skill in active listening that appears to come naturally. Maybe this is because all are bilingual and the vocabulary, structure, phonemes and flow of English and of African languages such as Swahili are completely different.
I was unaware of the tragic events at the Westgate Mall, even though the drama was unfolding at the very time I arrived in Kenya. Once I arrived at my destination I realised what was occurring. My host, an NGO, applied tight security measures, and I was not permitted to leave the hotel. After a while even the delights of arrowroot begin the pale, and so I was relieved ultimately after 6 days to be released from my virtual house-arrest. And yet as I write that last sentence I feel a sense of shame for thinking about my simple comfort alongside the inconceivably tragic losses people in Nairobi endured in those tragic six days.
If I had to be confined to a hotel, it was fortunate that it should be this one. The food is good, if a little overcooked, and pizzas are freshly made and very good indeed as are the eggs and omelettes at breakfast. The freshly-squeezed orange juice is exceptional, and the beautifully decorated cupcakes are great to look at even if, as in my situation me, your diet forbids you to eat them. Around every corner, in every public space, you, are met by staff who greet you by name and wear dazzling smiles. Not knowing any Swahili, I was at first amused when the security guard outside my room said Hakuna Matata when I thanked him for calling the elevator for me. Of course I was visualising Disney's Lion King, but the ethic of "no problem" drives the people here to every more impressive levels of service quality. The waiters, reception staff, hotel management, restaurant staff, gardeners, housekeepers and cleaners are dedicated to making you feel welcome and well-served.
The flame tree restaurant is comfortable and many evenings they have live music, mostly light jazz. The pool-side restaurant is outdoors and the grounds of the hotel are spectacularly beautiful - in September the jacaranda trees and birds of,paradise etc were in full and splendid flower. In the conference room, staff tried very hard to satisfy all our needs. As I am diabetic, they went to significant lengths to make me feel at ease and comfortable, preparing special sugar-free fruit cocktails and sugar-free biscuits for my mid-morning snack. We were held back a little by some short-term connectivity problems as the hotel was upgrading its broadband. It's a shame we were not permitted to leave the hotel, but that intensified the bonds and friendships everyone was making and strengthening. The staff in the hotel and the local people whom you could see interviewed on TV displayed great dignity and self-control after the terrible events of Westgate. It was heartbreaking to see their sorrow. I was struck by the patience and forgiveness I sensed all around me. In the midst of three days of National Mourning, it was business as usual, but when I looked beyond the cheery smiles and warm handshakes into the eyes of security guards, cleaners, waiters, front-of-house staff I perceived a deep sadness that will take some time to fade. After my work was,complete I returned to the airport. Now it was Friday evening and the traffic was horrendous. The 40 minute journey took more thaN 2 hours. In the aftermath of a fire that had destroyed much of the airport terminal, facilities there were temporary and very much lacking in quality, comfort and style. Nevertheless to conclude, I say come to Kenya and stay at the Panafric. I am keen to return, not necessarily to work, but to enjoy this very fine hotel under more relaxed conditions and to visit the elephant orphanage and see some of the "big five" game beasts too.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Idyllically located 5 minutes' drive from the CBD and 18 km from Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, amidst beautifully landscaped gardens in a quiet suburb of Nairobi, Sarova Panafric offers 162 rooms in a range of Superior, Executive, Club, Studio and Themed Suites - all recently refurbished and decorated in a contemporary vibrant African style. Once the watering hole for freedom fighters, spies and foreign correspondents, Flame Tree restaurant is named after the Flame Tree that holds pride of place in the gardens and offers leisurely meals. Sarova Panafric offers state-of-the-art banqueting and conferencing facilities with a range of meeting and function rooms equipped with the latest audio visual and WIFI equipment. To wind up the day, take a dip in the pool or go for a leisurely massage - or simply enjoy a cool drink to the soothing sounds of Africa's rhythm. And this hotel is centrally located, only a short 0.5 Km from Kenya's landmark 'Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC)', one of the most prominent events venues in Africa. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Sarova Panafric Hotel Nairobi
- Sarova Panafric Nairobi
- Panafric Hotel Nairobi