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“Historical Charm”
Review of The Swahili House

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The Swahili House
Ranked #5 of 30 Stone Town B&B and Inns
Sabie, South Africa
Level Contributor
44 reviews
44 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 43 helpful votes
“Historical Charm”
Reviewed September 25, 2012

I stayed twice at The Swahili House, formerly The International Hotel, near the main markets off Creek Road. Like many hotels in Stone Town it has steep stairs and no lift, but lots of historical charm. The restaurant is on the fifth floor, and has great views. It is located down a narrow alley, inaccesible by car or taxi, which adds to its charm. The rooms are lovely, but several have open-plan bedroom and bathroom, which do not suit everyone’s taste. In spite of specifically requesting closed bathrooms for a group of friends, one room was open-plan. Two weeks later, and insisting on closed bathrooms this time, we were again given a room with the bath in the bedroom, and toilet in full view. Both times the hotel was full and the rooms could not be changed. As I had booked both dates several months ahead this is unacceptable, and I will not book again, as my booking requests are not honoured.

  • Stayed September 2012, traveled with friends
    • Value
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Helpful?
1 Thank FuzzySalt
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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188 reviews from our community

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Rating summary
  • Location
  • Sleep Quality
  • Rooms
  • Service
  • Value
  • Cleanliness
Traveler tips help you choose the right room.   Room tips (33)
Date | Rating
  • Dutch first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Portuguese first
  • Russian first
  • Spanish first
  • Swedish first
  • Any
English first
Ouderkerk aan de Amstel, The Netherlands
Level Contributor
87 reviews
46 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 67 helpful votes
Reviewed August 27, 2012

Great concept, poor execution. Stayed here only for one night. Probably there are much better options in Stonetown. After passing the kind and funny woman at the reception, you'd probably be disappointed. Not by the building itself, nor by the rooms, which have a lot of charm. Also not by the mosques, that will probably wake you at 5 a.m., which inevitably comes with staying in the center of a muslim-town.
But: Staff is not interested and tired. rooftopterrace-staff not responsive at all, Overpriced restaurant. Breakfast slow and not adequately filled. Few mice and a huge rat on the stairs inside. Toilet that did not flush. AC without remote control which was brought to the room but then still didn't work. Holes in the mosquitonets etc
After renovation, it seems little has been done to keep everything up to standards. Building is already tired. Look for one of the many other options around. You can have a great dinner for 2/3 of the price at this place. Unfortunately, and although part of the Moivaro-chain, this was one of the few places in Tanzania where we didn't receive a feedback form when we left..

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled with friends
    • Value
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Helpful?
3 Thank Diederik_G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

Travelers are raving about these Stone Town hotels

Roma
Level Contributor
25 reviews
5 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
Reviewed August 20, 2012

We stayed at this hotel for two nights in August 2012. The hotel is in an ancient and beautiful Indian flat near the Stone Town market but... well read below!
While checking in the management told us we had a bed and breakfast treatment. We showed our voucher where it was written half board and we asked to call our agency (located in Zanzibar) to check. They just said that they couldn't do it and we had to engage the travel agency ourselves. Not very easy / cheap for a tourist to call someone in Zanzibar. We decided to have dinner outside and wait for the succeeding morning when we would have met our agency for some tours we already planned.
We got our room. The rooms are large enough and quite nice. They have air conditioned (old and noisy) and ventilator. Beds have mosquito net (with holes!!). The toilette is IN the room: no walls neither doors between bed and toilette and shower. Immediately problems came out... the toilette was not refreshing. We told this to the staff and they told us they would have fixed as soon as possible. We went out and when back at the hotel (3 hours later) nothing was fixed. They told us that they were missing a piece and the toilette would have been fixed the following day. We asked to change our room: they couldn't beacouse the hotel was full.
When we opened the (dirty) blanket the sheets were full of little pieces of wood: probably woodworms attack on the ceiling bean. We decided to use our sleeping bags and complained the succeeding morning.
Eventually we got our new room. Blankets were dirty also this time but at least we could go to the toilette and no wood was in bed. After a long discussion, our travel agent succeeded in convincing them we had an half board treatment. Nothing was done to refund the dinner we missed the previous day.
The place for breakfast and dinner is very nice. It is a balcony on the very top of stone town with a nice view on the city. Restaurant service instead is something unbelievable. At dinner, they brought the menu: soup of the day, a choose between two main course, a chose between two desserts. The waiter came and asked which main course we chose. We answered and waited over 40 minutes (there were not more than 15 people in all the restaurant). Eventually the main course was served but no soup was given. We asked about the soup and the waiter said we didn't tell him we wanted the soup. Exactly the same thing happened to the others two table near us: main course served and everyone asking about the soup. After our complain the soup was served after the main course. The waiter came again and asked which dessert we wanted. We both chose a carrot cake. After over 15 minutes only one cake was served with the waiter saying: "here is the chocolate cake". We thought ok, even chocolate is fine. It was a coconut cake served with vanilla ice-cream.... I asked for my generic cake. After over 10 minutes, the waiter came back with a chocolate cake without ice-cream. I asked for my ice-cream and he answered (in a good English) that the ice-cream was melted. Ok i thought, i can survive. After 2 minutes other cakes were server with ice-cream.
I understand it could be hard to believe all above problems in a so short staying but everything is terribly true. I don't think that it is an issue of comprehension but a mix of old furniture, lack of maintenance, low cleanliness, staff malice and general lack of basic customer service rules that is absolutely not common in Tanzania where all staff we met were always nice and ready to help you.
Awful experience. Avoid it if you can.

  • Stayed August 2012, traveled as a couple
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Helpful?
2 Thank Partenos
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Pretoria
Level Contributor
68 reviews
32 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 47 helpful votes
Reviewed August 6, 2012

I stayed over in Swahili house in August 2011 and really enjoyed the ambiance of this hotel. The German owner is 'n pleasant person, the service and food is great and the roof top restaurant gives you a beautiful view over Stonetown and you can take spectacular photos of the sunsets over the ocean. Hindo temples, Anglican and Catholique church towers are seen from from a bird's eye view. There is also a well kept mosiac tiled splash pool on the roof top. Go and stay like royalty and relive history. In the middle of Stonetown so it is ideally situated for doing shopping in the narrow little streets. Ali and Sadi is two locals who is great for assisting you in both Zanzibar and Dae Es Salaam +255 716 870 766, shuttle, snorkling, bike rental, best restaurants, best accomodation, boat trips.

Room Tip: Get the highest possible rooms that is quiter, the best way around the island is with a motorbike
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  • Stayed September 2011, traveled solo
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank LazenbyPretoria
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Berlin, Germany
2 reviews
Reviewed May 29, 2012

The Swahili House is - I would call it - traditional, with it´s open bathrooms, high steps, in the middle of Stone Town surrounded by mosques. Well, what can I say: we liked it very much! When you want to experience the "real" Zanzibar town - go to The Swahili House - it has the highest Rooftop Terrace and a beautiful view over Stone Town until the sea with breathtaking sunsets!
Thanks to everybody - and I mean every single staff member: you are great! Take care and tutaonana badaaye!
Petra & Christoph

  • Stayed March 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
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Helpful?
Thank PetraChristoph
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Arusha, Tanzania
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
Reviewed May 7, 2012

We wanted a place with a top view over the town, in the thick of the culture, not too expensive, not dark, dingly or musty. It was uncluttered, light and airy, clean and tidy. The staff were pleasant and friendly. The rooms were entirely adequate. Swahili House was good value.

Room Tip: Top floor rooms on the seaside have the best views over town....but stairs are challenging for the e...
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  • Stayed May 2012, traveled with family
    • Value
    • Location
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    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
Thank John B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
London, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 5 helpful votes
Reviewed May 2, 2012

Stayed for 2 nights (11/12 April) on the way to an amazing resort in Zanzibar (Fumba).

The room that we stayed in (Sultan Suite) was beautifully decorated and the staff were really helpful.
In the evening the room would be made up and any mozzies erradicated - most grateful for this.

The big open bathrooms were great as well.

The hotel as a building is very interesting and has the highest roof top bar in Stone Town so great views. During our stay the water pressure and temperature was not great so this is why I have marked down.

Stone Town also has lots of mosques - so annoyingly you will be awoken by "Ayayayayayaya aaaaah" at 5am. Can't mark the hotel down for this as every hotel in Stone Town will suffer from it.

Would recommend a stay if you want a great room, friendly staff and a good price.

[Was not aware of a swimming pool or fitness centre]

Room Tip: Higher floors are better.
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  • Stayed April 2012, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank Doug H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about The Swahili House

Property: The Swahili House
Address: Mchambawima Street, Stone Town, Zanzibar City, Tanzania
Location: Tanzania > Zanzibar Archipelago > Zanzibar Island > Zanzibar City > Stone Town
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Children Activities (Kid / Family Friendly) Restaurant Shuttle Bus service Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
Ranked #5 of 30 B&Bs / Inns in Stone Town
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): $
Hotel Class:2.5 star — The Swahili House 2.5*
Number of rooms: 22
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Located in the bustling heart of Stone Town the building was originally set up and used as an Indian Merchant House in the 19th century. In the 125 years that were to come the building was home to one of the many Sultan families and then became a hotel some years ago. After purchasing the hotel, renovations started in May 2008. Most of the hotel has been restored into its original state, but we have been making some changes as well. The result is The Swahili House - a sparkling hotel with traditional influences and modern day facilities in combination with authentic Swahili hospitality. ... more   less 
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Also Known As:
The Swahili House Hotel Stone Town
The Swahili House Zanzibar Island/Stone Town

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