Zenji Hotel manages quite nicely to merge character and comfort. It’s exactly the kind of affordable hotel someone seeking adventure and romance would want to stay at in an exotic place like Stone Town, Zanzibar.
The lobby and entrance are not promising. You wonder what you’re getting into. This is clearly not the Ramada. Nor is it a five-star resort filled with pool loungers.
But once you see your room and understand the set-up, you appreciate what they’ve done here. Yes, this is a taste of the real Stone Tone, Zanzibar – but one that is palatable to Westerners. Some effort and thought have gone into transforming this local building into a comfortable hotel with a good deal of character.
My room (Flavour) was spacious and clean. A great old door. High ceilings. Original floor. A cool, dark and uncluttered room in a town where these qualities are at a premium. Huge four-poster bed with mosquito netting. Not a separate bathroom per se, but a large en suite bathroom corner with nice shower. The fan and air conditioning worked well. Balcony overlooking typical street scene.
The room didn’t have a TV, but for some reason I didn’t miss it. There was free internet on the top floor, although the connection was hit and miss when I was there. When it was working, it was fast.
The breakfast on the rooftop was surprisingly good. It was included in the hotel price.
The hotel is in Malindi, a vibrant, non-touristy part of town near the port. You can hear the muezzin from the nearby centuries-old mosque. Although not at all out of the way and not a far walk from the things worth seeing, it’s not near the concentration of hotels and tourist shops in Shangani. Take 10 steps away from the hotel and you’re in the middle of it all. Zanzibarians are going about their business, especially at the nearby port.
The hotel hooked me up with a crew running affordable snorkel runs out to the reefs at the nearby islands. It was an easy walk to the beach where the boats are. We went to a different island every day.The boat trips and snorkelling were both fantastic. You can trust the boats and skippers they hook you up with.
People were talking on the street at night and the muezzin first call to prayer comes naturally at an ungodly hour in the morning. The noise didn’t bother me too much though.
OK, a word of warning. For the first time in my life I was hit with a serious case of traveller’s diarrhoea in Stone Town. (It had nothing to do with the hotel.) Be a bit careful about what you eat and drink and where you do these things. I wouldn’t try the food at some of the local restaurants or the local market.
It’s difficult to decide how to rate this particular hotel. It’s not a luxury hotel of course, but it’s comfortable enough, has a touch of class, and scores high for local character. I really liked the place (including the fact it was so affordable) so I’m going to rate it a 4.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- In the middle of bustling Stone Town, Zenji Hotel welcomes guests for a relaxing stay on the rooftop or in one of the 9 authentic rooms. The rooms have a ceiling fan and air conditioning, some rooms have balcony. All rooms have a different atmosphere referring to the rich Zanzibar heritage and culture. The breakfast, including homemade bread and jams, fruit juice, fresh fruit, different types of tea and real espresso coffee, is served on the rooftop from which you have a beautiful view over Stone Town and the harbor. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Zenji Hotel Zanzibar Island/Stone Town