The Nairobi Holiday Inn was converted from a 1940s colonial hotel, The Mayfair Court, and has retained much of that old time character. It is a large hotel, with 171 rooms, but there is a very personal atmosphere, and the staff are exceptional. Even though I was only there for a short stay, I was greeted by name every time I went to the reception, and even the gardeners and security guards never failed to say “jambo” in passing.
The hotel rambles around two large swimming pools, and pretty gardens, and when inside you forget you are anywhere near a city. My room was right at the very end of the building, in an older, unrenovated section of the hotel. I don't know if this was because I was on my own, or because I just opted for a standard room, but those nearer to the reception seemed plusher. My room was quite old fashioned and a little musty, but adequate, with wooden floors, twin beds, TV with M-Net and ceiling fan. The bathroom was a reasonable size, with bath and shower, and complementary tea, coffee and bottled water.
One of the pools was right outside with a waiter stationed by to bring anything required. The open-air Oasis restaurant is on the side of the other pool, and is very reasonably priced. I ate lunch here (around $7 for a club sandwich, chips, salad and drink), and the wonderful buffet breakfast was also served here, with fruits, cereals, pastries, and hot English. There is also a Spur restaurant in the lobby, which is identical to those in South Africa, but much cheaper. Other facilities included a business centre, hair salon, a few boutiques, very overpriced souvenir shop, fitness centre, lounge with a selection of newspapers (complimentary ones are also delivered to the rooms in the morning), and safety deposit boxes. Guests receive official invitations to cocktail parties and musical events by the pool in the evening.
The hotel is in Parklands, a well-heeled and safe area of Nairobi, and is well situated for travelling into the city centre or the other suburbs. Even though I found Nairobi to be much friendlier and safer than I had been led to believe, there is a great need for security, and the Holiday Inn always has a guard in the car park, by the entrances, and patrolling the corridors at night.
I booked the HI shuttle service ($20) to meet me in arrivals at the airport, and this was very satisfactory. It may seem expensive for Kenya, but after sitting for over an hour in the huge traffic jams, I'm very glad I hadn't used a public bus.
What made this hotel special was the friendly, hardworking attitude of its staff, and next time I'm in Nairobi, I'll definitely return.
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February 7, 2011
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Bournemouth, United Kingdom
November 1, 2005
From journal The Green City in the Sun