Hello My Friends! 😀
Welcome to my new Blog Series, the ‘Best of Nairobi’! I will go out and find the best things to do, places to eat, spas, discounts…you name it!! Think of it as your own little ‘Travel Guide’ to Nairobi!! Fun-right? 😀
First on the list is the Sarova Heritage Tour! But, before I get into it, let me begin by commending Sarova for their BIG hearts!! 😀
When I reached out about working together, their enthusiasm simply blew me away! 😀 Wanjiku Thuo and I had a little ‘phone dance’ after my chat with Janet and Linda from Sarova! 😀 😀
Being a young blogger, it means the world when someone gives you a chance, you know? When you get a YES, trust me it is worth a ‘phone dance.’ And dance we did! 😀 Thank you Sarova!!
So…before I lose myself, let us get back to the topic at hand, shall we? 😀
I discovered the Sarova Heritage Tour thanks to my friend Rhodes… His excitement about the tour was clear as crystal in his voice! So much so, that Scrapbook Journeys just had to try it out! <P.S. Thanks Rhodes for looking out!> 😀
What is The Sarova Heritage Tour?
There is a charming quality to journeying down the corridors of History…. It’s like looking at your folk’s black & white pictures, back when rocking huge Afros and bell-bottoms was still cool! 😀 This is what the Sarova Heritage Tour is all about… 🙂
In the western world, city tours are quite common for tourists and locals. However, in Kenya this is not something we have adopted as yet…
Do you ever stop to ask yourself what was the first hotel in Nairobi? Are you curious to find out how this city, that we call home, came up?
Well, Sarova Stanley hotel as I learned, has played a big role in the history of Nairobi. Sarova is keen on preserving this great heritage, hence the Sarova Heritage Tour.
The aim of the tour is educate people about the history of Nairobi, as well as the Stanley’s key role in the origins of our hospitality sector.
‘To know nothing of what happened before you were born is to forever remain a child. ~Cicero.
I will share some of my favorite fun facts, that will hopefully whet your appetite to take the Sarova Heritage Tour… 🙂 After all, that is always the goal! 😉
Where it all Began…
What you and I know today as Sarova Stanley, was first known as the Stanley Hotel.
In 1902, when the hotel was established, Nairobi was but a few shops and buildings. Stanley Hotel was run and operated by Mayence Bent, mainly as a boarding house for Railway construction workers.
This was the only 2-storey building in Nairobi at the time. It is said that, on a clear-sky day you could see Mount Kilimanjaro from the Stanley Hotel… Imagine that? 😀
Did You Know? In 1904, Nairobi was set ablaze, in a huge fire, to get rid of rats that had caused the plague.
Even so, Mayence didn’t give up on her hotelier business. The Stanley Hotel was fully reopened for business in 1915.
The hotel has since changed ownership three times, ending up in the hands of Sarova Group.
Sarova Stanley… Home To Many Firsts
The thing that struck me during our Heritage Tour, was how many ‘first’ things happened at the Stanley Hotel…
From Post Office to Thorn Tree Restaurant
Did you know?? The first ‘Post Office’ in Nairobi was a tree!?! Well, I was just as surprised!! More so, I’d never even noticed the tree at the hotel!
In the early 1900’s Nairobi was mostly home to railway construction workers. Apparently, they used the thorn tree to send and receive messages. They would stick their messages on the tree.
Mayence Bent saw an opportunity and converted it into a cafe. With time, travelers passing through Kenya started leaving messages there.
Today, this third-generation tree is a modern-day message board. Travelers leave messages using Post-it Notes!
You will find messages written by people from all over the world, in different languages.
First Stock Exchange!
Did You Know?? The very first stock exchange was floated at the Stanley Hotel in 1922, at the Exchange Bar. At the time, there were no rules in place, hence trading was done informally, based on a “gentleman’s agreement.”
Sarova has conserved some of these bills in commemoration, at the Exchange Bar.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY: WANJIKU THUO
A Haven for the “Greats”
As you go through the Tour, you will learn more about the great people who have stayed at the Stanley over the years. Beautiful black and white pictures adorn the walls, in their hallways and rooms.
Queen Elizabeth stayed at the Stanley in 1952, while she was still a princess. A few days later, following the death of her dad, she became Queen, while staying at Treetops Hotel.
Lord Ewart Grogan, a British explorer frequented the Stanley Hotel as well. He is prominent for setting up the Gertrude Children’s Hospital and Grogan’s Castle Hotel. He also walked from Capetown to Cairo to earn the approval of his father-in-law.
Quite the romantic! 😀
>>Tip: Read about my Grogan’s Castle experience here
Ernest Hemmingway was a dashing writer who also stayed at the Stanley Hotel. His many quotations of the word ‘Safari’ in his books, led to ‘Safari’ being incorporated into the English dictionary.
I can’t fail to mention Karen Blixen whose account of her time in Kenya, ‘Out of Africa’, was adopted into a Motion Picture.
A Gentleman’s Courtyard
This happens to have been my favourite part of the Tour… 🙂 I won’t say much more about it, other than… it is better felt in person. 😉
‘Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it~ George Santayana.
Thanks to the Heritage Tour, I now have a better appreciation of the Sarova Stanley Hotel, and Nairobi. 🙂 My blog post barely touches the surface, on what you will gain from the Heritage Tour… This rich historical journey that is certainly better experienced in person… 😉
Many thanks to Sarova Stanley for the warm hospitality and reception. I applaud Sarova for preserving our rich roots through the Heritage Tour! I hope that as they go along, they will incorporate more African greats into the tour. 🙂 Furthermore, I look forward to many more fruitful partnerships to come!
Let’s hope that more establishments will follow this example, and open themselves up to such Tours.
Study the past if you would define the future~ Confucius
Tips On Taking The Heritage Tour:
- The Heritage tour is absolutely FREE and you can do it at any time, upon request
- Anyone can take the Heritage Tour… Call this number: 0719 048 000 in advance to set up your tour
- Put on comfortable walking shoes as it takes about 1-2 hours
- Request to go on a day that is least busiest, as you will be able to see more from the tour
- To learn more>> visit the Heritage Tour website
- If you are visiting Nairobi for the first time, add the Heritage Tour to your itinerary. You will learn a great deal about the history of Nairobi!
- They have a similar tour at their Sarova Taita Hills Game Lodge. As a guest, you can take the World War 1 Tour upon request
Lastly Remember to>> Travel.Local. 😀
Thank you for reading my friends! If you have ideas of places you would like to see featured, on the ‘Best of Nairobi’ Series> I would love to hear about it!! Do leave a Comment/Feedback in the Comments’ Section below… It’s always a pleasure to read from you! 😀
Stay Inspired>> Always! 😀