Monday, 10 June 2013

The pool by the Jacaranda - Nairobi Kenya

Travel has inevitably included many nights in far flung hotels ranging from rat infested hovels  to historic gems. Favourites have included Deans in Peshawar and the beach huts in Zanzibar - with revolving ceiling fans at neck height.  In Liberia Mamba Point was at one time one of the few safe place to stay in the country with nightly rates fixed accordingly, and Abidjan's Hotel Marly endlessly playing Celine Dion’s album 'D'eux' .

For Kenya, The Fairview was the traditional colonial hotel in Nairobi exuding character, with the  balcony of  The Norfolk  the place to meet.  However the old Jacaranda remains my favourite. The Jacaranda no longer exists in its old form. It was taken over by new owners  revamped and is now a modern hotel. Back then every day was a new adventure.

The Jacaranda became the base for many aid workers going in to or from Somalia during the fighting of the early 1990’s.

Sometimes water flowed from the taps and sometimes it did not.   One day a broken water mains was repaired when everyone had gone out for the day leaving their non functioning taps on, resulting in a spectacular waterfall from the top balconies with the torrent pouring out under the doors. 

On another day the pool was a sea of shampoo bubbles. It was the only place left to wash. It took some time to clean the pool out and refill it for its normal use.

The Jacaranda sometimes employed newly qualified staff fresh from catering college. 

Two stood behind me one evening having a blazing row - should I be served from the left or the right. Eventually the girl threw the bowl of soup to the floor and stormed off; I remained unfed.

I also managed to incur the worst bout of food poisoning ever and spent a night doubled up, but these are minor hiccups compared to the effect the Jacaranda had on those just back from the Somali bush.

The place was an oasis of calm in hectic Nairobi; the food by and large great; and the staff welcoming. It's attractiveness grew exponentially when camping out in some forsaken corner of unloved Somali desert.

The one distressing quirk was the outside door the staff   used to enter the kitchen. It always shut with a loud bang.  It did so with a group recently evacuated from Somalia sitting by the pool. You have never seen so many people reflex dive for cover.