Tag Archives: Africa

Sheraton Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)

4 May

The Sheraton sits near the original founding spot of the city. Emperor Menelik’s wife decided she didn’t like it up on Mount Entoto, which he captured in 1896 and came down to the plains to build a palace at the hot springs. The grand colonial style hotel has sat here for the last 50 years, an impressive run, when you consider the disruptive and violent history the city has seen over those five decades.

addis_abeba_sheraton

Although its glamour has faded somewhat the Sheraton is still the best place to stay in the city, and is full of business people passing through on their way further into Africa or back out. The hotel is surrounded by landscaped gardens which are pretty pleasant to stroll around in the evening and they offer a great respite from the chaos of Addis’ busy streets.

When I visited the entire hotel’s AC was stuck on hot, making each room a sauna. This resulted in having to sleep with the door to the balcony open, and thankfully because of the quite heavy security it’s pretty safe to do so. Hopefully this has been fixed, although the maintenance men didn’t seem particularly interested in fixing it quickly.

There are a few different drinking and dining options within the hotel. It’s said to have the best Indian restaurant in town, it’s certainly the most expensive and with only a handful of tables, booking might be advised. No matter how cheap the rest of Addis is to people more used to living in the West, the Sheraton seems to have taken its overall pricing guide from the latter rather than its physical location, so make sure you have a credit card to hand. The downstairs bar, all dark woods and red leather, is fine for an after dinner drink and it’s private and quiet.

Breakfast can be taken on a shaded patio in the mornings on the ground floor, and there’s a decent spread if you’re into endless breads and pastries.

The Sheraton is also the place to get married in Addis, so don’t be surprised to see more than one wedding party on a weekend afternoon. The bride and groom form a procession through the lobby, which is videoed, and then they disappear to one of the banqueting rooms but it’s interesting to watch if you’re waiting around.

http://www.sheratonaddis.com

 

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Djibouti Palace, Kempinski

10 Feb

There aren’t many options in Djibouti, if you want to stay somewhere recognisably branded. That’s not to dismiss the Kempinski’s efforts, it has managed to become somewhere where both solider and tourist can feel at home. Built originally in the 90s as a bespoke host of a huge conference, it is a long and low affair with almost time bending long corridors. Nowadays it hosts many economic, political and business get togethers, providing a safe haven for meetings, compared to the more unstable neighbour countries of Somalia and Ethiopia.

It’s also one of the only places soliders and visiting military, sailors and contractors can kick back and relax. The hotel has built two pools – one for guests and families, and another for more rambunctious R&R, next to an outdoor bar. But as noisy as this sounds, the hotel is so large, you can easily find a more quiet area. It also has a small beach where it has monthly themed parties that go on later into the night.

The hotel has an all day dining buffet restaurant, an Italian which has a lovely al fresco terrace and a seafood restaurant out on the beach, which serves up the locally famous Yemini fish. Spread open and rubbed with spices, the local fish is cooked inside a brick oven and is served with piles of local bread, also cooked in the oven, which is perhaps the most delicious flat bread I’ve ever had. It’s the only outside seafood restaurant in Djibouti and you’ll probably find yourself dining next to army captains although there’s no need to stand on ceremony.

There’s also a casino in the hotel which offers black jack, slot machines, poker and roulette, and although it can be pretty grim in the early evening, after midnight the place is packed with lads trying their luck.

The hotel can arrange whale shark trips – an absolute must do, as well as trips to Mousha Island – a ramshackle beach bar and restaurant where you can snorkel dive and kitesurf. Also ask for trips to Lac Assal, a lake two hours north, in a volcanic area, which is saltier than the Dead Sea.

The staff here deserve a special mention. Young, keen and ever so helpful, I couldn’t fault them – if you’re looking for tips on where to get a beer outside the hotel, or where to go to for a dance, they’ll not only point you in the right direction, they might even come with you.

Despite the difficulties in running such a vast hotel, Djibouti Palace Kempinski actually has a heart.