Last updated: 12:08 PM ET, Tue October 13 2015

Maru Maru Hotel in the Heart of Zanzibar

Hotel & Resort | David Cogswell | October 13, 2015

Maru Maru Hotel in the Heart of Zanzibar

Photos by David Cogswell

In Stone Town, the old section of Zanzibar City, capital of the island archipelago known as Zanzibar, is an old vintage hotel called Maru Maru.

In English, “maru maru” means “marble tile,” which is appropriate, since much of the hotel is made of this. The floors of the guest rooms are glassy white marble tile.

The favorite gathering place is the rooftop restaurant, aptly called the Terrace Restaurant. Some of its floor space is covered for protection from the brutal tropical sun during the daytime. Another section is wide open under the sky, and though it sits idle during the hot hours of the day, it really comes into its own after the sun goes down and the nightlife begins.

The Terrace serves breakfasts, lunches, dinners along with aperitifs around 4 o’clock teatime. It also doubles as a bar, and becomes a great nightspot in the evenings.

At night especially, the cool sea breezes sweep gently over the Terrace from the Indian Ocean, only a few blocks from the hotel — it's in sight from the roof.

Besides the hotel’s sweet vintage ambiance, and competing with it for most important attribute is its location in the heart of the old Stone City of Zanzibar. It’s a perfect headquarters for exploring the World Heritage site of the Old City.

While the hotel is situated in the heart of the culturally richest and most in-demand part of the city, it is only 6 km from the Karume International Airport, which adds up to a 10 to 15-mile ride from the airport.

The hotel will help its guests organize day trips and safaris, though it cautions that some bookings need some advance notice, so the sooner you contact the hotel with your requests, the better chance of having them fulfilled satisfactorily.

Internet is free in the hotel, which seems to be something that should just be normal and not particularly worthy of comment. But it is still worth mentioning because the Internet is still an optional extra in many hotels, including some of the most prestigious luxury brands. So when you find that it is free and effortless, it takes a load off the mind.

Free Internet! This is one of the things that are important to weary travelers when they first approach the front desk of their host hotels after long, tiring journeys. By making Internet free and easy, it removes one hassle from the check-in process, gives the front desk one more way to express its welcoming, hospitality and care for its clients. As simple as it may seem, free Internet is still a service worthy of praise and of note.

Regarding services and amenities, the hotel offers a full range that one comes to expect in the most professional hotels. Particularly important and worth noting in this region is that the air conditioning is good. Typically it’s more than good. It has the capacity to freeze you to death if you don’t tame it. And you don’t need that super cold of the American malls when you are experiencing the profits. If you do want to freeze, however, the equipment is provided to do so.

Nothing is really lacking regarding in-room amenities. The nice big flat-screen TV stretched across one wall is so flat and discreetly placed that you can ignore it entirely if you prefer to soak in the rich ambiance of the place.

The rooms have hair dryers, ironing boards and irons, a writing desk, a safe, a mini bar in a refrigerator, tea and coffee preparations, as a sampling. There are no missing essentials. Oh yes, and a spa, providing a full range of treatments.

The hotel structurally consists of an older section “from the days of the Sultans,” and a newer wing with a more modern interior. In the center of the hotel is a leafy, almost forested courtyard with its own adjacent restaurant.  

The hotel’s furnishings include many handcrafted wooden constructions, such as shelves, closets, railings and moldings. Beautiful stained glass windows grace the rooms. The architectural and interior design style is deeply indigenous, based on an Arabian African style that developed individual in partial isolation from the mainland of the islands.

The hotel has 44 guestrooms and certainly qualifies as a boutique hotel. Staying there is a highly individualized experience.

And one step beyond the threshold of the front door, and you are in the thick of it, in the lively, colorful, hyper-busy, winding little streets of Stone Town, Zanzibar City.


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