The ‘piece of art’ hotel

Hemingways Hotel in Karen, Nairobi is among the newest additions to a growing hospitality scene. [Jenipher Wachie, Standard]

When TripAdvisor’s 2017 Travelers Choice Awards were announced, one hotel topped all others in Kenya. Hemingways Hotel, now in its fifth year of operation has been described in various forums as not just a hotel but a piece of art rightly planted in a part of Africa where white hunters with shotguns once bagged the occasional lion trophy.

Hemingways, a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, is right in the heart of Karen, a walking distance from where Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke, the affable Danish writer set up a remarkable home and penned her book, Out of Africa.

The book – and her lifestyle – would later inspire the movie by the same name starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. At thetime of its writing, Karen was no more than a coffee farm, grazing field and a forest. When Blixen was busy tending to her failing crop, American novelist Ernest Hemingway was also roaming in the country. He was a fishing enthusiast but had an addiction for big game hunting.

Mbagathi Ridge, where the hotel that bears his name is located, may have been a hiding place for some of the lions Hemingways hunted on foot.

From the steps leading to a massive water feature, there is a feeling that one can almost touch the cleft knuckles of Ngong Hills.

The setting of Hemingways, according to the general manager Simon Hodson, could not have been belter.

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“One gets the feeling of being at home with nature at Hemingways. There are birds chirping everywhere, you can hear the mooing of cows in one farm, horses neigh in another. In a quiet night, lions can be heard roaring from Nairobi Park, a few miles away. Yet you are still within the confines of a modern metropolis,” he says.

This ‘natural’ setting must have inspired former Homegrown proprietor and Hemingways group chairman Richard Evans to invest Sh1.5 billion on the ten acres that make up Hemingways Nairobi. Evans wanted a design that would be at home in an Africa setting yet offer international standards.

He settled on a model based on the historical Georgia plantation houses – elegant and with lots of space.

Georgian architecture came in vogue during the 18th century and comprises of a symmetrical one or two-storey building weaved around a wide, central façade, a decorative crown above the front door with ornamental columns on each side.

Hemingways has no reception desks or pigeon holes stacked with room keys. Before your arrival, staff members have a full briefing on your stay and in almost all cases, this does not involve long check-in formalities evident in most establishments.

A butler awaits you at the door, whisks you away to your room in a golf cart. He will briefly take you through the hotel’s facilities – mealtimes or the gym schedules. Rooms here are tastefully decorated to reflect the face of Kenya. Wildlife images take a generous share of walls.

Top hotels are the most elaborate structures around. Inside the stunning walls of five-star hotels are equally stunning facilities such as stately lounges, ornate bedrooms and high end bars and restaurants. Here, everything glitters. And Hemingways is among the best hotels in the country so far, if the rave reviews are anything to go by. 

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