Emerson on Hurumzi

Zanzibar Island

Star Rating
Game Viewing
Price Guide $$$

Emerson on Hurmuzi: Our View

Emerson on Hurumzi is an award winning hotel in the heart of Stonetown, close to many of the fascinating historical landmarks and markets of this magical town. This highly rated hotel used to be the private house of a very wealthy businessman and advisor to the Zanzibar Sultan. He had quite a big house!

If you are looking for Stonetown history and authenticity in a hotel, then Emerson on Hurumzi is a top choice. But it certainly isn’t for everyone. This is not a standard western style hotel by any means, with lifts or air-conditioned rooms. There are  rather steep and seemingly endless staircases going up!

Getting to and from the hotel by vehicle requires a porter or a walk with your luggage through the narrow and local alleyways in the often oppressive Stonetown heat. The hotel is in an area of Stonetown where access by vehicle is difficult, but they do have staff to escort guests where required.

Once we checked in to Emerson on Hurumzi  we were taken by a very sweet and polite manager up flight after flight of stairs to our room, the Jungle Room (West Room). It is pokey and small with thick, cloying, maroon curtains and a tiny balcony that is just above a Mosque that calls the faithful to prayer very early in the morning.  And often at other times during the day, as is common in Muslim Culture.  The view from this tiny balcony was magnificent! Every room is totally different and has its own individual character and traditional design. There is a small safe in the room for valuables.

The dinner at the Hotel's Roof Top Restaurant overlooking Stonetown is famous and often booked months in advance, so best to book ahead of time. The dinner at the rooftop restaurant features a traditional Swahili menu with a band and dancing/singing. The theme of the food and dancing/singing presentation is Swahili/Eastern in style. Most guests sit on the floor, on carpets and cushions. Shoes are left at the entrance. There is also an option to sit at a table, in a different part of the restaurant. Alcohol is served at Emerson on Hurumzi, unlike some other hotels in Stonetown. The food at the Rooftop Tea House is reasonable, and certainly unusual.

Breakfast is taken in a small courtyard downstairs, but can also be served in your room.  We are interested in history and took the time to look around the hotel with its many fascinating historical pieces and artifacts on each floor. They also have a museum downstairs which we visited.

So, unless you are okay with climbing up and down many stairs and have a strong set of legs, this place might not be your best choice. There is no swimming pool either!

One morning after breakfast, we found ourselves in an enchanting flowering garden on two different levels. It was so beautiful, relaxing, and a little cooler than the rest of the hotel. That discovery was the highlight of our stay at Emerson on Hurumzi.

A breeze tends to blow across the roof from the sea, creating a pleasant environment for the evening rooftop dinners. The complimentary toiletries in our room were among the best we have come across.

Emerson on Hurmuzi: Quick Facts

  • Award winning hotel with top reputation in Stone Town
  • Eclectic and historically interesting
  • Various Suites and standard rooms
  • Well situated for exploring Stonetown
  • 24 hour security
  • Guests can be escorted from the hotel on request
  • Breakfast is complimentary and included in room rates
  • Rooftop Tea House (Restaurant) for lunch and dinner
  • Bottled water in the rooms – replaced regularly
  • Bath/Shower
  • Complimentary toiletries
  • Room safe

Emerson on Hurumzi: The Details

In the heart of Stonetown, this beautifully restored hotel was once the home of one of the richest men in the Swahili Empire – Mr Tharia Topan, who served as the principal financial advisor to Sultan Bargash.  Today it is one of the most popular hotels in Zanzibar, an exotic building with historical significance and unique style. The recent refurbishment combines the elegance of antique furnishing in the period in which it was built with the colour and comfort of the 21st century. 

Emerson on Hurumzi celebrates old world Zanzibar in modern times and terms. The iconic Tea House restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, and Zanzibar Tea Ceremonies and private dining is possible in Roshani, located on the third floor.

This noble ‘Grande Dame’ of restored Zanzibar palaces has spectacular views. Dating back to the 1870s, it is one of the oldest and most majestic in the Hurumzi area of Stonetown. It is a fascinating labyrinth of small bridges, swings, private tea houses and individually designed rooms. Each room has its colours, design and style flowing from its specific theme and ambience.

Grouped according to location, the rooms at Emerson on Hurumzi are divided into 3 sections, the oldest and most numerous being the main house rooms, the most recent addition being the 6 rooms in the neighbouring building, which adjoins Emerson on Hurumzi, and the rest occupying the west wing – known as Peace of Love.

With four floors worth of bedroom, it is impossible here to do them justice, save to say that while all rooms differ in size, and each is blessed with at least one unique attribute, they share the same basic features and amenities: beautiful four poster twin / double beds, a wonderfully Arabic influence, balconies, polished floors, ornate and latticed window and door frames, stone baths, ceiling fans and Swahili daybeds.

Activities at Emerson on Hurumzi include cultural trips and shopping expeditions. This hotel also serves as a base for beach visits, snorkelling, kayaking, dhow trips and diving, although none of these activities are provided by the hotel.