The iconic Sarova Stanley Hotel stands at the junction of Kimathi Street and Kenyatta Avenue.

I recently took a tour of The Sarova Stanley (maybe next time they will have me over or a stay, I already have a suite in mind)

The Sarova Stanley Nairobi_FacadeImage Source


In 1904 Mayence Ellen Bent in partnership with Daniel Ernest Cooper opened a 15-bed boarding house, The Stanley Hotel on Victoria Street (now Tom Mboya Street). According to the book, White Hunters by Brian Herne, this name was a tribute to Henry Morton Stanley – the famous explorer. It was a two-storey wooden building. In 1905, only a year later, it was destroyed by a fire but was soon reopened.

Mayence led an interesting life, after a childhood spent in Penge and Croydon she moved to South Africa where her sister Constance ran a boarding house. I was intrigued to find out that she had actually been ‘married’ (no official record of their marriage exists) to her step-brother William Stanley Bent. They had a daughter, Gladys Mayence, and it is thought that they moved from South Africa to Kenya because their relationship was frowned upon.

A permanent building was erected by 1913 where the Sarova Stanley now stands on the corner of Kimathi Street and Kenyatta Avenue. In 1913 Mayence Ellen sold the Stanley Hotel to Daniel William Noble, who had been Nairobi’s postmaster. But when Ellen and Cooper wanted to transfer the name to their new hotel, Noble refused. A lawsuit ensued which the Tates (by now Mayence was no longer with her step brother, she had married Frederick Francis Tate in 1909) lost. They were forced to call their new establishment The New Stanley, and Noble’s hotel became the Old Stanley.


The Sarova Stanley Nairobi_old pics


Despite the setback the hotel flourished. Mayence and her husband left for London in 1946 after he fell ill and returned in 1932 after they realized that Fred’s condition was not going to improve.

Mayence would eventually sell the hotel in 1947 to Abraham Block, a former employee. In 1978, The Sarova Group purchased the historic hotel from the Block family.

Sarova Stanley_Lobby

The staircase is the original one from when the hotel moved to its current location


Sarova Stanley_Lobby1


Sarova Stanley_Lobby2


Once you go up the stairs you will be greeted by the sight of The Exchange Bar. The bar was once the once the site of Nairobi’s first Stock Exchange, from 1954 until 1991 hence its name. It is here that the then Princess Elizabeth once dined, air conditioning was non-existent in the hotel in those days therefore she was kept cool by a series of fans operated by a staff member on a bicycle.

Sarova Stanley_fans


Sarova Stanley_The exchange bar


Sarova Stanley_Gramophone


Princess Elizabeth was not the only famous person to stay at the hotel. It has hosted people such as Winston Churchill, Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, Gregory Peck, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, and Frank Sinatra.

During his stay author Ernest Hemingway made notes for his novels The Green Hills of Africa and The Snows of Kilimanjaro.

Colonel John Henry Patterson, who wrote the true story The Man-eaters of Tsavo that inspired the film The Ghost and the Darkness, also found his inspiration while staying at the Stanley

Sarova Stanley_Courtyard


Sarova Stanley_Courtyard1


Sarova Stanley_Courtyard2


Sarova Stanley_Courtyard3


Sarova Stanley_Courtyard4


I imagine the courtyard provided the perfect space to reflect and get some writing done.

Sarova Stanley_Courtyard5


Several of the suites and other rooms are named for dignitaries and other notable persons who have stayed in the hotel.

Sarova Stanley_Churchill Ballroom


Sarova Stanley_Churchill Ballroom1

The Churchill ballroom’s walls are filled with pictures detailing Nairobi’s and the hotels history.


I got to take a peek into some of the themed suites. First stop was the Lamu suite which was immediately a favourite. Its Swahili inspired décor and light airy feel won me over.

Sarova Stanley_Lamu suite


Sarova Stanley_Lamu Suite1


Sarova Stanley_Lamu Suite3


The Karen Blixen suite was next, named after the famed author of Out of Africa it contained replicas of her paintings and a few interesting tidbits here and there.

Sarova Stanley_Karen Blixen Suite1


Sarova Stanley_Karen Blixen Suite2


Sarova Stanley_Bathroom1


Sarova Stanley_Karen Blixen Suite

The object on the far right is a first aid box.


Sarova Stanley_Corridor


The presidential suite was last and my least favorite, mainly because of the color scheme.

Sarova Stanley_Presidential suite


Sarova Stanley_Presidential Suite1


The tour was topped off by a meal at the pool deck.

Sarova Stanley_Poolside restaurant


Sarova Stanley_Lunch


Sarova Stanley_Dessert


Sarova Stanley_Poolside bar


Sarova Stanley_Pool


Sarova Stanley_Pool (2)

Sources 1, 2


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  1. December 12, 2015 at 4:23 am — Reply

    What a stately hotel! Food looks delicious, and everything looks very formal.

  2. December 12, 2015 at 6:23 am — Reply

    I love these old colonial buildings throughout Kenya. When I was there it always felt like I stepped into the past.

  3. December 12, 2015 at 10:37 am — Reply

    Rachel, What a beautiful hotel. I really love the old world charm it exudes. Lovely.

  4. December 12, 2015 at 9:52 pm — Reply

    Wow! what a lovely hotel! I love the fact that they kept the original staircase when they moved. Boy, Winston Churchill sure got around. I remember writing about him loving Marrakesh. Liked to hobnob, and certainly a grand place to do it in. The images are fantastic as always.

  5. December 13, 2015 at 5:30 am — Reply

    This is a really charming hotel, Rachel. And what an interesting history.
    I love the Lamu suite too! Hope they invite you back for a stay very soon.

  6. Manesha
    December 18, 2015 at 2:46 pm — Reply

    The courtyard pictures are splendid!!

  7. January 11, 2016 at 4:01 pm — Reply

    I’d love to stay in the Lamu suite someday…it matches my style. Interesting history behind the hotel!

  8. June 30, 2017 at 3:42 pm — Reply

    Very classy hotels.

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