Sarova Stanley Hotel at its inception

The Stanley Hotel (currently called the Sarova Stanley) is a five-star hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. It is the oldest hotel in the city, having been established in 1902 by English businesswoman Mayence Bent, when the city was a railway halt.

It is named after Sir Henry Morton Stanley, a Welsh explorer who is best known for his explorations of central Africa and his successful search for missionary and explorer David Livingstone.

Since the early 1900s, the Stanley Hotel has been known as the traditional meeting place for those going on safari in Kenya. It has played host to royalty, politicians, movie stars, and authors. It is still used for national business conferences and tourism concerns.

Sarova Stanley Hotel
Sarova Stanley Hotel at its inception

Although the Stanley prides itself on being one of Nairobi’s finest hotels, its downtown location isn’t necessarily as desirable as it might appear – especially for travellers who are just overnighting here –you can expect to spend a good deal of time stuck in traffic getting to/from the hotel and airport

Sarova Stanley Hotel
The view from one of its rooms

Since its construction in 1902 when Nairobi was nothing more than a remote railway depot built in a brackish African swamp, the Sarova Stanley flourished as an enduring legacy offering elegant accommodations. An article in The East African in 1930 read:

“That celebrated establishment [Sarova Stanley] has been so long a popular rendezvous of the colonists that it has acquired an individuality entirely of its own.”

The historical importance of the Stanley is aptly summed up in that abbreviated phrase. Burnt down in the Great Fire of 1905, the hotel’s prompt rebirth is a reflection of its enduring spirit.

The timeless elegance and precious comfort offered here also enchanted classic Hollywood stars such as Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, and Gregory Peck.

For over a century, the Sarova Stanley has proven to be much more than a luxury hotel. It has been a welcome refuge to Allied troops in World War II, a lavish host to royalty and dignitaries, and, for its guests, a landmark destination that continues to leave an eternal impression on the mind, heart, and soul.

The central areas of the hotel are quite impressive, with a black-and-white chequered marble floor, leather sofas and pictures depicting the hotel’s history adorning the walls. The hotel features two interesting restaurants with so much history; The Thorn Tree restaurant and The Exchange Bar.

Thorn Tree Hotel

The Exchange Bar, which operated as Nairobi’s first stock exchange until 1991, retains a very colonial atmosphere, with brown leather Chesterfield sofas and dark polished wood: the type of place where a suited Englishman would look quite natural smoking a cigar with a whisky in hand!

Exchange Bar
The Exchange Bar

The 217 rooms over eight floors are split into three different categories:

The 160 Deluxe rooms are the smallest, with furnishings and amenities typical of an international hotel, including a safe, hairdryer and tea- and coffee-making facilities. They’ve tried to retain a little character, but we felt that the whole vibe was a little old fashioned, and the bathrooms are very small by comparison with the spacious rooms.

One of the rooms
One of the rooms

The 32 Club rooms are slightly larger and have the added benefit of a 42-inch flat-screen TV, plus extras such as a turn-down service and free daily newspapers. As in the Deluxe rooms, though, the bathrooms felt very small by comparison.
The 23 Suites vary in size and style – but are all substantially larger than the Deluxe or Club rooms. Three of these suites have two bedrooms connected by a sitting area, so are a good option for families or friends travelling together.

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