With a statue of a lion guarding the door, the imposing entrance to the Al Johari exudes a subdued feeling of luxury. Inside, the decor is typical of Zanzibar, featuring clear Middle Eastern influences. On the whole, the Al Johari is much better suited to couples than to families and groups of friends.
The hotel is located in the very central district of Shangani, just a five-minute walk from the Forodhani Gardens. The airport is around a fifteen minute drive from here.
Opened in 2008, the establishment has several owners of different nationalities: German, English, American and Italian.
Al Johari, the name of this hotel located right at the heart of Stone Town, means 'The Jewel'. In keeping with the times by being described as a boutique hotel, it occupies one of the white buildings in the historic centre. The ambiance here is traditional but with some very modern influences, to guarantee guests the most luxurious comfort. The wood-clad reception area is simply a place of passage, given its small size. It leads to the stairs and the upper floors, where the guest rooms are located.
With regard to the communal areas, there's no swimming pool but there is a rooftop terrace. Before reaching the restaurant, you will come across a lounge area here called The Fusion Lounge. With a 270-degree view over the roofs of the city and a splendid view of the sea (a real advantage, as this isn't always the case in the hotels located in the city's narrow streets), this really is one of the most interesting parts of the hotel. With its bar, armchairs and cushions, it is the perfect spot for enjoying a moment of relaxation in the refreshing breeze.
This gem of a hotel has just fifteen guest rooms but still manages to offer its guests a number of different categories ranging from the deluxe single room (for, as its name suggests, guests travelling on their own) to the junior suite. Nevertheless, they all have one thing in common: their size. Regardless of the category, they are all very small. In the single room, there is barely even enough space for the bed (a locally-crafted bed typical of Zanzibar) and the rooms in the highest category, namely the junior suites, hardly measure more than 25mē.
Every room features the same concept: wooden doors with an electronic lock and very clean white walls that contrast with the dark blinds and the wooden furnishings. However, the tone changes as soon as you set foot in the bathroom. Here, the 'African' ambiance gives way to a more basic, almost urban style. Whether it's the small (yet pleasant) bathrooms in the single rooms, or the large bathrooms equipped with a hydromassage shower in the junior suites, the style is sure to suit travellers longing for some urban modernity.
Head up to the rooftop to reach the Al Johari's restaurant, which is open for all three meals. In keeping with tradition and mostly with the trends of the moment, guests can enjoy a view over the city while they eat. However, once past the lounge area, the restaurant room is entirely indoors, which we found rather bemusing. As a result, guests may be able to enjoy the wonderful panoramic view from the restaurant, but they can't feel the benefit of the light breeze that drifts across the rooftops of Stone Town while they do so.
The menu is made up of fusion inspired cuisine which combines international recipes featuring French and Italian influences with some of the island's more traditional dishes. Some examples include the pasta 'alla genovese' accompanied with a lamb tagine or seafood skewers. Also on the menu is a wide range of wines from South Africa (of course), as well as Italy and France, without forgetting some very European desserts (tiramisu, chocolate fondant, etc.)
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Mark out of 10 for geographical location