Sarova Stanley is more than a hotel. It is the home of great events, wonderful memories, legendary characters and an enduring legacy. Indeed, the history of Nairobi and Sarova Stanley Hotel are inextricably linked. It is surely no accident that the hotel is situated in the bosom of the city; as Kenya's first luxury hotel it has always occupied a special place in Nairobi's heart.
1902 Mayence Bent opens the Stanley Hotel when Nairobi was just a railway outpost of a few wooden and tin buildings
1905 The Great Fire burned down the hotel.
1913 Mayence Bent and her husband Fred Tate bought two corner sites and created a three storey, sixty roomed hotel called The New Stanley.
1914 – 1918 During the First World War, the hotel was the base for Allied Troops repelling German forces that managed to penetrate Kenya's southern borders.
1922 The hotel was a big supporter of local farmers and December 1922, took delivery of the first ever order undertaken by the fledgling Kenya Breweries, now the largest brewer in the country.
1928 The New Stanley was the venue for a glittering ball for their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Gloucester. There were week long public celebrations in Nairobi.
The fame and custom of The New Stanley grow and an article in in The East African and Rhodesian newspaper said;
"There is probably no other colony in the British Empire where a hotel has been more intimately associated with communal development and welfare than has The Stanley of Nairobi with the modern history and progress of Kenya. That celebrated establishment has been so long a popular rendezvous of the colonists that it has acquired an individuality entirely of its own".
1939 – 1945 The hotel provided a welcome refuge to Allied troops based in Nairobi, fighting the Italians in Abyssinia (Ethiopia).
1947 The New Stanley was the home base for the making of the United Artists' classic production of The Macomber Affair, based on the Ernest Hemingway story, The Short, Happy Life of Francis Macomber. The whole intriguing scenario had been dreamt up by Hemingway during his convalescence in the hotel in the early days of l934.
The Stanley was the venue for a lunchtime banquet in honour of Princess Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip who were in Kenya as part of a world tour. They availed bedroom suites at The Stanley for a change of clothes on way to Sagana Lodge – Kenya's wedding gift to them. As they were making their departure from the hotel, Mrs Margaret Stephens noticed that either Princess Elizabeth or Prince Philip had left their hat on the bed, which some superstitious folks regarded as a sinister omen of bad luck, while others believe it to be a good omen, predicting that sooner or later they will return. Mrs Stephens rushed down the stairs with the hat, but was too late – the royal couple had already left. Superstition or not, history would reveal that while the prince and princess were game watching at Treetops, on the night of February 5th l952 King George VI died in his sleep in London and by the morning of February 6th news was already being flashed around the world that Princess Elizabeth had succeeded to the throne and would become her country's queen. For all at The Stanley, it would be the poignant memory of the forgotten hat and the subsequent death of a much-loved king.
1959 Massive reconstruction that took the hotel up to eight floors making it the largest hotel in East Africa and the best-appointed hotel in the continent. On a clear day, Mount Kenya could be seen one hundred miles (l6O km) away, snow-clad year in, year out, astride the equator while in the other direction Mount Kilimanjaro was also visible on the Kenya-Tanzanian border.
1978 The Sarova Group purchased this historic hotel from the Block family and continued to run it as The New Stanley until 1999 when a major upgrade was undertaken and the hotel reverted to its original name – The Stanley.
As the country's first luxury hotel, Sarova Stanley has played host to royal safaris and a long line of living legends. These include such famous names as the writer Ernest Hemingway. It was in a Stanley hotel bedroom during 1933/34, recuperating from amoebic dysentery and prolapse suffered on a hunting trip below Kilimanjaro, that he thought up themes and wrote some of his most famous short stories and books, several of which mention Sarova Stanley.
These books, which were to make him a household name across the world, included The Green Hills of Africa (l935); The Snows of Kilimanjaro (l936); The Happy Ending, retitled The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber. The Stanley has also been, at various times, the base for classic Hollywood film idols such as Stewart Granger, Clark Gable, Ava Gardner, Grace Kelly, and Gregory Peck.
In recent times the hotel has hosted modern stars like Isabella Rossellini (Blue Velvet, Wild at heart), Michael Caine (The Quiet American, Batman Begins), Sidney Poitier (Cry The Beloved Country, To Sir with Love), Barbra Streisand (The Rose, Ruthless People) and James Bond himself, the ageless Sean Connery. Not to mention notable entertainers like Old Blue Eyes, Frank Sinatra, who at the time was married to Ava Gardner.
Other notable guests and visitors in recent times include the maverick entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, Kenyan President, His Excellency Mwai Kibaki, ragamuffin Grammy award winning musician Shaggy, Queen Nnaabagereka Sylvia Nagginda of the kingdom of Buganda, Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Professor Wangari Mathaai, Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, founding president of Zambia and WANGO Peace award recipient, best selling author and motivational speaker Steven Covey, and Shyam Benegal, the famous Indian film director.
The moment you pass through the century old revolving doors, you enter another world, the heat and bustle of modern Nairobi left behind as you tune into the cool Victorian elegance of Sarova Stanley. A spacious foyer, with its patterned marble floors, chesterfields, old clocks and ancient photographs all come together to transport you to another era.
Sarova Stanley, which is one of the eight hotels owned by Sarova Group of hotels, Resort & Game Lodges, offers a wide range of accommodation and services with all rooms elegantly furnished with an ambience that remains as friendly and welcoming as it has always been since its humble beginnings in 1902.
Sarova Stanley has 217 guest rooms over eight floors in different categories including Heritage Suites, Executive Suites and Club Rooms. Dining facilities include the legendary Thorn Tree Cafe, Thai Chi Restaurant which has been awarded as the most authentic Thai restaurant in East Africa, Exchange Bar which was once the venue for Nairobi's first stock exchange, Pool Deck Restaurant and 24 hour In-room Dining.
Business facilities include wireless internet, fully-equipped business centre, meeting rooms in varying capacities and secretarial services. The heated pool on the 5th floor adjoins a fully equipped health club with gym, steam, sauna and massage facilities. Sarova Stanley's mini shopping arcade houses Gift Shops, Newspaper Stand, Bookshop, Boutique, Curio shop, Chemist, Optician, Locksmith, Art Gallery and Car Rental outlets.
Guests can also ask for a Historical Tour of the hotel to view old photographs and heritage suites. The hotel also organises for guests to go on a Heritage Walk around the hotel to view some of the oldest and most historical buildings in the area.