Emerson on Hurumzi
The venerable “Emerson on Hurumzi”, Grande Dame of restored palaces in Zanzibar has returned to service in collaboration with “Emerson Spice”.
An exotic and curious building with historical significance and unique style. The recent refurbishment combines the elegance of the period in which it was built with period antique furnishing and the colour and comfort of the 21st century.
The cuisine in the rooftop teahouse restaurant celebrates the distinct culinary heritage of the epoch in an oriental menu of Persian and Omani dishes prepared with authentic ingredients and served with faithful attention to the customs and etiquette of the era.
The building that today hosts “Emerson on Hurumzi” at 236-240 Hurumzi street, Hurumzi, Stonetown, Zanzibar was built in the 1870s by the powerful merchant Sir Tharia Topan. He served as a principal financial adviser to Sultan Bargash and was the head of customs. The roof top Tea House itself may have been designed as an observation point to control the activities of the port, which was located in the waters just in front of the nearby “House of Wonders”.
Tharia Topan stayed here only briefly before the building was sold. It was then used by the Archbishop of Zanzibar and the folklore says that during this time Arabian slave owners were paid by the British to free their slaves in this building. The street ‘Hurumzi’ got its name from this period: Hurumzi is the combination of HURU uhuru (freedom) MZI mzee (old man). After that it was owned and occupied by a series of Ismaili and Arabian families over the years. The building was nationalized in 1967 and occupied by poor Swahili families until the early 1990s when Emerson Skeens and Thomas Green started the restoration of the building.
The hotel opened under the name “Emerson and Green” back in 1997, during the 2006-2013 the hotel was called “236 Hurumzi”, and managed only by Mr. Green. On the 1st of July 2013 the hotel was placed in the control of an interim management team to seek a solution to the 6 year long feud between the partners. Unfortunately the debts were found to be so large that there was no choice but to put the company into a “creditor’s voluntary liquidation”. A new company Emerson on Hurumzi was formed to raise funds to pay off the debts to government authorities, local trade creditors and former staff in return for the acquisition of the assets and premises of the hotel.
The inauguration of “Emerson on Hurumzi” was held on the 14th of February 2014. The hotel is undergoing refurbishment and was officially opened on the 1st of July 2014, with 10 double rooms and 3 suites plus two large apartments for longer stays. The other rooms will open as they get finalized.
The rooftop Tea House restaurant is open for lunch, dinner and sunset cocktails. Our cuisine is designed to marry the culture and style of the building with the distinct culinary heritage of the era, our menu celebrates the pleasure of oriental Persian and Omani dishes. Musicians from Dhow Country Music Academy play during dinner on most nights and on pre-booking for groups.
In Roshani, our private dining room on the third floor, it is possible to reserve a space for a private dinner or to reserve to experience the Emerson Zanzibar Tea Ceremony.