Al Johari, Zanzibar

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Al Johari, Zanzibar

Hotel - 116 Shangani Stonetown, Zanzibar, Tanzania

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Review of "Al Johari, Zanzibar"

published 19/08/2010 | AfricaLover
Member since : 19/08/2010
Reviews : 1
Members who trust : 0
About me :
Not for me
Pro Comfortable beds, but NOTHING else
Cons Simply an AWFUL hotel
very helpful
Value for Money
Quality of Rooms
Standard of Service
Quality of Food & Drink

"Al Johari - The Worst Hotel Ever!"

A nightmare hotel! We had 2 rooms for 5 nights in the ===Al Johari=== in early August 2010. It was truly the worst hotel experience I have ever had by a big margin. We had 2 Junior suites at £116/night.

It started with the plumbing - the shower enclosure did not meet the walls, the shower door did not close properly and the shower tray was fitted so that there was always 10mm of water left sitting in the bottom from the previous shower - really great to get into in the morning! The shower unit was rusty, probably because all water to the washbasins and showers was saline. The first time the showers in each room were turned on, water escaped out of the cubicles in vast volumes and onto the floor. We didn't realise this was happening until we got out of the shower.

We then had no choice but to use the towels to dry it up. We asked reception for fresh towels and were told that there were none available until Wednesday (it was then Monday). Eventually they found towels but very reluctantly.

The manager had gone on holiday so the chef was in charge. He was doing his best but it's not possible to run the restaurant and deal with maintenance issues effectively, particularly when the only tool that the maintenance engineer appeared to possess was a screwdriver, and it was doubtful that he knew how to use it.

After the second shower in one room the water stopped flowing in washbasins and shower and we were moved to a deluxe suite at £194/night (£78 more). For that extra £78 we got a jacuzzi that was so tatty and again didn’t drain that we wouldn’t dare sit in it for fear of infection from the mould covered sealant, and an extra washbasin that was pretty useless because it had no plug. The one that had a plug only managed tepid water and the tap was so loose in the mounting that it rotated at the base (it was meant to be fixed solid). In every other respect the room was the same as the £116 one except that in the more expensive room the drains on both washbasins and shower were leaking under the units so water seeped out onto the washroom floor from under the finishing panels for up to an hour after a shower / using the washbasin.

All of the rooms had drainage problems; the shower in one still had not drained away the following morning. To a greater extent this was cured when we very reluctantly removed massive balls of body hair from the plug holes after maintenance failed to find anything wrong.

The maintenance team (seemingly consisting of one engineer supervised by the chef and 3 or 4 of the housekeeping staff) worked on our first room for several hours to get the water running and to cure the leaks but finally gave up.

We were then told that we could stay in the Deluxe room for one night but then had to move back in to the waterless one. We had been pretty tolerant up to this time but no way were we going to stay in a room with no running water so we flat refused.

The following morning we went up to the rooftop restaurant (great position, good views) for breakfast. I sat down and pulled up my chair. The underside of that chair was engrained with a greasy, kitchen-type substance that made my hands dirty and smelled horrible. It turned out that all of the chairs were similarly grimy. We were confronted with a selection of stale pastries and bread and inedible fruit. None of the other guests appeared to be taking breakfast in the hotel and after that we stuck to coffee and tea, and we ended up buying breakfast food outside the hotel most days after the second day.

We invited the chef to inspect the problems in the rooms (all 3 of them) and discussed the problem with breakfast with him. He was very cooperative and promised that the food would improve the following day. It did, but only marginally and was still a long way off an acceptable standard.

To the chef’s credit, he arranged for us to stay in the (still massively flawed) more expensive room and gave us a free evening meal for that evening. That may have proven to be our biggest mistake. The meal was flavoursome, well presented and appeared to be well cooked. However, overnight 3 of our party of 5 went down with diarrhoea and vomiting (D&V) and the other 2 followed over the next 2 days.

Up to a point, I felt sorry for the chef – the manager had left him to deal with the hotel which wasn’t his area of expertise. However, the restaurant was his patch and I suspect that the poor level of cleanliness in the eating area was replicated in the kitchen – the bits that you could see appeared to be clean but if the chair experience was duplicated in the kitchen then it would have been a hotbed for germs.

The hotel, in common with the other 5 that we stayed in over 16 nights in Zanzibar and Tanzania, provided sealed bottles of water in the rooms for tooth cleaning. That gave us a degree of comfort until my wife complained that a bottle that she had just opened tasted salty. Rather stupidly, I tested it too and it was definitely saline. We had been careful to check the seals before opening the bottles and that one appeared to be unopened. However, 14 days later my wife still has intermittent D&V although the rest of us are pretty much over it. She is now back in England and undergoing tests to see what she has caught. The only common factor for all of us, as far as we can tell, was the Al Johari.

You might have expected that the catalogue of disasters would end there. However, we idiotically sent 4 pairs of trousers for laundry. All 4 came back with the stains still there and one pair appeared to have bleach dripped all over one leg. They had another go but nothing improved; the trousers simply disappeared for 2 days.

Each room had what appeared to be an independent water heater in the bathroom, mounted high above the toilet. In the kid’s room, this started dumping scolding hot water out of what appeared to be an overflow pipe in the bottom of the unit when the toilet was flushed. I went to reception who reluctantly sent up the maintenance engineer (with screwdriver) to fix it. His diagnosis was that the roof was leaking and that he couldn’t do anything about it. This was despite the fact that it was 30C+ outside and hadn’t rained that day (and we weren’t on the top floor). I pointed out that there was an isolator valve on the wall and persuaded him to turn it off. Rather surprisingly (to him, at least) that stopped the hot water running. The floor was very wet by now, so the cleaner came to sort it out yet again. She stayed with the numerous other supervisors while the maintenance guy repaired the fault. We left them to it and were pleasantly surprised to find that when we returned it was actually fixed. Just before we checked out the following day it started leaking again. I went to reception again but it was still leaking an hour later. As we were leaving that day I simply couldn’t be bothered with it any more so we left it running (the isolator valve was about 9 feet off the ground so I couldn’t reach to turn it off).

The final nightmare came when I went to check out. By then I was so fed up and wanting to leave this hell-hole that I only gave the bill a cursory glace (it was about $25 for a few drinks). As the drinks were dear as fire is hot I just checked that there were 2 bills and paid. When I got upstairs my daughter checked the statement and realised that one of the bills that I had paid was for 10 shots of whisky for another room. I was past arguing by this time but she was fired up (probably because the boiler leak had left her with an unusable toilet for fear of burning) and I was unceremoniously dragged down to reception to correct the error. After 10 minutes the receptionist, who was a very affable but not-too-bright young lad, found the correct bill and set about adjusting it. The difference was about 10,000Tsh (just over £4.00) but calculating it was beyond him. After an impromptu maths lesson he finally got the idea and refunded my money.

There were other problems but all were relatively minor.

This hotel has a plaque in reception saying that it was a finalist in a competition for boutique hotels in Zanzibar. God help guests at the hotels that didn’t make the final! Their website states that ‘We have been awarded Four Star Category by the Zanzibar Commission for Tourism.’ Again, it’s scary to imagine how bad the one, two and three star hotels must be.

To their credit, the bedroom and public areas were very nice to look at, the beds were very comfortable and they were fastidious about mosquito bite prevention in the bedrooms. The bathrooms looked very flashy but the plumbing was so awful that it detracted totally from the good features of the hotel.

In order to justify their rating they need to, as a bare minimum:
(1) completely revamp the plumbing/drainage in the bathrooms (using simple, quality showers instead of the flashy but cheap and poor-quality multi-function showers) paying particular attention to getting walls and shower-tray levels correct and good seals between fittings and the walls,
(2) improve general cleanliness throughout the hotel to an acceptable level,
(3) Improve the breakfasts by using fresh food and
(4) either properly train their staff or replace them with competent personnel.

I suspect that what lies at the root of their problem is poor management / ownership. That probably won’t improve if, as I suspect, it is a family-run hotel.

I realise that few of you will have read this far, but I needed to get my gripe about this hotel off my chest.

One nice example of the way that the management of this hotel thinks was the explanation given by the receptionist as to why there were no safes in the rooms. Apparently 2 customers had forgotten their combination codes and the safes had to be destroyed to get at the contents. So the policy became - no safes in rooms. This despite the fact that every other hotel that we have ever stayed in with a safe clearly states that if this happens they will charge yo $X (usually 75-100) if you forget your code/lose your key. In the UK that easily buys a safe of the usual quality found in hotels. That seemed to be the general thinking - as things failed to work, just leave them and see if anyone complains!

If nothing else, the story of our misfortune may well brighten your day!

As a point of reference, we stayed in 6 hotels over 16 nights in Zanzibar and Tanzania; this wasn’t the cheapest but it was, by a massive margin, the worst to stay in. (The others were all, in fact, pretty good – a few minor faults but all much better than you generally expect to find in Eastern Africa).

The Al Johari completely ruined our stay in Stone Town. Had we not been heading for 6 days in Tanzania on safari after we left we would probably have gone home early although the D&V might well have prevented that.

Incidentally, we tried to move hotels but the few that were recommended by other travellers were all full.

Oh, and although it's in no way the hotel's fault, when you are sick as a dog the last thing you really need is to be woken just after 5.00am by the call to prayer that is blaring from the speakers of the mosque just outside your window.

To summarise, avoid the Al Johari at all costs; it is all style with no substance whatsoever.

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Comments on this review

  • robjak published 19/08/2010
    Great review
  • dynamicnurse published 19/08/2010
    Welcome to Ciao! Nice work, well written.
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Product Information : Al Johari, Zanzibar

Manufacturer's product description

Hotel - 116 Shangani Stonetown, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Product Details

Long Name: Al Johari

Address: 116 Shangani Stonetown, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Street: 116 Shangani Stonetown

City: Zanzibar

Country: Tanzania

Continent: Africa

Type: Hotel


Listed on Ciao since: 26/06/2010