Ex- Sultan’s mansion under female reign
The “Beach House” at the Shangani sea promenade is popular with many, but few people know the history and who made it all happen.
The former Sultan’s mansion turned into a restaurant and bar, run by Park Hyatt, under female reign. Afshan Jivraj, 34, Kenyan by nationality, half Indian and half Iranian by ancestry, came to Zanzibar three years ago to oversee the opening. Her research discovered that the two-storey mansion was built under the last sultan of Zanzibar before his forceful removal from power in 1964. ”It is said he kept some concubines here”, Afshan says. The two-storey beachfront house then became a British nursing home, later Goan immigrant families had apartments there until it was eventually abandoned and - like so many buildings in Stone Town - left to rot.
“I fell in love with it the moment I saw it”, says Afshan. Trained at a Swiss elite school, with previous working stints in China and Dubai, she developed the upmarket but casual hangout from scratch – a task not everyone thought the striking beauty, not rarely mistaken as a receptionist by guests, would be capable of. “There are not many lady general managers in the hospitality sector in Africa”, she says: “Sure I had to fight.” Overseeing 31 staff, she likes to make them “feel like family”. She also co-ordinates local women support programs at the Hyattxxx. “We did not change any of the structure of the building”, the manager emphasizes. “Our restaurant’s menu is a tribute to its history with Oman, Indian and British influences.” What’s the favourite of her guests? Spice gin tonic of course - with all the flavours of Zanzibar.