Billing itself as the “ultimate bucket list breakfast”, Giraffe Manor is a small hotel located in the suburbs of Nairobi. This beautiful manor home was constructed in 1932 and originally sat on 150 acres of land running down to the Mbagathi River. By the early 1970’s the manor had fallen into disrepair and was purchased by Betty Leslie-Melville and her husband. Shortly after their purchase, they were made aware that the last remaining habitat of the rare Rothschild giraffes in Kenya was threatened. Already providing a home to three wild bull giraffes, the Leslie-Melvilles agreed to take possession of one of the Rothschilds, a 8-foot tall, 450 pound baby names Daisy. Thus began a breeding program run in conjunction with other locations to reintroduce the Rothschild giraffe into the wild to expand the gene pool.
The manor was turned into a small, private hotel in 1983. From the beginning, its appeal was ability of the guests to truly interact with these lovely creatures. The giraffes often pop through the window of the main floor dining room to check out what the guests are having for breakfast. They often nosily peek into the front door, and have no respect for the privacy of the guests located in the front of the second floor.
In 2009, the Manor changed hands again, and is currently in the portfolio of The Safari Collection, a unique collection of luxury hotels located in Kenya’s finest locations. If you think you’d like to experience this breakfast with the giraffes, it is recommended that you plan a 2-night stay. At 5,889ft above sea level, Nairobi is cool at night and warm in the day, with two rainy seasons March to May and mid-October to December. Situated close to the equator, seasonal differences are minimal, however in June, July and August, temperatures can be as low as 35˚F. All guests enjoy full-board during their stay, which includes all meals and most drinks (house wines, spirits, beers and soft drinks, excluding champagne and specially imported wines and spirits). Complimentary chauffeured vehicles are available for sightseeing, however guests may need to share vehicles depending on demand and availability. Obviously, “once-in-a-lifetime” doesn’t come cheap. You can expect to play at least $900 per person per night. But reading the reviews and blogs of those who have traveled to the Giraffe Manor, it is apparent that they feel it was money well spent!
Let’s be honest. When most Americans think of Casablanca, this is the image that comes to mind. Romantic lead Humphrey Bogart and the luminous Ingrid Bergman starred in what has been called the greatest movie of all time. We learned a lot about spies. We learned a lot about World War II. But as not one frame was filmed in Casablanca, we didn’t learn much about this iconic city. But there’s so much history and beauty to explore in Casablanca, it’s worth getting to know this magical city.
A port city, it has always been a valuable asset to a series of conquerors. Throughout its history, Casablanca has been ruled by Berber, Roman, Arab, Portuguese, Spanish, French, British and Moroccan regimes. Today, the city is busily developing a tourism industry, and as you will see as you read on, there’s so much to see!
Hassan II Mosque
On the shoreline, just beyond the northern tip of Casablanca’s medina (old city), the Hassan II mosque dominates the entire city. Finished in 1993, it is the second largest mosque in the world, covering two hectares in size with the world’s tallest minaret (200 meters high). The prayer hall can accommodate 25,000 worshippers, while the courtyard (which boasts a retractable roof) can fit another 80,000.
Astonishingly intricate decoration covers every centimeter of surface. The location, right on the tip of the rocky bay above the ocean, is thoroughly dramatic. Non-Muslims can visit the mosque on guided tours, which begin at the mosque’s western entrance several times per day.
The best place in Casablanca to experience the traditional local way of life is to visit the old city district, known as the Medina. Medinas are found in many North African cities and are typically walled, containing narrow, winding streets where cars are prohibited. The Medina in Casablanca is best entered by the Marrakech gate, known for its imposing clock tower.
Within the Medina, authentic tradesmen sell their wares to shoppers. It’s a rambling and ramshackle neighborhood with an authentic residential feel, and a great place to experience the pulse of Casablanca life. There are also some interesting holy men koubbas (shrines) in the medina’s southern section. After a little twisting and turning, you can find your way to the old Portuguese fortress known as La Sqala that backs onto the old city.
Known for its string of glamorous Atlantic beach clubs, La Corniche, part of the Ain Diab neighborhood, is popular with a fashionable crowd of sunbathers and surfers. It includes a beautiful promenade, a jogging trail stretching all the way from the lighthouse up to the end of the jetty, as well as some stunning panoramic view of the Atlantic Ocean. After dark, the action moves to the area’s trendy nightclubs, cocktail lounges, and sea-facing bar terraces. Dining options along Boulevard de la Corniche range from simple counter-serve joints to fancy French restaurants. On sunny weekends, this is a great spot for people watching, with plenty of local families heading to the sand for picnicking and promenading.
After experiencing all that is exotic in Casablanca, you can end your stay with walking in Bogart’s footsteps at Rick’s Cafe. Opened in 2004, the restaurant is housed in a traditional Moroccan grand mansion with a central courtyard built in 1930. The restaurant features a distinctive streetfront entrance with heavy wooden doors that depict that of the film. It houses an authentic 1930s Pleyel piano and As Time Goes By is a common request to the in-house pianist. Reservations are recommended. We can’t think of a better way to cap off an exciting stay in this ancient yet modern city.