Johari House – Shela Village

Johari (‘little jewel’) House was built almost two centuries ago by a wealthy nobleman for his daughter on her marriage. It was built in the traditional style with three rectangular rooms, a courtyard and large outside porch on the ground level. This, in fact, was all that remained of the original building at the time of its restoration, but the plaster carving in all of the rooms was still intact and now lends an air of splendour to the finished house. From the courtyard you step into the “msana wa tini” (msana being the Swahili name for these long chambers), and on the right is a magnificent “turtle” design which, interestingly enough, is not quite complete, perhaps because the nobleman ran out of money! The inner gallery, the “msana wa juu”, has panels of wall niches and ornamental borders around a square archway which leads into the harem or “ndani”. Here the wall facing the courtyard is covered with rows of niches or “zidaka,” whose purpose is mainly visual (to make the room seem wider) but also acoustic, and in the lower rows were sometimes displayed treasures like porcelain bowls and plates or silverware. In the bathroom the original cistern has been modified slightly to accommodate a shower and W.C. Accommodation – The harem is now a double bedroom with the bathroom en suite and is a room of great atmosphere. Leaving the nineteenth century you climb the stairs over the kitchen to the second floor where comfort and space take precedence over tradition. There is one large double room with bathroom and shower en suite and huge windows which open out onto orchards of guava trees, coconut palms, and views over the village to the sand dunes. Across the terrace there is a small room which is ideal for children with two single beds and a shower. Up some more stairs is the covered rooftop from which the views and the breeze are truly memorable. There are plenty of cushions, a hammock and a dining table. All the rooms in the house have overhead fans and there is hot water at all times. The rates include the services of the “best cook on the island”, known as Kombe Shida from the coastal tribe of the Giriama. If there is a particularly big group of guests Kombo will bring in his assistant, Gahindi, to help.  Please note that over the Holiday Periods (except Easter) bookings must be for a minimum period of one week. Bookings are confirmed only on receipt of a 50% deposit, the balance being payable before occupancy. Refunds are subject to the owners’ discretion and no refund is considered if cancellation occurs within 30 days unless the house is re-let. Any breakages will be charged to you by the house staff who keep a book to record such items. Johari House comfortably sleeps six people in two double rooms and one twin. The twin room is really only suitable for children.