Like its fictional namesake, Sinbad is just a fading memory

Sunday February 18 2018

sinbad hotel

This photo take on February 15, 2018 shows the abandoned Sinbad Hotel in Malindi, Kilifi County. PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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Rubbles, deserted buildings and a disused swimming pool overgrown with shrubs are all that’s left of the famous Sinbad Hotel in Malindi, Kilifi County.

It was closed to the public in 1986. Since then, the owners have not seen the need to inject money into it.

The building just stands there, a monument to a life that once was good.

During the colonial days, Sinbad’s only competitors were Eden Roc and Blue Marlin.

Sinbad was run by Major Philip Steam Mumford and his first wife Marjorie, alongside their son Peter and his wife Pauline.

In 1983, the Black Enterprise magazine described this place as “quietly luxurious and impeccably run, with an international guest list”.

And in the book Mrefu, travel writer Tony Sheridan describes Sinbad as a “white building fronted with rounded arches and turrets that, to me, suggested an Arabian palace”.

“From the hotel’s arched entrance-way, six curved, wide steps led down to a bar and sitting area, which overlooked the dining area for about 60 people another six steps below.

"Beyond that, six more wide steps led down to a dance floor that overlooked a sandy beach, pounded by surf,” Mr Sheridan wrote.

He could as well have been writing fiction, because all that is now gone.

Last week, we found students from Nusra Vocational Institute roaming outside the once splendid hotel.

One of the buildings has been turned into a school.

Mr Awadh Abed Awadh, 60, a former swimming pool instructor at the resort, has fond memories of the place, which used to charge a rather kingly Sh2,600 per night in the 1980s.

“It was the leading five-star hotel in Malindi at the time, followed only by Jambo Village at the Marine Park area,” Mr Awadh recalls.

In later years, Sinbad was managed by a British company, Volda Hotel Management, before it was sold to a German outfit.

When its fortunes started falling, a farmers’ co-operative union bought it.

It is not clear what led to the downfall and closure of the hotel, but Mr Awadh suspects a poor business environment.

Malindi was a European tourist haven and Sinbad — which borrowed its name from the fictional sailor and hero of Middle Eastern folklore — was the epicentre of the action.

Mr Thoya Said, principal of the vocational institute housed there, says the Malindi Education and Development Association, the current leaseholders of the property owned by Merali Dawji and Sons Ltd, is planning to expand the college, construct a dispensary, and put up a mosque.

Sinbad is not alone in this misery. Just a few kilometres away is Plan Hotel, also wallowing in its multimillion-shilling melancholy.

Mr Alexander Zissimatos, the general manager, says they closed down the resort five years ago after the Westgate terror attack in Nairobi — hundreds of kilometres away — caused a slump in arrivals.

A classic example of the interconnectedness of business with security.

In place of wide smiles, a dusty deserted building whose gate is overhung by cobwebs, welcomes you to the establishment opposite Sandies Tropical Village in Malindi.