Murray is taking a selfie of him and Emma, and you can see the Egyptian pyramids in the background.
Rami’s Guesthouse

Guesthouse Guide: The Best We Found in Africa

If you read our post on finding guesthouses, you’ll know that we’re somewhat guesthouse connoisseurs! Here are the six best guesthouses we’ve ever stayed in. Honestly, I think this will have to be in no particular order, as we truly cannot choose the top spot!

Emma, a white woman with brown hair, is sitting on a bed. The room she is in is built into the side of a cave, and is decorated with locally-weaved Tunisian carpets in vibrant patterns. There is a thick blanket at the base of the bed.
Dar Fatma, Toujane, Tunisia
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Dar Fatma, Tunisia

We booked this guesthouse on a whim in Toujane in Tunisia. We initially thought to stay in Matmata (yep, you guessed it, one of us is a huge Star Wars fan! Spoiler alert: it’s Murray) but 1) the Star Wars house was ridiculously expensive and 2) we couldn’t find anywhere else to stay in that area. Fools that we are, we were completely using Toujane as a base to explore Matmata, however it turned out there wasn’t much to see in Matmata. After we figured that out, we prepared for a quiet night in, but the hosts of this guesthouse had other plans for us! They coaxed us out almost immediately with an invite to a Ramadan feast and a local drink (date palm juice – it was not the best and tasted like eggs, but… thought that counts!). The next day, after an extremely hearty local breakfast, they set up a tour of the town for us, which turned out to be fascinating. Our guides gave us a full introduction to many local plants and animals, as well as some local crafts they had, such as carpet weaving, honey and jam making, and local liqueur brewing. They even showed us the ancient ruins of an old fort! Who knew such a small place could have so much going on? Besides the fact that we loved the town and its inhabitants, this guesthouse has some serious character itself. The rooms are in a cave style, almost built into the rocks themselves, all decorated in a cosy but unique, local Tunisian style. The walls and floors are adorned with carpets and weavings from local tradespeople, and the food is all prepared in a traditional style kitchen by the family who own the guesthouse. This is all not to mention the food, which is absolutely delicious – a seriously impressive feat when you consider that it all comes from the local area and is cooked on site.

Murray is taking a selfie of him and Emma, and you can see the Egyptian pyramids in the background.
Rami’s Pyramid Guesthouse, Giza, Egypt
Rami’s Pyramid Guesthouse, Egypt

This was a guesthouse we booked on a recommendation from a friend, who had stayed there on their own trip to Egypt and absolutely loved it. This friend told us that he had loved his night at Rami’s guesthouse so much he ended up spending the entire month of his time in Egypt with him and his family. After one night with Rami, we found this so easy to believe and honestly, almost ended doing exactly the same ourselves. We’ll deal with what’s great about the guesthouse first: the views are spectacular, as it directly overlooks the pyramids (note: Rami now has two places, one budget hostel style, one much more luxury, so you can even have your choice of style). If you wake up at sunrise, you’ll get a beautiful view from your room, and if you miss that, you can watch the light show from the balcony in the evening. The rooms are super comfortable, and the colourful staircase will have you reaching for your camera as soon as you get in. That being said, we must say that what makes this place truly spectacular is the owner himself, Rami, who together with his family is one of the most welcoming hosts we’ve ever had. Rami’s forte was showcasing local culture and we learned more about Egyptian culture through him than through anyone else. He loves to feed his guest local food (think the best falafel you’ve ever eaten in your life, delicious Egyptian sweets, home-called meals by his amazing mum – the list goes on) and prides himself on the most unique experiences in Egypt. Thanks to Rami, we managed to get into the pyramids BEFORE they opened and were the first people on site!

Murray, a white man wearing shorts, t shirt and sunglasses, is sitting on a purple and blue wooden canoe, which has been upcycled into a swing.
A repurposed canoe swing in Distant Relatives Eco-Lodge Kilifi, Kenya
Distant Relatives Eco-lodge Kilifi, Kenya

OK so technically, this one is more of a hostel than a guesthouse, but the style is very similar and I think you’d agree if you could see it, it’s beautiful. We love an ecolodge that lives up to its name and Distant Relatives does just that, with repurposed chairs made out of tyres, cushions made from material scraps (kitenge), artwork made of things that could otherwise be trash (and by the way they showcase all local artwork too, which you can buy!), and compost toilets on site. One small critique we have for this place is that it was in fact so expensive that we had to buy their cheapest room, which turned out to be… a tent! But in their defence, this was still really comfortable, and cool that they offer this kind of option to make this accessible to most price brackets. It was so popular with the locals that there was even a music group shooting a music video there! What we loved most about this place was how many places they were to relax, as well as the close proximity to a near-private beach (which has bioluminescent algae) and the commitment to the environment. It was a really impressive project.

A corrugated iron roof, behind which you can see Mount Meru, shrouded in cloud. This is in Seuri bar guesthouse.
Views of Mount Meru from Seuri Bar, Arusha, Tanzania
Seuri Bar Arusha, Tanzania

OK if we did have to pick a favourite, I think it would be Seuri bar, but then again we might be prejudiced, given that I have been coming to stay here since I was 18 years old and have now been back four times! Seuri bar is central to Arusha (the gateway to many of Tanzania’s safari parks, such as the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater), so it’s really convenient to get to anywhere in town you need to be. If you’re staying for a few days, this is a great place to be located, as you can walk to the town centre in 30 minutes (or take a 5 minute taxi), and it’s really close to the shopping centre and one of Arusha’s central markets, so you can stock up if you need to before your safari. In Seuri, the rooms are extremely clean and comfortable, each with a hot shower and mosquito net, and there are two awesome communal rooms. The first has a pool table and TV – you’ll often find heaps of friendly local Maasai hanging out here, who would happily befriend you or take you on at pool! The second is upstairs by the kitchen where you will have an absolutely breath-taking view of Mount Meru, and be able to enjoy some of the best local food in Arusha (I know they are especially proud of their kiti moto – fried pork – and can say from my non-vegan days, that it is indeed the best kiti moto in town). Of course the highlight for us (again, we’re probably a little biased!) is the family who own Seuri bar, some of the most welcoming people you’ll ever meet. Seuri is the kind of guesthouse you should book if you want a true, authentic local experience and want to make some local friends – though we do advise brushing up on your Swahili to help the bar staff! To book Seuri, you can contact them through the details on Google (or just turn up and book on the day if they have availability).

A view of the mountains and fruit trees of Malealea lodge. They are blurred as Emma is holding up a cup of milky coffee in front of them.
A beautiful morning in Malealea!
Malealea Lodge, Lesotho

Our final choice has to be Malealea. Again, our most recent stay there was a revisit (the first time I visited was back when I was 18), but it has to be said that it truly lived up to the memories and deserves a spot on this list. Malealea is an activity lodge in the Malealea Mountains, around 3 hours outside of Maseru (the capital of Lesotho). It is truly a paradise in itself, set in the mountains and surrounded by stunning mountain backdrops and vistas for days. The staff at Malealea are all employed from the local community, so that the owners can continue to give back and invest in the local economy, and they have guides from the adjacent village willing to take visitors on local hikes, horse rides and bike rides. These guides genuinely do know the mountain trails like the backs of their hands so you will be very well taken care of, and you’re sure to find some absolute gems, such as local San paintings (some thousands of years old), gorgeous waterfalls and amazing hikes. The lodge itself is comprised of rondavels (small traditional huts), which can either be private or shared, on grounds covered in bountiful fruit trees, which visitors are welcome to take fruit from. There are at least two common areas, with games for guests to play, comfy chairs and hammocks, a well-stocked bar, and a very full TV room during world-cup season! They even have tennis courts – it really is impossible to get bored here.

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Written by Emma Cartwright, 21 November 23

Emma

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