Sun sets on iconic Hilton Hotel
What you need to know:
- The imposing circular tower has been an iconic landmark in downtown Nairobi for more than 53 years.
- Even more emblematic has been the hundreds of people sitting on the benches outside the historic building, an area that has come to earn the moniker, “jobless corner”.
- But Hilton Hotel is closing its doors for good in a matter of weeks, bringing the curtains down on a rich and colourful heritage. Many fond memories have been created here.
The imposing circular tower has been an iconic landmark in downtown Nairobi for more than 53 years.
Even more emblematic has been the hundreds of people sitting on the benches outside the historic building, an area that has come to earn the moniker, “jobless corner”.
But Hilton Hotel is closing its doors for good in a matter of weeks, bringing the curtains down on a rich and colourful heritage. Many fond memories have been created here.
It has, over the years, featured in many books, international magazines, newspapers and other media for events and historical incidents that many will remember — or want to forget — forever.
Other memories that would wish to be strung to this legacy have less than 64 days to come to birth.
The towering structure in the heart of Kenya’s capital is many things to different people. To some, it is their bread and butter.
To many others, it is just another building within the city. To yet others, it awakens sad memories. It is here, one day in the 1970s, that populist politician JM Kariuki would walk in for a meeting with a friend, a security chief, never to be seen alive again.
To most city residents, it is among the few landmarks they have known in their entire lives. By any other name, this place would hardly sound the same to them.
Opened by Kenya’s founding President Jomo Kenyatta, the five-star hotel began operations on December 7, 1969, and will be winding up operations this year.
According to a communiqué to the Kenya Tourism Board early this year, several employees will be laid off following the decision to shut down the iconic hotel.
The Hilton, whose parent company is International Hotels Kenya, is partly owned by the government (40.57 per cent). Its exit follows a sad recent trend.
On August 2020, another iconic hospitality giant, the Intercontinental Hotel, closed business. The government had a 33.83 per cent stake in the Intercontinental.
Hilton, like the Intercontinental before it, closes its doors amid tough economic times that were exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Following extensive discussions with the hotel ownership, Hilton Nairobi will close its doors for the last time on December 31, 2022 and cease operations,” a spokesperson of the hotel told Nation a while back.
The closure will, however, will not affect two other Hilton Hotel facilities – in Hurlingham and Mombasa Road (Garden Inn).
At inception, the hotel was touted as the tallest building in Nairobi and a popular base for tourists seeking adventures in the country’s famed game parks and reserves.
Despite its rich heritage, the hotel’s best days may be behind it. Frequented mostly by wealthy customers — diplomats, government officials and top businesspeople — the hotel’s traditional clientele may now prefer newer establishments in quieter climes outside the city centre.
Its once strategic location may now be part of its undoing.
Tucked between the Kenya National Archives on one side and a bus terminus on another, and given the heavy human traffic around it, the iconic hotel is now caught in the vortex of bedlam.
The chaotic environment around it may have chipped heavily at the hotel’s lustre, pushing it well over the hill.
With the December 31 sunset, the five-star establishment that boasts 287 guest rooms and six meeting rooms at the intersection of Moi Avenue and Mama Ngina Street will close its doors. Forever.