luxe - Hotel Polana, Maputo
Written by Mark Eveleigh
Known as one of the ‘Grandes Dames’ of Africa, Maputo’s Hotel Polana is celebrating her 90th birthday, but continues to hold her own among a list of the world’s finest hotels.
The Mozambique capital is a cultural melting pot where a strong Bantu and colonial Indian Ocean heritage was enriched with Arabian, Indian, and Chinese influences. As befits one of the greatest historical institutions of this fascinating city, Hotel Polana celebrates all facets of Maputo’s cultural mélange.
The Polana was built in 1922, in the fashionable ‘palace style,’ by the English architect Sir Herbert Baker. This Lourenço Marques (as the city was known) gem was the talk of the international glitterati everywhere from Shanghai to Chicago, and refused to tip its hat even to the likes of Singapore’s Raffles and the Paris Ritz. During World War II the Polana gained further romantic notoriety as one of the world’s most colourful hives of espionage, before slipping into a period where she slumped into a sort of mild decadence.
In 2002, extensive renovation began and the ‘grande dame’ of Mozambique has now received a very respectful and sensitive facelift, courtesy of a team of local craftsmen and artisans funded by the Aga Khan Foundation for Economic Development. From the smartly tunic-clad doormen to the manicured waterfront lawns, this regal 142-room hotel has now been blessed with all the accessories of a world-class luxury hotel. While the classic ambience has been preserved with the use of traditional fabrics and Indo-Portuguese-style wood-carving in the rooms, guests also benefit from such modern conveniences as iPod docking stations, free 24-hour Internet access, state-of-the-art business and conference centres and a wonderful range of restaurants.
The Maisha Mind Body and Spirit Spa and gym – and one of Africa’s most spectacular swimming pools – are the perfect place to work off some of the pounds that would otherwise be an inescapable result of fine dining, Polana style.
The old ‘grande dame’ of Mozambique provides all the inspiration you could need to stay in sprightly trim into your nineties.
As with its design and décor, the Hotel Polana’s dining experience is truly pan-global. You can feast on fine French cuisine at the Delagoa restaurant, Japanese at the Aquarius Sushi Bar, international fusion at the Polana Bar and Indian Ocean seafood specialities at the all-day Varanda Restaurant. In what is perhaps a unique experience in Africa, Sunday lunch is even celebrated in grand style at the varanda with delicious Brazilian feijoada stew.