Queen’s East Africa abodes chart different paths

Treetops Lodge where Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II stayed the night her father, the King, died and became Queen in 1952, in Aberdare National Park in Nyeri County.  PHOTO/AFP

What you need to know:

  • Princess Elizabeth acceded to the throne at Nyeri’s Treetops, having initially sojourned at Soy Club in the Great Rift Valley.

The contrast could not be more stark. Whilst Soy Club (in the rift valley region of Kenya) and Treetops Hotel (in the central highlands of Kenya) where Princess Elizabeth holidayed with Prince Philip in 1952 remain in pristine conditions, Ripon Hotel (in the old industrial Ugandan town of Jinja) is almost obliterated by cobwebs.

Mr James Maina of Soy Club shows a picture of Queen Elizabeth II inside Room 20, where the Queen put up during a trip to Kenya in 1952.  PHOTO/JARED NYATAHA

The nerve-jangling visuals of a corn field encircling Queen Elizabeth II’s abode during her visit to Uganda in 1954 have stood oddly against those of Soy Club and Treetops Hotel in idyllic surroundings across the border. 

Princess Elizabeth acceded to the throne at Nyeri’s Treetops, having initially sojourned at Soy Club in the Great Rift Valley.

When she proceeded with astonishing grace and composure to mount the ladder at Treetops on February 5, 1952, her status as a princess was intact. Upon the death of King George VI on February 6, 1952, she descended the ladder conscious of her metamorphosis to queen. Prince Philip also morphed to the Duke of Edinburgh.

Ripon Hotel in Jinja City where Queen Elizabeth II stayed during her visit to Uganda in 1954.  PHOTO/FILE

This assured Treetops a seminal slice of history that has been jealously guarded. The room where they  stayed was—perhaps unsurprisingly—christened the Princess’ Suite.
“Most guests who visit are [eager] to see the Queen’s room. She is the one who made this lodge to be known all over the world,” Mr Amos Ndegwa, a ranger at the lodge, told Daily Nation a day after Queen Elizabeth II’s death at Balmoral brought down the curtain on Great Britain’s second Elizabethan era.

Soy Club, where Princess Elizabeth stayed before departing for Nyeri’s Treetops, is also immaculately kept to date. Not least Room 20—the villa where the prince and princess stayed, which retains its old trappings.

“This place is a jewel like no other. It is rich in history that it is unrivalled,” Mr Henry Mulusa, a manager at Soy Club, said of Room 20 in a September 9 interview with Daily Nation.

The same cannot be said of the hotel where Queen Elizabeth II let her hair down before and after the commissioning of Owen Falls Dam in 1954. The palatial hotel that towered over Jinja Sailing Club on Nile Crescent is a shadow of its past illustrious self. The hotel—or, more accurately, what little is left of it—squats rather awkwardly in what has since become a corn field.

This publication last weekend quoted a source saying that “the property was sold off when hotels owned by the government across the country were privatised.”

Mr Daudi Migereko, the chairperson of the Uganda Tourism Board, told us that he hopes the hotel (if it can be called that!) can overcome its troubled present and leverage on its rich past to guarantee its future.
No one, though, is holding their breath.


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