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Prepping for Kampala’s new Pearl of Africa Hotel – Chris Duncan’s new adventure

JOHANNESBURG — BizNews contributor Chris Duncan now finds himself heading out on a new African adventure. Amid the likes of cash-strapped SAA being forced to rationalise its routes, Duncan finds himself flying via Kenya Airways (and going through numerous stops) to get to a new job of his at a 5-star hotel in Kampala. He’ll be part of the team opening the new Pearl of Africa Hotel… – Gareth van Zyl

By Chris Duncan*

Would you be interested in a short contract opening a new 5-STAR boutique hotel in Kampala Uganda an agent asked me. With some haggling an arrangement was made and two weeks later here I am on my way.  East Africa is very different to the other side I was told and being on the aircraft for a few hours it is already noticeable. I do not see excited passengers ignoring instructions from the cabin crew and neither did I see oversized carry on baggage being forced into the overhead lockers. Everyone is quite calm except for the lady at the other end of the row who has obviously bought a new cell phone and is putting her camera through its paces, video from here, smiling face from there and most interesting was the fact that she put cover from her pillow over the window.  All rather entertaining, observing your fellow passengers.

So far so good although it is quite a journey with an interesting routing – Cape Town, Livingstone (Zambia), Nairobi (Kenya), Entebbe (Uganda) and then a 40km road trip to Kampala and I expect to reach the hotel at about three thirty tomorrow morning.

Flying Kenyan Airways, the usual meal in Africa – beef or chicken (and the chicken had not run out by row 13), a taste of my first Tusker beer, a little warm and slightly bitter but never the less refreshing. The aircraft is clean and crew are pleasant. Approaching Livingstone the mist of the Victoria Falls could be seen as headed toward the airfield with the Zambezi River below us, the terrain looking dry as our pilot nudged the aircraft over the perimeter fence and onto a smooth landing. We were the only aircraft at this lonely looking place, however the terminal buildings looked new as did the support vehicles. Here we sat on the ground for a while we were refueled with passengers being disembarked and loaded.

The brief – To open the Pearl of Africa Hotel in Kampala sometime during the course of September. This iconic looking hotel stands 24 stories tall on the highest hill in the city with construction having started way back in 2004. A new adventure waits with this property as we prepare to execute this opening. Timelines and dates are still be confirmed.

Pearl of Africa Hotel, Kampala, Uganda.
Pearl of Africa Hotel, Kampala, Uganda.

Onward we sped, the night sky from the right hand side illuminated by a waning moon, below the darkness of Africa sped by.

Descending into Nairobi followed by a lengthy layover finally before one the following morning we took off for Entebbe where we arrived an hour or so later.

A smiling driver met me with my name displayed and then another hour weaving through the dark unlit roads and I was finally at my destination, not before we were stopped at a checkpoint not far from the hotel as the president lives nearby with the road blocked with spikes and an armed soldier checked the drivers credentials.

Fourteen hours later, four countries and I was at my destination, impressed by the efficiencies of the Kenyan Airway, their timekeeping, a sense of pride and purpose prevailed.

The usual new hotel rooms, fancy lighting trying to figure out how the switches worked, let alone the shower configuration I finally got to sleep knowing that I would meet my new employers in a few hours time.

  • Chris Duncan is an international hotelier, raconteur, adventurer, lover of good food and wine.
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