Inspired by the rich architectural tradition of the East African coast, the Serena Beach Hotel stretched along the Indian Ocean shoreline with the exotic appeal of an ancient Swahili town. The property was divided into picturesque clusters of whitewashed two- and three-story buildings, with a central core of elegant public spaces. The reception hall set the mood. Its intricately carved portal led into a cool soaring foyer with lush oriental rugs scattered about the gleaming stone floor. To the left of the entrance the wall behind the long marble-topped reception desk was covered with rows upon rows of letterbox-shaped slots, exact replicas of those found in the harems of Swahili homes until the 19 th century. Now, they made unusual key receptacles. On both sides of the hall, tall pillars led the eye to the far end of the building and the low staircase rising to a landing with a panoramic view of the sun-washed terraces and galleried lounges facing the palm-shaded beach and the cerulean blue sea beyond.
The pundit who declared that “happiness is a journey, not a destination” probably was not thinking of a twenty-four hour trip across two continents in airplanes booked to capacity; and clearly had never experienced the Maisha Spa upon arrival. That is precisely what I did on a recent visit to Kenya: no sooner had I settled into the Mombasa Serena Beach Hotel that I headed for its spa.