Monica Cheru-Mpambawashe Lifestyle Editor
Zimbabwe is beautiful. Sometimes us natives tend to forget just how much so as give in to the pressure of the daily grind. That is when you need to go out and about with people seeing the country through fresh eyes in order to appreciate the treasures around us. It was my pleasure to go through this experience recently when I found myself revisiting a place I have been to before and looking at it as for the first time.
Just a short drive from Chisipite shopping centre, up a gentle slope lies Imba Matombo, a place where the English countryside meets traditional African splendour. Founded by one Sir John Ford in 1994 starting with a huge stone lodge which gave the hotel its name Imba Matombo translates into “house stones. The place quickly established itself as an exclusive destination for the discerning visitor harbouring a yearning for solitude, peace and lovely vistas without having to leave the convenience of Harare.
“Sir Ford then left the country but the hotel has retained its original ambience and we are determined to keep the charm,” said Johnson, the young and very friendly manager. He has been in charge for a year. Like all good hotel managers, he favours the hands on approach and takes personal interest in the welfare of the visitor.
“I have been to the Eastern Highlands, in Vumba and Chimanimani, yes? It is very lovely there. So I am surprised that there is also such natural perfection here in Harare. Once you enter the gate it is like you are in a different part of the country,” said a visitor to the country who says he was booked into Imba Matombo by a local associate and expected it to be just another city hotel.
He said he loved the anonymity offered by the location which is far from the madding crowd. The hotel has hosted famous faces including CNN’s Christian Amanpour.
The main building is evocative of thatched graceful colonial era mansions with its pristine white walls and wooden finishings. Seated under one of the tent gazebos with side nettings on the front lawn, the pool almost looks like an infinity one as the view cascades naturally into the greenery and thatch of the lower buildings.
Next to the pool is a games room where a masseuse is currently offering complimentary massages for patrons. The front part is ideal for those from the neighbourhood wanting a “local” with that bit of class that is suitable for the whole family. Imba Matombo offers a well-stocked bar and dining facilities. The cuisine is mostly English. Chef Mike formerly of St Elmo’s is in charge and there are plans to introduce a more eclectic menu to cater for a wider gamut of tastes. Prices are standard for its class with meals costing between $10 and $20 for the main course.
Inside the reception rooms, one is immediately struck by the harmony of Zimbabwe’s diverse cultural heritages. The English country manor theme is perfectly at home in its setting, aided by beautiful Shona sculpture and other artworks that could only come from this part of the world. A beautiful black and white image of gumboots dancers above the door leading from the dining room to the lounge shows the decorator’s eye for beauty with no boundaries. Gumboots dance is an art form that developed in the mines of South African mines as migrant workers entertained themselves.
The hotel offers conference and accommodation facilities for limited numbers and also does events with the capacity to host weddings for up to 500 guests.
“We have 15 rooms at the moment but we are planning to add a few more.
“We offer tennis court weddings. We cover the court with tents and the client chooses whether to have a covered floor or not. But most opt for the tennis court floor to really capture the ambience,” said the manager.
Looking out from some of the back facing rooms one can be forgiven for imagining themselves to have been magically transposed into the Eastern highlands. All that meets the eye is dense wood as the ground sharply gives way to an almost hidden valley.
The only sign of human endeavour is a low stone wall which looks like it belongs there. Or at least like it has been there since time immemorial.
Many such gems are scattered around Zimbabwe, like pearls waiting to be picked. — [email protected]