by Ginger Mauney
The story of The Roof of Africa Hotel and Travel Centre, echoing the story of Africa, is one of evolution. Fourteen years ago, Torsten Krumnow opened The Roof of Africa in Windhoek as a simple, relaxed place that provided accommodation for backpackers. Five years later he started to expand, buying the adjoining property, adding new rooms while upgrading the existing ones, and turning the backpackers’ accommodation into a comfortable guesthouse.
In 2005 a conference centre was opened at The Roof of Africa and the upgrading of facilities continued. Early in 2006, The Roof of Africa was registered as an official hotel, completing its evolution, at least for the time being.
Meeting Torsten Krumnow, who still owns and manages the hotel with his wife, Terri, one has the sense that the evolution will continue. The relaxed, natural atmosphere reflects the owner’s personal style, just as the blending of European with African styles reflects his background.
At the hub of The Roof of Africa is a large, thatched-roof complex that houses reception, the dining area and bar. With a clientele that is a mixture of businesspeople and tourists, the area provides the ideal setting for mingling and sharing stories about travels and home towns while dining, enjoying a drink at the bar or having a game of pool.
The style is somewhat rustic, with the main building reflecting this overall theme. “German construction workers used traditional materials and methods like wood and pegs, but the raw materials were from Africa. In Germany the wooden poles would be square, but here they are rounded. The roof is thatched and the mats on the ceiling are made of reeds from the Kavango. This is what we try to do at The Roof of Africa – combine European tradition with African roots.”
Torsten has strived to create an atmosphere unlike that of a typical hotel. The detail is simple with animal images etched into steel lights, skylights in the thatched roof, and large trees that were left standing inside the main structure. Contributing to the relaxed atmosphere is the fact that breakfast and lunch are à la carte and there are no set meal times. “If you want to sleep in and come for breakfast at noon, you can. Fresh food will be served to your table without your having to stand in line,” adds Krumnow.
Dinners are a buffet with a mixture of European, African and Asian foods with different elements providing variety to the buffet every night. There is also a very popular salad buffet, and dessert is served to guests at their tables. The German-trained chef prepares the meals with fresh ingredients, using no artificial components or additives. After dinner, guests can relax at the bar, which is open until midnight.
The relaxed atmosphere continues outdoors. At the centre of a lovely garden is a swimming pool, which is heated in the winter. Nearby is a shaded seating area, providing yet another place for guests to relax. A duck pond in the courtyard and a menagerie of small, domestic animals complete the peaceful feeling of the garden.
There is a total of twenty-four guestrooms, all positioned around the pool garden. Of these, nineteen are standard, providing double or single accommodation, one is a family room that sleeps six people and two are larger, deluxe rooms with a kitchenette, shower and bath sleeping two to four people. Additionally, there are two large luxury rooms with a sitting area, a kitchenette with refrigerator, and a graceful chandelier hanging from the vaulted ceiling. The bathrooms are luxurious with steel, glass and chrome fittings, lovely granite floors in colours of the desert, and under-floor heating.
The rooms are simple, yet stylishly furnished with natural colours and fabrics. All rooms have satellite television, direct-dial telephones, coffee- and tea-making facilities, hairdryers, air-conditioning, under-floor heating, and safes for valuables. Access to an Internet computer is found in the main reception area.
The new Conference Centre also opens onto the garden. Inside there is seating for up to 100 people and the hotel provides coffee and tea breaks as well as lunch for delegates. Krumnow, who studied electronics, made sure that the Conference Centre was a complete, self-contained centre that would fulfil the needs of businesspeople. There is a quality surround-sound system, computer, data projector, microphone and a DVD and video player. Conference attendees can plug their memory sticks or camera cards into the equipment and start working. All these amenities are included in the price, so there will be no worries about hidden costs.
The Roof of Africa also has its own Travel Centre – an on-site agency that organises safari tours, care hire and tour planning. Terri Krumnow runs this part of the business.
Eight years after founding The Roof of Africa and overseeing its evolution from a backpacker’s inn to a guesthouse and now a certified hotel, Torsten Krumnow still lives on site, directing the management of the hotel and, no doubt, dreaming of ways to continue the evolution.
This article appeared in the April ‘06 edition of Travel News Namibia.