Toasting to an Ancient City

By on September 22, 2016

During my younger rebellious and big headed days, my parents always made it a point to drag my siblings and I to the village every now and again. Part of the reason was because during the Christmas Holidays, prices of items around the city sky rocketed and the only way one would survive the festive season was to run away and hide in the village. When I grew older, I also learnt that the father and mother wanted us to connect with our roots more to discourage us from abandoning or forgetting our heritage.

Today, I am thankful they insisted on this ridiculous yearly ritual because it sort of curved out the cultural appreciation that I habour inside of me.

Whenever I travel, I want to experience as much foreign culture as possible in the food I eat, the drinks I take, the places I go to and basically my entire experience. Very recently, I was in Nairobi for a few days and as is always the case when I am in Nairobi, I spent my time at the Nairobi Serena Hotel. I do this mostly because I think they have the fastest Wifi in Nairobi but also because there is a killer morning sunrise view from some of the top floors at the Hotel.

As is always the case, if I am not gallivanting around in Nairobi, I will be down at the Hotel Bar – The Aksum Bar sipping away at some age old drink while contemplating life and whatnot.

Now if you don’t know about Aksum, the ancient Kingdom that existed sometime around 100–940 CE somewhere between Northern Ethiopia and parts of Eritrea, you might not understand why I often find myself spending hours in this bar.


Historically, the Aksumite Empire existed around 100–940 CE which was around the Iron Age period and it was a central place for trade and business between Ancient India and the Roman Empire. These Aksumites facilitated and developed the trade by minting their own currency. They had an extremely wealthy culture that was expressive and elaborate. There are historians who maintain that the Kingdom of Aksum is the resting place of the Biblical Ark of the Covenant. There are even stories that state that it was the home of the gorgeous Queen of Sheba.

Whatever the case, the History of the Aksum Kingdom is quite a wealthy one and one you can toast to.

And so when you walk into the Aksum Bar in Nairobi Serena Hotel, the first thing you will notice is the Ethiopian inspired set up. This Ethiopian themed bar is open right off the reception and its expanse covers an area that stretches towards the water gardens. If by any chance you prefer to take a seat at the counter (which is my personal favourite) the high rise chairs will enable you to look directly at historical icons from the Aksumite era. Before you order for your drink, you will find yourself marveling at the various images of ancient kings and queens from the Aksumite era, you will most likely find yourself reflecting on your own history, heritage and culture.

And while you are deep in thought, another patron might take the seat next to you and order something – on the rocks. Many people like their drinks on the rocks. And then this person will also gently turn their head around and observe the various wall paintings and roof hangings that tell a story of an ancient Kingdom that must have had great love for art.

Hanging from the ceiling are several gold edged umbrellas with various attractive colour combinations reminding you that the Aksumites were a colourful lot.  And then of course there are various little items that will constantly remind you that you are in a bar that seems to have been dug out of a hidden city from eons ago. You will notice various wonderful art and craft pieces from the era, spread across the bar and telling an artistic story of great Aksumite Kingdom.


At this point, you will most likely now turn to the bar counter to order for your own drink. And then the guy serving you at the other end will probably smile and ask what you are having. By now, you will have probably made up your mind to cancel all your other plans for the day – for obvious reasons.

The artistic expression of the Aksumites will now have you in its firm grip and you will wonder whether you are at a bar or at some Aksumite Museum of sorts.


But then you will remember that you came to get yourself a drink and the guy at the counter already asked what you are having so you will quickly turn back to the counter to finally make your order.

The range of drinks at the counter is quite elaborate too – either because the people from the Aksum Kingdom were good with their drinks or because they knew the value of making guests feel at home therefore went out of their way to have as many drinks on offer as possible. It is unlikely that the Aksumites had as many brands and type of drinks but the counter at the Aksum Bar in Nairobi Serena Hotel is rather fully stocked with local and international drink brands both soft and hard.

Some of the hard drinks glide down your throat with smoothness, ease and gentleness while others might scorch their way to your belly and leave behind a burning sensation that can only be cleared by taking another shot of the same poison. Basically, everyone is catered for. And for someone who defines themselves as a teetotaler and only takes coffee, juice or some such depressing drinks, there is a lot on offer as well.


Different cocktails, various unique coffees, several pastries as well as delicious snacks are all on offer at the Aksum Bar.

And in the event that you would like to watch something on the Tele, there are a number of Plasma Screen TVs off of which your eyes can feed as you drink or bite on something. Or as you quietly drink in the generations of Aksumite History in the bar.

The bar also features a well manicured garden terrace that occasionally hosts live performances and other colourful events. The musical person will feel at home here because there are Jazz Sessions every Thursday as well as Salsa on Saturday nights.

It might be difficult to sit down and and uncover all the coolness that the Aksum Kingdom had going but when you go to the Aksum Bar in Nairobi Serena Hotel Nairobi, you will be as close as one can get to experiencing a walk down historical memory lane. And once you are done with your drink, tell the guy at the counter ‘āmeseginalehu’ which is which is Amharic for Thank You.

“Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” ― James Baldwin

a.k.a Beewol
The Talkative Rocker
Follow @beewol on Twitter

All Photos were taken by my Kenyan friend ebulani who takes some of the most glorious and mind blowing pictures I have ever seen. You can see more of her wonderful work here

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