Zanzibar Getaway Spot: Xanadu Villas & Retreat


Xanadu Villas and Retreat in Zanzibar is a design lighthouse in a sea of mediocrity made up of cookie-cutter chain hotels littering the spice island’s revered coastline.

At first glance, Xanadu Villas & Retreat could be mistaken for a ’70s Bond film set – the extravagant “groovy pad” that serves as the villain’s hideout. (The large villa even looks as if it could fly into space!) There is something intangibly sensual about its abundant curves and palatial haremness of its Arabic influences. One would be very wrong to label it kitsch.

The cathedralesque thatch over the main pool dining area is made of makuti panels (the sun-dried leaves of the coconut palm), as tightly packed as fish scales on the inside, smooth and hairy as a prize dog’s coat on the outside. The walls are built of pink fossilised coral blocks. The floor planks, some furniture and all the windows and doors are made of mango wood taken from a hulking old sunken trading dhow, which could only be gradually removed piece by piece every day at low tide. Each plank was then carefully carved by machete to fit, jigsaw-like, into place. The curved boat ribs naturally formed the Arabic-style door and window frames.

The one private pool has, depending how you look at it or how much you’ve had to drink, a distinctive sculpture of sails/leaves/waves/surfboard/shapes flowing/curving/crashing/cruising over it. To top off the fanciful vision, one of the villa’s massive third-floor bedrooms has a huge shining metal multi-bladed turbine-looking looking fan in the cavernous roof space that cools the room’s occupants as they make their way up a curving staircase to a private plunge pool in a capsule on the fourth floor. Its wrapped curving roof has walls with a series of open slits, giving the feeling of looking through the teeth of a whale’s mouth or delightfully imprisoned in a concubine’s boudoir.

Fancy a stay at this dreamy oasis? Visit their website to book your stay.