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Did Obama stay at the luxurious Villa Rosa Kempinski hotel?

Wherever the President of the United States of America travels, life as the people there know it, comes to a standstill.

Staff members of one of Kenya’s top-notch hotels, the Villa Rosa Kempinski, Nairobi, experienced the true meaning of this observation first hand when President Barack Obama was in town last weekend.

Although the hotel’s general manager could not confirm whether President Obama spent two nights at the hotel, the workers were more than willing to share their experience on the brief encounter with Mr Obama.

“I cannot confirm if he slept here or not because I am not at liberty to discuss our guests and their stay at the hotel,” said General Manager Manish Nambiar.

PRESIDENT’S STAY

However, he said that the hotel had made the necessary security and logistics arrangements required to make the US president’s stay memorable and comfortable.

The Presidential Suite costs Sh2.34 million a night. PHOTO | COURTESY
The Presidential Suite at the Villa Rosa Kempinski hotel. PHOTO | COURTESY

“I cannot get into the security details, but this is not the first time we hosted a sitting president. We have hosted about 12 presidents in the past one and a half years, so we were prepared,” he says.

Nairobi occasionally hosts regional heads of State whenever they travel for meetings.

Interviews with other staff members indicated that Mr Obama might have spent two nights at the hotel.

the establishment was heavily guarded throughout the US leader’s stay in Nairobi.

It also hosted Mr Obama’s family dinner on the night he arrived in the country.

When other Kenyans were glued to their TV sets watching the live coverage of President Obama’s arrival aboard Air Force One, staff at the Villa Rosa Kempinski were buttoning up their jackets, smoothing out their starched uniforms and generally readying themselves to receive their most important guest, President Barack Obama.

OBAMA’S DINNER

And as Kenyans were tweeting about Mr Obama’s arrival, the staff at Villa Rosa were polishing their best China, setting the tables in the dining area and shuffling in and out of their kitchens, all in readiness for Mr Obama’s dinner with close family members.

One of the living rooms in the Presidential Suite. PHOTO | COURTESY
One of the living rooms in the Presidential Suite. PHOTO | COURTESY

Hotel staff who spoke on condition of anonymity said that the preparations to host President Obama began two months ago and were stepped up as his visit neared.

Security was scaled up days before his arrival and members of the secret service trooped in to prepare the way for the world’s most powerful man.

“The Americans took over everything. We were just spectators,” said one of the staff members. “One of our chefs cooked his food but Obama’s special chef was here to make sure everything went well,” they added.

The President’s personal chef, a man whom the hotel staff saw only hours before Mr Obama’s grand return home, took over and managed the kitchen at the Villa Rosa Kempinski.

REPORT FOR DUTY

All permanent staff, even those who were off-duty, were asked to report for duty during the “Obama Weekend”.

“We were told to be on standby,” says another staff member.

When Mr Obama left the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for the city centre, the staff were alerted and told the president would be arriving “any moment from now”.

Indeed, he arrived minutes after he landed in the country and went into the hotel.

He headed straight to the Café Villa Rosa, a magnificent dining area with voluminous bejewelled crystal chandeliers, and a vast buffet area.

He was flanked by family members, among them his grandmother Mama Sarah Obama, Uncle Saidi Obama and sister Auma Obama.

Although all members of staff were on duty during his short stay at the hotel, few met him.

NO PHOTOS

The staff could only watch from their assigned stations as they were not allowed to use their mobile phones or take any photos during the Obama family dinner.

“We were told to stay in one place. We only saw him walk in, eat and walk out in a hurry,” says a staff member.

The only people who got into contact with Obama was the appointed local chef and the director of the hotel, who served Mr Obama and his close relatives.

Whether Mr Obama slept at the hotel’s presidential suite remains a mystery.

Kempinski’s presidential suite hit the news early this year when the hotel offered a discounted price of Sh2.3m for couples to spend one night on Valentine’s Day in what was christened as “The night of Diamonds”.

SOURCE: Daily Nation