Liz Hotel: Rich memoirs going under

The Sunday Mail

THE glory has departed.

News that the iconic Elizabeth Hotel, nestled among Robert Mugabe Road, Julius Nyerere Way, Inez Terrace and Rezende Street, at the heart of the city of Harare is up for grabs made sad reading.

Sad indeed because apart from its imposing beauty which illuminated the city, the decision to sell the grand hotel, itself named after the Queen of England, threatens to distort the history of Harare.

No narration of the history of showbiz in Harare in particular and the country in general can be complete without mention of the landmark, Elizabeth Hotel.

Celebrated musical groups and artistes, alive and gone, strummed their guitars, blew their saxophones and sang in the hotel.

Thomas Mapfumo, Nicholas Zakaria, the late Pio Farai Macheka, the late John “Mr 10 days Under water” Bunga, the late Cephas Mashakada, the late Marshall Munhumumwe, the late Safiro “Mukadota” Madzikatire, the late Oliver Mtukudzi and many other musical groups had a bond with the hotel.

There is a section of the hotel that made for brilliant photo opportunities which seemed out of this world. This is set to go with the sale of the hotel.

While growing up in the dusty streets of Glen Norah, eating breakfast and enjoying beer from a hotel was perceived as a measure of success and sophistication.

To appear in vogue, we would religiously wear dry-cleaned suits every Saturday morning with a few friends to enjoy breakfast at Elizabeth Hotel.

We would occasionally book rooms and spend the night taking photographs of ourselves in the hotel.

On days when the pocket was low in terms of disposable income, we would contend with the Star Bar, which up to this day, is still running.

There was a jukebox in one corner and a carpeted lounge where we would dance and feel really on top of the world making people dance to music of their choice.

“Vakadziya vanonwira muhotera (The boys are hot, they drink beer from a hotel),” is the sort of comment we made the regular visits to the hotel for.

News that Liz Hotel is up for grabs reminded this writer of the many friends he made and incidents where he lost his books during his college days after taking one too many in the hotel.

Fights occasionally broke out at the hotel.

It was not unusual to walk into the hotel to find men fighting over a girlfriend or to find a woman looking for her husband who would have abandoned the family in the ghetto to enjoy quality time at the hotel.

Turf wars also occasionally broke out as boys from Glen Norah, Glen View, Mufakose, Mbare, Highfield, Mabvuku and Kambuzuma fought for dominion.

As I commit pen to paper gentle reader, there are many students who wrote theses on the contribution the hotel made to showbiz in Zimbabwe.

During the days when the capital faced teething transport challenges, people would while their time at the hotel until the volumes of commuters had thinned.

During riots some people too would book into Liz Hotel to seek refuge.

There were, however, disturbing reports of the hotel being a notorious haven for women of easy virtue.

When father time takes its toll and an investor sees no business sense in keeping an asset we are sometimes left with no choice than to say: “It was good while it lasted.”

Inotambika mughetto.

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