Like a Phoenix from the Ashes, the Sea Cliff Will Rise Again! Well... in About a Year.
The Sea Cliff Hotel…
My haven of peace…
The most beautiful spot...
My recreation area of choice…
The place where I used to stay before I moved here…
The place from where I got to know Dar…
The place where the kids and I spend almost every Sunday, and some Saturdays, and sometimes two or more evenings a week…
The place that has come to represent much of what makes me happy about living in Dar…
The first place where I take all my visitors - to see the beautiful sea and feel the refreshing wind…
The place where, as I sit by the pool and enjoy a diet coke under a thatched hut, I tell anyone who will listen, “This is my life. Not bad, eh?”
Up in flames.
I spent the afternoon by the Sea Cliff pool yesterday – me, the kids, my friends Jane and Gunnar and their daughter, Mimi. And all the usual suspects – my pool buddies and their kids where there, too. It was a simply gorgeous day. We had a lovely time, relaxing, chatting, watching the kids play and enjoy the water. We stayed until almost 5 PM – for some reason reluctant to go – but the sun was going to be setting soon and I needed to get back to Yom Kippur services.
As Yom Kipper came to an end and I was enjoying some honey cake and sweet wine - sent to Dar by the Nairobi Jewish community - the first text message came. (I had just finished telling a newbie – a Jewish woman who had just moved to Dar – how much I loved it here and that I was sure that she would love it, too.)
“The Sea Cliff is on fire!”
And like a moth to a candle, I couldn’t stay away. I rushed over only to see the entire roof – made of thatching – on fire. Giant flames were spurred on by the sea winds.
Every fire truck in Dar was there.
But of course, there was no water. Evidently they tried to use the water from the pool. My pool. But it wasn’t enough.
Then the US Embassy and the Port of Dar and all the other institutions with water trucks sent what they had to the Sea Cliff. But by the time the water got to the fire (we have no public water system on most of the Peninsula) it was an hour after the fire started (in the kitchen behind the pool). It was too late to save the hotel.
In some ways – we (the community in Dar) are lucky. The Sea Cliff Village – the high end shopping area right next door – also with a thatched roof – was miraculously spared. The wind was blowing in just the right direction. And the Karembazi Café – the beautiful restaurant jutting out into the sea was also spared.
But my pool area is completely gone.
I went back again twice last night to watch it burn. I think I couldn’t believe it. I had to see it for myself. Me and about 1000 others – it was quite attraction.
And I went back again this AM – three times - to see it in the light of day. It doesn’t look good.
I can’t stop thinking about all the lovely Masaai doormen, the lovely housekeeping staff, the waiters by the pool and in the Calabash restaurant. They have no jobs now. They will no longer be a daily part of our lives. I’m sure it is a much bigger tragedy for them than it is me… but I can’t help but think about it in personal terms.
The Sea Cliff pool was my refuge. In my head it was synonymous with all that makes me happy here – the sunshine, the crashing sea, recreation, good friends, beautiful views, swimming, and feeling at home with myself and the place.
I’m so sad for my hotel and for myself. And then I think how can I be so sad for an inanimate object? For a hotel?
But I am. It is like a good friend has passed. Like a piece of me and my memory has been taken from me.
This morning I heard that the managers are telling everyone that they will start rebuilding right away.
Hopefully the hotel will be like the bionic man – rebuilt bigger, stronger, and better than before.
In the meantime I don’t know what Jaden, Rowan and I will do.
We will survive. But we won’t be happy. Our Sea Cliff Hotel is down for the count.