The Exchanger Bar charms with its mysterious aura

The Exchange Bar at Stanley Hotel.

Photo credit: File Photo

We gathered in the stark empty bar with the ghosts of bearded colonists. It poured steadily outside. Not to paint this as a grim tale, because it wasn’t, it was very bohemian, actually. Very reflective.

It was myself, Ian, a creative director and a guy who lives in Houston Texas who is here on holiday. He struck me as a wildebeest that had strayed away from its herd and had been left behind. It was Sunday night and the Stanley Hotel was as silent as a tomb. At 10pm, the Exchange Bar was an hour away from closing. Houston was having a beer and was greatly fascinated with what I was drinking, Fernet-branca. He’d never heard of it.

“Does it really have alcohol? Why do you drink it?” We were waiting to do a job on the 8th floor. (That sounds very mysterious, dangerous and possibly illegal. And I will leave it at that.)

The bar was as empty as I have ever seen the Exchange Bar. The piano was silent. The deep leather seats seemed to have gathered around closely as if sharing the gossip of the day. One television was on but muted. A few lamps shone, giving the place a very mysterious feeling, a place one goes to scratch their souls.

The barman gave Houston the history of the bar dating back 1922 when it was called The Long Bar, and to 1954 the site of Nairobi’s stock exchange. The elegance, atmosphere and charm of the Exchange Bar endures.

Houston, who had moved to the US 20 years ago, lamented about the difficulties of living in America. “You make money, yes, but you don’t hold it. You never hold the dollar, like this.” He bunched his fist. “It comes and goes, it goes through you.”

I told him I’d not move to the US - or anywhere else - for any amount of money. Not at my age. “Too lonely,” I said. “And my runway is getting shorter.” Ian sipped his malt silently, his back to the big dark windows.

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