Hemingways is one of the most recognizable luxury hotel brands in Kenya and East Africa. It boasts high-end properties spread across Kenya’s hottest travel destinations, including the capital Nairobi, Watamu at the Coast and the Maasai Mara in Narok county.
Behind the Hemingways empire is Richard ‘Dicky’ Evans, an Englishman who first came to East Africa in the late 60’s. In 1967, a year after he graduated from Kings College in London, Dicky landed a job as a consulting engineer for the United Nations and the World Bank and was posted to Uganda to work on the water supplies in Jinja and Kampala two years later.
While working in Uganda, he visited Kenya’s coast and fell in love with Watamu. An avid sportsman, Dicky would come to Kenya to play with the country’s rugby team but loved the white sandy beaches, fishing and luxurious resorts.
In 1971, he was forced to flee from Uganda at the height of dictator Idi Amin’s brutal rule.
Richard holds a degree in Civil Engineering from Kings College, London, and is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Civil Engineers and a Fellow of the Institute of Water Engineers and Scientists, UK. He had begun lecturing at Makerere University in Uganda.
Evans has recalled in past interviews that some of his colleagues in Makerere University’s Engineering Department were murdered by Amin’s government after he took power in January 1971. He went back to England but soon returned to East Africa in June 1971, this time headed to Kenya, where he worked on a number of engineering projects and ventured into business.
In 1983, Richard established Flamingo Holdings which grew into East Africa’s leading horticulture exporter, and eventually sold it to James Finlay’s in 2008.
Back in the 80’s in Watamu, Dicky also struck a deal a British war hero to sell him 22 acres where Seafarers Hotel, a small hotel more popular with locals than tourists, stood. He undertook massive renovations and renamed it Hemingways after the famous author. By 1988, it was one of the hottest hotels in the area.
He has since undertaken massive redevelopment of the property. Besides hotel rooms, Hemingways Watamu currently also includes 21 luxury apartments of one, two and four bedrooms, valued at between Ksh45 million and Ksh140 million each.
The total Hemingways Collection investment portfolio is valued north of Ksh6 billion. The group’s properties include Hemingways Nairobi, Hemingways Ol Seki Mara, Hemingways Watamu and Hemingways Eden Residence in Karen, Nairobi. Simba Corporation, the company associated with the wealthy Popat family, notably acquired a 35% stake in the hotel group.