Just over a hundred years ago, Satyagraha House was home to Gandhi – yes, Mohandas Gandhi himself lived in this house in the leafy suburb of Orchards from 1908 to 1909. It was here that the future Mahatma developed his concept of passive resistance or ‘Satyagraha’ in Sanskrit, hence the name. Steeped in history, this intimate ‘museum guesthouse’ with only seven bedrooms is probably one of the most profoundly peaceful in Joburg. Set in a quiet side street, literally a block away from the bustling, Afro-cosmopolitan vibe of Louis Botha Avenue, it’s a complete surprise to every visitor. Stepping inside its enveloping cocoon of peace, staff – all dressed in soothing white – have a knack of calming guests that I’ve never experienced before, so much so that I’ve now stayed twice and am hooked! Even the garden is an oasis of calm and for some reason, the pink magnolia tree is always in bloom, or about to bloom when I visit.
Researched, renovated and restored by a historian, curator, architect and two interior designers, the love and care that has gone into preserving this precious historical site – now a listed building – is extraordinary. Even more so, that it is shared with guests who spend the night in a museum, eating breakfast where Gandhi did, pausing for reflection in the library or sitting under the magnolia tree and reading his wise words etched in concrete on the walls behind. Built in the style of a ‘kraal’, the original thatched rondavels remain as is, but a modern wing of rooms was added in 2010. Like the original home, the style is pared down – almost monastic but with every modern day comfort such as geothermal underfloor heating and low-energy lighting. Historic books and writings by Gandhi are set at your bedside, and even the bathrooms evoke his way of life – down to the simple copper pipes that offset the black fittings chosen by the French interiors team. And typically holistic and harmonious in their thinking, guests are also offered introductory courses on meditation and yoga as well as a tea ceremony, making it one of the few lived-in museums that seamlessly evoke a spirit of place.
What we love:
- That you can order dinner – wonderful if you’re travelling on your own. It’s vegetarian and mostly grown in the kitchen garden or ordered from local fair-trade suppliers. I sat next to the fire in the living room one night and enjoyed a delicious three course meal and cleansing tea.
- That you can book a healing Africology spa treatment here.
- The Kallenbach Cottage is ideal for families and has recently been refurbished. It has two separate bedrooms that open onto an open-thatched living room with a fireplace. The two cottage bedrooms have disabled access.
Need to know:
- The Satyagraha House is in a secure street, with a full time guard on duty at the boom.
- The team will assist with historical tours of Joburg if you’re interested in following Gandhi’s footsteps, or will connect you with some of Joburg’s best guides.
- It’s about 20 minutes to the airport in off-peak traffic.
- There’s no tv or alcohol here, but there is wifi.