Steytlerville in the Karoo used to be mainly famous for its superb mohair. Now there’s a revamped old hotel just outside the town that’s causing a stir and bringing in guests from all over the world with its weekend cabaret acts and general Art Deco mien. Welcome to the Karroo Theatrical Hotel!

Did you know?

Every Saturday night Jacques Rabie becomes Dame Leyla Lemborjini in her Karroo Theatrical Hotel show.

The slightly raffish Karroo Theatrical Hotel overlooks the dusty town of Steytlerville in the Eastern Cape. Its shape is that of an Art Deco flat cake and inside, well, if you don't like outrageously camp cabaret acts on Saturday nights, you're advised to find somewhere more genteel to stay over.

But for many travellers, it's just the kind of eccentric humour that hits the spot out here in the Karoo heartland, where the harsh conditions often make living a very serious matter.

The hotel comes with its own colourful history. A century ago, Steytlerville was a rip-roaring town where one of the church counsellor's sons took his partying to heart. So much so, that alcohol was completely banned from the town.

In 1943, there was a gentle revolt against this long-standing temperance bylaw, which resulted in The Karroo Hotel being built just outside the municipal boundary.

The Karroo Hotel went through some tough times and picked up a reputation for being less than savoury. Then two creative musicians, Mark Hinds and Jacques Rabie, came up from Tulbagh in the Western Cape and bought the place.

After a pile of investment, a lot of sweat equity and some pretty nifty furnishings, the sad old spot became an Art Deco oasis in the desert.

In its new guise as The Karroo Theatrical Hotel, Mark and Jacques stage some pretty colourful cabaret shows every weekend. This is what a guest called David Moore had to say about the place:

'It is as fantastic as Sun City, but intimate and insane; it is remote as Pofadder but with style and a great sense of fun. It is as hip as the hippest spot but twice as cool ...'

Another guest, Andries Botha, said:

'I am always touched when value, love and care are added. [This] establishment is such an oasis ...'

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Karroo Theatrical Hotel
Tel: +27 (0)49 835 0010
Cell: +27 (0) 72 424 7185
Email: info@karroohotel.co.za

How to get here

In the southern region of the Eastern Cape, on the R329 between Willowmore and Addo. It lies approx. 170km west of Port Elizabeth. The hotel is approx. 5km south of the town.

Best time to visit

It's very important that you book ahead. The management do not encourage walk-ins.

Around the area

Addo Elephant National Park to the east, the Willowmore entrance to the Baviaanskloof Wilderness to the west, and Graaff-Reinet to the north.

Tours to do

Visit the town of Steytlerville and pop in at their information office.

Get around

In this part of the Karoo, self-drive is the most advisable option.

What will it cost

R390 per person sharing per night (includes a buffet breakfast); R510 per person per night for singles. On Saturdays, you can opt to pay R590 per person per night sharing for the three-course dinner, cabaret show, bed and breakfast, or R710 single supplement.

Length of stay

Stay for a night. The Karroo Theatrical Hotel is a good base for a weekend stay, or two nights in mid-week. Once you've explored the town, you can branch out on day drives.

What to pack

Informal clothes, mostly. Something semi-formal for the cabaret evening.

Where to stay

The Karroo Theatrical Hotel.

What to eat

Jacques the drag artist is also the hotel chef, and he has a special way of doing Karoo lamb.

Best buys

Sheepskin slippers and mohair products in neighbouring Jansenville.