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!

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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 ...'

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