Shanty Town at Emoya Estates – Bloemfontein, South Africa - Atlas Obscura
Join us on an Atlas Obscura Trip in 2019 »

Bloemfontein, South Africa

Shanty Town at Emoya Estates

A shanty-themed luxury hotel provides the bohemian chic of extreme poverty without all the crime and hunger. 

Theme hotels all over the world provide guests with experiences ranging from ruling in medieval times to sleeping under the sea, but the Shanty Town at Emoya Estates may be the first hotel to offer the chance to live like the desperately poor. 

Emoya Estates is a South African luxury hotel and spa that offers visitors all the finest amenities money can buy, located in the middle of a lush game reserve featuring rhinos, lions, and giraffe. However for guests looking to get away from all the trappings of luxury travel (but not too far away), Emoya also offers the Shanty Town lodgings. Consisting of a small circle of sheet metal shacks meant to evoke the crime-ridden slums seen throughout urban South Africa, the themed rooms are billed as a unique experience (despite the tens of millions of impoverished citizens living in similar conditions).

Cobbled together from artfully mismatched pieces of corrugated steel, the small “informal settlement” on the game reserve provides outdoor metal stoves for each shack, as well as an authentic outdoor bathroom. However the lodgings are far from uncomfortable. Each reinforced shanty features fully-furnished interiors and the website is proud to proclaim, “This is the only Shanty Town in the world equipped with under-floor heating and wireless internet access!” A poverty theme park of sorts. 

Unlike the atmosphere of struggle and danger that exists for the millions of people living in real South African shanty towns, Emoya’s Shanty Town attempts to foster a warm vibe of back-to-basics community which, again according to the website is “ideal for team building, braais” and “fancy theme parties.” Shanty Town at Emoya Estates may be the nadir of class tourism, a place where people can pay more to pretend to have less.

Contributed by
Josh Josh
Edited by