Ayesha Manzil, an old Heritage mansion, sits on a hill with a close view of the warm Arabian sea.
It was built by an Englishmen, who was one of the first to set up the East India Trading Office, trading spices from the port of Tellicherry. Pepper, the main sought-after commodity was grown nearby, as well as cinnamon bark and cardamom. These spices along with coffee were stored in the old Portuguese fort until they were ready to be shipped. In those days, the Malabar coast was the epicenter of the spice route, and no other community makes better use of those spices that the Mopillah, the Muslims of North Kerala.
C. P. Moosa’s grandfather took the house over in the 1800s—Moosa has lived there his entire life and, at 60, it seems nothing has changed. Not the furniture, the fans, nor his way of welcoming guests. He pioneered the “home stay” here in India 17 years ago, now especially popular in the south. “There were no good places to stop and eat between Mysore and Cochin,” he says, “so I offered my home.”
As a hotelier, Moosa knew the business of taking care of people and what needed to be done. His wife Faiza, an accomplished cook with passion, also liked the idea of offering cooking classes to weary travelers as a window into the local culture. Together they make fine hosts. Their staff is comprised of a handful of local men who do everything from set the table, do the books, the laundry, and serve tea.