I’m a girl from the North. Well, it doesn’t matter whether it’s North Horr or the North Frontier District (NFD) also known as North Eastern region. It doesn’t matter because in Marsabit they recognize me as their own.
The people from the North have one thing in common, they are all pastoralists. We get to move around a lot and we don’t catch feelings about who occupies the space we left. We are always in search of greener pastures for our livestock. Somewhere along archers post where the famous gigantic Mt. Ololokwe stands elegantly, I had a small chat with a Samburu man who was grazing his cattle around that area. He told me there is a belief among his people that cows are of more value to them than humans. “If by any chance a car or a truck hit his cow that will definitely cause an inter-tribal clash among the communities living around that area thereby risking the lives of the travelers on that route.
Two times I have traveled to Marsabit to hunt for stories on Female Genital Cut. The pastoral community in Kenya has the highest prevalence with the Somalis recording a high of 97.6 percent. The first time my trip was sponsored by an NGO that took care of my travel and accommodation, unlike the recent trip which I had to budget for. (I will share a list at the end of the article).
That said, there are some few stereotypes that need to be demystified.
Marsabit unlike other parts of the North is Mostly Misty and chilly
This area is surrounded by mountains, therefore, it is always safe to pack warm clothes.
2. Marsabit embraces diversity
Marsabit is occupied by members of four different communities; The Rendille, Borana, Gabbra, and Turkana. Unlike the common stereotype that the majority of the populace is Muslim, there are as many Christians as Muslims so are the places of worship.
NB: It’s hard to tell who is who especially among girls and women since all of them cover themselves fully in deera, buibui, and hijab.
It’s advisable to respect the culture of the people by dressing modestly. Deeras are relatively cheap (they go for 600 shillings), so just try and blend in.
Those two points should be in your list of things to remember; Carry warm clothes and respect the culture of the people living in the area.
Fun fact: Marsabit is one of the cleanest towns I have seen in all my travels. Residents are conscious about their environment and the place is unbelievably clean of any kind of trash.
I sampled restaurants in Marsabit town and I came to a conclusion that food is damn expensive in this area. A plate of rice and Aleso (boiled goat meat) or Arosto (Rice and Fried goat) cost an average of 450 shillings (you can have chapati but if you are out to sample Cushitic food then you’ll have to dig deep into your pocket).
Marsabit National Park
I hope no Kenyan politician who is fond of grabbing fertile virgin land discovers Marsabit. Marsabit National Park is a densely forested mountain that has three crater lakes (I got to see only one). It provides a haven for a variety of birdlife, mammals, and reptiles. The park is a refuge for huge tusked bull elephants, diverse birdlife, and reptiles. If you have been to Nairobi National Museum, you must have seen a monument of Ahmed (the only elephant that was protected under presidential decree during Jomo’s term in office).
You can get to enjoy the view of the crater from your room which is within the park. A single room at Marsabit lodge goes for 4500 (bed and breakfast) while a double room goes for 7500.
(We were not allowed to take photos of the rooms but they looked quite decent and comfortable. The only thing I felt anxious about was the dense forest that surrounded the lodge; it can attract snakes and other funny scary creatures).
TRANSPORT TO AND FROM NAIROBI
You can book a seat with Maiso shuttle in the CBD (near where travelers book tickets to Arusha). A comfortable 14 seater. The standard price is 1500 shillings per person from Nairobi to Marsabit. When coming to Nairobi town I would recommend you book a seat with Moyale Raha (if you are planning to travel back at night by bus). The cost is the same.
PS: Please carry with you your ID or Passport. Buses are stopped at checkpoints and police demand to check identification documents for security purpose.
I slept at Imperial Dale Hotel and the price for bed and breakfast was 1500 which was fair compared to other hotels in the vicinity that charged customers 2500 for the same. What I loved the most about the hotel was the hot shower. Food was average while WIFI was excruciatingly slow.
Music is not a subject I’m allowed to talk about; especially on public platforms.
I have not been to a live concert before Safaricom Jazz Fest. This was part of an assignment for a client. I had to convince my parents why it was really important for me to leave the house on a public holiday. The night before the fest my mother and I were preparing food in the kitchen when I told her out of the blues I will be leaving for work the next day.
Normally….no one leaves the house on public holidays and weekends. They are not sacred days. No. It’s just what it is.
My mother stopped what she was doing and turned to my direction. I tried acting like avocado seeds are also peeled. I knew I was in trouble so I just turned and said I know.
I know we never leave the house on public holidays. I am telling you this because I know you can talk to baba.
It’s work stuff mum. More like freelancing. It’s not like one of those free gigs I did while in campus. I get paid for those hours I work.
You know what, leave the avocados, your sister will do the rest. Go and tell your father what you just told me and see if he agrees.
Any way! That’s a story for another day.
I managed to go for the fest…the rest can bury itself.
Eastleigh is a city on its own. Populated by Somalis (mostly) in their thousands (both citizens & immigrants) was christened little Mogadishu by locals. Some say it’s because it’s populated by Somali immigrants from Somalia.
That may be true in a way but also you cannot ignore the hundreds of Somalis from North Eastern part of Kenya who make trips to Eastleigh every other day.
My trip to Wajir was an eye-opener. I discovered that there are middlemen who transport goods to and from Eastleigh from various parts of North Eastern. This happens on a daily basis (specifically at night). High temperatures during the day cannot allow for a smooth journey lest you risk a tyre bust.
Every weekend hoyo lulu (mother) and I have to go to Eastleigh. It’s like faradh (a compulsory prayer). Hoyo’s wardrobe has all kinds of catar (a small concentrated perfume) most Kenyans identify Somalis by the scent from the Catar saying “All wariah’s have the same scent”.
By the way, Kenyans should be curious enough to ask what Wariah means because Wariyahe is a word used to refer to a boy. Now you know, so don’t go around calling every Somali you meet “hawa Wariyah” (on a light note).
Back to hoyo lulu. She has to get an catar almost every other weekend. Abowo (Dad) is a patient man. He will park his car and buy a newspaper to keep him busy as we roam little mogadishu shopping and haggling with shop owners.
Every day is a business day in Eastleigh. The amount of dust and sweat you consume from the narrow paths on the busy streets is detrimental to one’s health. The narrow paths are battled for by people, cows and annoying motorbike riders who slap peoples backs when you resist paving the way.
Weekends are even crazier because of hundreds of hoyos like hoyo lulu who gather in Eastleigh from different parts of Nairobi like Fedha Estate, South C, and Hurlingham for different reasons. If you are not a mwenyeji in Eastleigh you can easily get lost. Almost all malls have shops with different items ranging from carpets to housewares to clothes for men, women, and children.
One has to be careful as you trek through the narrow paths. You have to hold your bags tightly like your life depends on it for security purposes. It’s a busy place so that’s the least you can do to be safe.
You can get almost anything you are looking for in Eastleigh. Traders in these city import goods from different parts of the world.
I always look forward to lunchtime. I am not a foodie really but a plate of baris with heleb ari (pilau and goat meat); the meat is tender and tasty and is also accompanied by bananas. Somalis and our love for Bananas is something else. We have bananas in all our meals. Yes, even breakfast. Different restaurants offer a variety of dishes. Some days I get Anjera Ethiopia on 12th street, other days I eat sambusas (30/-), nafaqa (20/-) (a fried potato that has an egg inside) and a hamburger (100/-). Most restaurants offer meals at an affordable price whilst the quantity and quality of food are worth your money.
When it comes to shopping, one can be spoilt for choice. There are traders who sell clothes rather cheaply outside the big malls. If not for their constant battle with the Kanjo (City Council) they would be in business every day.
The malls cater for a middle class and high tailored clients with an exquisite taste.
The haggles, the chats, and fights coming from every corner of the streets on weekends is what retains the magic of little Mogadishu. Perhaps one day; just one day the real Mogadishu will be peaceful and the Somali immigrant can go back and build it. I asked Ali not his real name, a vendor in Garissa Lodge and an immigrant from Mogadishu how life was before the war in Somali. He tells of the beautiful beaches, the busy streets occupied by traders of all kinds and the peaceful neighborhoods around town. Peace he says is everything. It is good for business, family and even a country, in general, he says as he packs for me my dirac (popular known as Deera). Deera in Eastleigh is relatively cheap. They go for a standard price of 400/-.
Little Mogadishu is the only place I have constantly been to since childhood for outings and shopping. It remains a favorite!
How to get to Little Mogadishu AKA Eastleigh:
If you are coming from town board a number 9 at Tuskys, Accra rd (Peak hours 100/-; Off-peak hours 50/-)
I hope you get to visit little Mogadishu. A place for all not just Wariahs!
The turn up at the World Cup trophy tour held at KICC was tremendous despite the current wave of heat in Nairobi.
The event was packed with loads of activities; Dance competition, FIFA games (PS), drinking competition (Coca-Cola) as well as performance by local artists.
I had a hard time trying to convince strangers to allow me to take photos of them. Check out some of the lucky portraits I was able to take with my phone. (PS: Thanks to all the kind humans who allowed me to take pictures of them).