North to Coast: Travelling Through Time in Kenya
Go on an adventure and travel through time with me. Traverse the country from Turkana to the Coast, learning the stories behind the popular destinations along the way.
We start from the beautifully desolate Namoratunga Stone Site, north of Kenya in Turkana along the Lodwar- Kalokol Rd. Legend has it that a god disguised as a strange woman appeared at the Turkana tribe’s annual Edonga Dance. Her clothes were so bizarre the Turkana dancers began to laugh at her, despite her specifically asking them not to. In a rage, she turned everyone at the dance into stone as punishment for mocking her. The Borana used Namorotunga as an observation site, where they studied the stars and created the Borana Calendar (12 months, 354 day), around 300BC.
Next we go to Kenyatta House in Maralal, a small hillside market town within Samburu County, where President Uhuru Kenyatta was conceived and where his father Jomo Kenyatta spent the last year of his detention. After his release from Kapenguria prison in 1959, Jomo stayed here between April and August of 1961, with the colonial British government controlling his access to the outside world. Kenyatta House is now a museum.
The tragic story of Lord Egerton and Lady Victoria is trapped within the walls of Lord Egerton Castle in Nakuru. He fell madly in love with Lady Victoria and built her a 52-room, 4-storey towering castle to impress her, but she scoffed at the ‘diminutive’ size on the place, leaving him heart broken. No women were allowed in the castle during his lifetime and Lord Egerton never kept any chicken or dogs because Lady Victoria likened the castle to a kennel or a chicken coop. It is said his forlorn ghost haunts the castle to date.
Drive on and find a little Italian church transfixed in time on Mai-Mahiu road. The church, along with the treacherous winding road itself, was built by Italian prisoners of war in the midst of World War II. The charming little church cuddled by the surrounding escarpments is the smallest church in East Africa, measuring 15x8ft, and has four wooden pews. Along the way, visit Fort Smith in Kabete, home of the stealth AgiKuyu assassins who terrorised the colonial administration with their covert killing tactics.
In the heart of Nairobi’s CBD, at the junction of Kenyatta Avenue and Koinange Street, we find the Galton Fenzi Memorial which immortalizes Lionel Douglas Galton Fenzi, the ﬁrst person to drive a vehicle from Mombasa to Nairobi in January 1926. Fenzi was the founder of the Royal East Africa Automobile Association (now AA Kenya). He used a Riley 12/50 car to conquer the virgin route to Mombasa. It is the same route we use to Mombasa today.
Stop over at the Makindu Sikh Temple. A place well known for its generosity. The coolies working on the Kenya-Uganda Railway built it. Any traveller who stopped at the Temple was offered food, which they ate to their fill.
Our adventure ends at Faza, an island paradise with a heart-breaking past. Once a powerful and independent sultanate on Pate within the Lamu Archipelago, the Portuguese, hungry for blood and wealth, attacked the tiny island in 1587. They killed, pillaged, looted and razed everything to the ground. They destroyed so much of the small town that very little is left from its hey days except Liwali House, the Government House and the mosque, which used to be landmarks in Faza before the Portuguese invasion. Take advantage of the annual Lamu Cultural Festival (Maulidi) which returns this November to visit Faza.
If you ever stop by these places, as you enjoy the beauty of the destinations, remember to also soak in the rich history behind them.