I used to be like every other holiday-maker. Until I fell in love with a strange and mysterious, dangerous and exotic place: Africa.
My first African adventure was a five day trip to Morocco while I was still studying. Although Morocco was only a short flight away from Spain, just over an hour, it was very obviously on another continent and
to Europe. The people, the smells, the sounds – even the air was foreign to me. I was completely overwhelmed and the days flew by very quickly. I returned, covered in insect bites and with the knowledge that I am going to be back in Africa as soon as I could manage it – even though I didn’t quite know why.
A couple of years later Starbucks ran a special on Kenyan coffee and as I was sipping my latté I remembered my vow to return to Africa and started planning a trip, to Kenya of course. At Nairobi airport I was once again overwhelmed with the sights and sounds, the soulfulness so uniquely African. I realised that I loved Africa. My day was spent reeling from one exciting activity to the next and ended with my first experience of the African sun setting over a golden savannah. I know it is the same sun that sets over Europe and the rest of the world but in Africa it has a magical effect. It was at that moment, I was drenched in the sun’s luminosity and I realised: ‘I have got to share this!‘ Although not even the finest wordsmith can translate the absolute awe an African sunset can inspire into mere words, I have to let somebody in on this incredible experience. It is the perfect ending to a day spent in Africa – and every single day there is guaranteed to be interesting.
What happened on the rest of my trip to Kenya? I could write a book about it but let me highlight just a few of the very interesting aspects of this contradictory country.
Kenya Is a Colourful and Contrasting Place
Imagine iron rich red sand, the bluest blue skies and multi-coloured agama lizards roaming around. Imagine seeing equally colourful wild animals in their natural habitat – with a modern city skyline as a backdrop. Imagine tall, dark warriors with stretched earlobes wearing bright cloths (called shukas) jumping impossibly high in a ritual dance while some of their friends are drinking cow blood and sour milk. In Kenya you are transported to a place where time has stood still and tradition is observed. And yet you find snatches of modern technology, even in the most primitive settings. Can you picture how peculiar a mud hut looks with a satellite dish attached to it? Severe contrasts are not the only thing that is fascinating about Kenya.
Believe it or not, a traditional way of greeting one another in Kenya is by spitting. Elders also spit on babies when they are born and believe that doing that and telling them how bad they are will bring them luck in life. Then there are the peculiar conventions attached to marriage. The customary bride price in Kenya starts at ten cows. Considering it is legal to have many wives, this can get rather expensive. I wondered how it is possible for people leading such a simple existence to afford anything at all, let alone getting married. I soon learned that only ‘African-ness’ can explain it. Africans work together and Kenya is no exception. The Kenyan motto is ‘Harambee’ – a Swahili word that means ‘Let us pool/pull together’. Europeans can certainly learn a thing or two from this fascinating continent. Maybe that is why I keep going back, no matter how many bugs bite me.