Kenya is one of the most visited countries in Africa - popular for its national reserves, wildlife safaris, Maasai warriors and beautiful beaches. When I landed at Nairobi airport, the shuttle bus taking passengers from the plane to the airport terminal was showing "Shanghai City Center" at the front as destination, since no one bothered changing anything when they received those Chinese buses.
The Maasai are known as tall and fierce warriors. In fact, they were a such a formidable force that they successfully fought back Arab slave traders and European invaders throughout history. The British were only able to defeat them by introducing rinderpest (a cattle disease) which killed 80% of their cattle herds, greatly weakening them.
The Maasai can be recognised by the red cloth they wear (called shuka). They live a nomadic life, always moving around to find grassland to feed their cattle herds. Their subservience to their tribal custom has been so powerful that their culture has survived almost completely intact. But they have been forced to alter some of their rituals, for example to become a warrior, a young boy had to spend three months in the forest, learn how to herd cows, and kill a lion but animal conservationism put a stop to the lion killing.
I stopped by one of the many Maasai villages near Amboseli National Park, where permanent and semi-permanent homes resembled igloos. I also took part in the "jumping dance". The one who jumps the highest is apparently chosen as chief of the group. For them, jumping is an important strength. When they raid cows from other tribes, a strong warrior can easily jump the fence and get the cows.
Loitokitok is a small town near the base of mount Kilimanjaro, close to the border with Tanzania. Its dirt-streets were busy with motorcycles, goats, chickens, and Masai people dressed in their traditional bright attire. The central market was bustling with people who came from villages miles away to buy everything from cattle to batteries, from second hand shoes to motorbike parts. I could hear African music on almost every corner and I'd best not describe some of the smells, but it was an awesome place.
Amboseli National Park
Kenya is one of the best places to see wild animals. The Masai Mara Reserve has the most wildlife, but we opted for Amboseli National Park, which has the backdrop of Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. We negotiated with a local taxi driver in Loitokitok to rent his car for the day, it was very comical to see us driving through the park in a run-down taxi car when everyone else had 4x4s. The roads were clearly not designed for passenger cars (we got stuck in the mud twice), so we were slowly bumping along the gravel and dirt roads.
The next day, my Kenyan friend invited me to sleep at his parent's house somewhere in the wilderness near the Tanzania border. There was no eletricity so he gave me a flashlight. There were a few big bugs in the room I had never seen before, so I was trying my best to pretend they were not there. When I had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night, in the corridor some bats hurled towards me as soon as I opened the door. Then in the bushes near the toilets, I could hear some growling, I kept flashing my light and the growling was getting louder. I went back inside and found out in the morning those were actually hyenas.
I had heard all sorts of negative stories about Nairobi, especially the 'Nai'robbery' nickname. I went for a walk around the city on my own, and found the negative reputation to be completely untrue. I did not get hassle from anyone, it was on the same level as most other big cities. The only thing to watch out for are the buses and the matatus (minivans). Traffic in the city is heavily congested, the resourceful bus drivers sometimes drive on the pavement, often catching pedestrians unaware.