Locals planning for a Kenyan safari often don’t consider ideas of touring an area that is semi-arid, characterized by rough terrain, desert crossings and untamed wilderness. But a trip to the Northern Kenya frontier will ignite your thrill for such a crazy safari. Via the Nyahururu- Nanyuki route, a journey to Turkana which is a haven for anthropological research and many more attractions, will require you to pass by Maralal town.
Maralal is a quiet and small hillside town which lies east of Loroghi Plateau and located 348 Km from Nairobi City. It is the administrative headquarters of Samburu County and perhaps well known for the International Camel Derby which brings it to life.
Along the towns’ main street- Kenyatta Avenue, which is a short stretch of dusty road lined by wide trees and small wooden, tin roofed or stone mason buildings on either side, are many shops selling locally available fruits, fresh and juicy meat, creatively crafted beaded ornaments and brightly colored indigenous clothes.
The warm and jolly Samburu people are closely related to the Maasai. Thus, you will see many warriors (Moran’s) and women dressed in traditional regalia, with hair dyed in home-made red ochre and necks fully covered in the spectacular polished bead ornaments mainly in shades of blue, red and yellow.
A memorable display of culture is presented during the Samburu cultural exhibitions, especially held at the same time with the popular Camel Derby. During which guests can;
- Learn the Samburu customs such as those showcased in the re-enacting of a traditional wedding.
- Visit the local blacksmith who uses ancient tools and methods, and learn how to start a fire by rubbing two sticks together, how to make spears, swords, other implements for home use or warfare. On a good day, the muscled blacksmith may even custom make for you an engraved brass ornament.
- Participate in the live performances of traditional song and dance and which are thoroughly enjoyed by both the locals and visitors.
- Take nature walks which provide relaxation and insight on how the women folk construct traditional housing structures (Manyatta) using cow dung and the medicinal plants of the Samburu.
- And of course, sample Samburu traditional foods and how they are made – especially milk, meat and blood.
Other beautiful attractions worth exploring while in Maralal include;
1. Maralal National Sanctuary where one can see a lot of plains wildlife such as Zebra, Eland, Impala, Buffalo and Warthog.
2. The historical monument known as Kenyatta House. It is a small tin roof structure where Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was detained in 1961 prior to his release. Apparently this is where our current president Uhuru Kenyatta was conceived.
3. The Yare Lodge which is an excellent accommodation venue and hosts the famous Maralal International Camel Derby every year in August. During the derby, guests are treated to camel races for both professionals and amateurs and a peace run featuring Moran’s from the different communities. For those not interested in camel riding, there are mountain bike races as well.
Rest assured, a trip to Maralal will be extremely thrilling and worthwhile.