kenya coast

African Beauty💕

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🇹🇿Tanzania - @jokatemwegelo
🇺🇬Uganda - @pslovemeriaa

Back on the mainland

 So here I am in Malindi, for about 36 hours and an extra little exclamation point to end our Lamu get away.

The central reason for the Malindi relocation was two-fold. The first being the dirt cheap flights from Malindi back to Nairobi that this cash strapped traveler just couldn’t forgo. The second was the thought that it would be a nice way to slowly transition from the Lamu life back to the quasi real world of life in Nairobes or Njabeans. And while I failed to fall head over heals for the coastal town, I did enjoy my brief time there, and not just for the mere fact that it allowed me to travel to another Kenyan city beyond my“N” anchors—in my almost 2 months here, I have only laid eyes upon Nairobi, Njabini and Naivasha. So I happily put Malindi and its neighboring towns on my map.

And Malindi did turn out to be an interesting place in deed, if not for the pure fact that it’s prime tourism targets are Italians and thereby the little local kids shout “ciao” as you walk by instead of the much overused, “How are you?” Because of the wind direction in the off season (not sure which specific direction, but a new direction to be sure), the beautiful beaches that draws the spaghettis (as the natives, lovingly or possibly derogatorily, refer to the Italians as) were riddled with dark seaweed. But as we were post-Lamu, beaches really were less of a concern as the notion of a new city to conquer.

So we got off our 6 hour bus with only the faintest of bruises from the bumpy drive down the coastal roads and immediately hopped into a tuk tuk (3 wheeled taxi/golf cart/death trap) and set out to find a hotel with absolutely no notion of where exactly we were going apart from a few recommendations from fellow bus travelers. This of course did not go quite as smoothly as that short sentence depicts as it was me, Meg, her wheelchair, crutches and our 100 bags involved, but I’ve spent enough time regaling that chaos in the past that I am sure you get the picture. And at least, much to Meg’s delight, we were able to travel by wheels rather than hoof it (ours or donkey’s).


(The view from the tuk tuk. And what I thought was possibly my last view of this world as matatus and lorries hauling cargo and ass buzzed by us) 

But apparently spontaneity is not our strong suite for we fumbled through a few options and bumbled many a interaction with the managers of all the out-of-our budget hotels. Apparently Malindi became a haven for exiled Italian Mafiosos back in the day, thereby shaping the landscape of the beach community into an all-inclusive resort area catering to wealthy Italian vacationers and, judging from the many sleazy Euro men with local ladies, a hot bed for prostitution. Not exactly the scene we were looking for but there had to be a niche for us somewhere in this sizeable city.

And a place for us there was. We were apparently just looking in all the wrong places. Our ignorant wrongs were righted by our oh-so patient taxi driver who, despite not speaking English well, could recognize the internationally-known look of desperation upon our sweaty faces. He benevolently, though probably not all together altruistically as he likely got a small commission, set us up with a place to stay; Belinda House. Now Belinda House is nothing to write home about (please ignore the fact that I doing just that as we speak), but it was unbelievably cheap, about $6.50 USD a person, and since we were the only people staying in the 3 bed, 2 bath, kitchen, formal dining room and ridiculously decorated living room place, we essentially rented an entire guest house for $13 big ones. Though pretty unnecessary for 2 girls for 2 nights, it turned out to be nice as we enjoyed the privacy and even had a chance to entertain guests.

Pat, a fine young gentlemen that we came upon in Lamu, was also staying in Malindi for a few days and brought with him a fellow Lamu find in the form of another traveling fella named Francois. And so it came to be that 1 Canadian, 1 South African and 2 Americans enjoyed 4 authentic Italian pizzas at the cleverly named restaurant, I Love Pizza, on the Southern coast of Kenya. And apart from the excitement of adding new blood to our duo, the entire night was made all the better as, and I kid you not, they played an endless selection of Dolly Parton. Almost a perfect night for this girl of sophisticated tastes. Delicious food was consumed, cold beers imbibed (the one advantage Malindi had over Lamu), and actual plans made over the course of our 1 course meal and the nice stroll/roll (yep Meg brought her wheelchair) back to our pad.


(Myself, Francois, Katrina (Meg’s wheelchair) and Pat. Bellies not yet fed but my heart was nourished as my ears noshed on the sweet melodies of my beloved Dolly)

The plans in question, were to enjoy the Malindi morning in whatever capacity we so chose—mine was meandering through the Malindi streets and beaches solo while Meg slept in and overcoming a rather uncomfortable stretch of traveler’s stomach (though more enjoyable than the latter, none were highlights of my travels thus far)—and then hoping in our hired car, that I stubbornly and proudly bargained a good price for, to drive about 1.5 hours into the bush to the Marafas Depression (still not the headliner but a highlight in its own right).

Marafas Depression is a canyon-esque geological formation also known as Hell’s Kitchen that was dubbed in the Lonely Planet guidebook as the Grand Canyon of Kenya and an oft-overlooked destination that should not be missed. I’m not sure I agreed with the zealous travel writer in his comparison but it still was a sight to be seen. The only problem lay in the getting there and physicality of walking around the depression. We were a bit skeptical of Meg’s ability to take a canyon by crutches, but as we did not know what to expect, we took the assurance of Nelson Mandeli (notice how all the people have the names or slight variations on the names of famous people) that she would have no problem getting around. Given that he was selling us the tour package, we should have seen through his thinly veiled enthusiasm to make a sale in low season, but as we really wanted to partake in some natural wonders beyond beaches, we turned a deaf ear to our instincts. Instincts that were of course dead on. For starters, Nelson failed to get enough people to make the trip worth the driver’s while, so a long argument ensued between the two with heated unintelligible words and dramatic body language while we four dubiously waited in the hot but surprisingly new and spacious Suzuki. The result of which was about a 2 hour delay and a transfer to a much older and smaller car, with the same pissed off driver.

 
(Pat, Nelson and myself finally out of the Suzuki, but still waiting, in style of course, for the new car to arrive at a roadside market)

But once on the road, we were happy that we did not abandon ship because the ride along the rich red clay roads of the lush coastal country side was stunning and enjoyed by all except the girl riding shot gun with her booted leg out the window who was still suffering the effects of whatever caused my morning belly bothers. And once at the depression itself, we were once again pleased that our impatience was defeated by the skin of Nelson’s determined teeth. Again, except of course for the girl on crutches who had no feasible way to make the steep hike down into the canyon. What a liar that Nelson. Though Meg couldn’t partake in the physical portion of the trek, she was there for the group shot at the vista and also bore witness to yet another baboon raid. So not an utter and total flop, but probably wouldn’t make her highlights reel. But me, Pat, Francois and our able bodies really enjoyed the excursion and the exquisite almost extraterrestrial environment.


(Forgoing my 3 standard travel dresses for a sportier look at the stunning Marafas Depression)


(Not from the surface of Mars but from within the depression. You can’t quite make her out but Meg is waiting patiently just beyond that fence)


(As we gave out notebooks and pencils to the neighboring school children, Meg finally found something she could enjoy. Even if the baby didn’t)

Post hike (or nap in Meg’s case) we partook in another dinner with the boys, this time at a local seaside joint frequented by either the aforementioned prostitutes or just very very friendly local lassies. Though we didn’t render their services we did join the talkative ladies, or they joined us more accurately, for a couple of drinks and a short lived attempt at miraa/khat—a stimulant that is very popular with the locals, and the likely reason the girls were so talkative, even though it tastes exactly what it looks like, dandelion stems, and requires an insurmountable amount of jaw strength. I quit about 3 sticks in. Even though my gum to mirra ratio was off the charts, I didn’t’ find the marginal buzz you eventually get worth the awful taste or immovable bitter beer face look of disgust it put on my face. 


(The miraa has two faces. Happy before I tried, disgusted after)

And that was the end of Malindi, almost. Our flight was the following day, but not until 9:30 pm. The flight was also being taken by Francois, so we said goodnight to him and goodbye to Pat. Then we woke up relatively early to take a little day trip to Watamu, a neighboring village that was supposed to be much quieter than Malindi and home to gorgeous white sand beaches, snorkeling and nice resorts. And also highly recommended by Meg’s Kenyan friend Don, an opinion we respected and an inkling of advice that we unresearched souls dove upon. We failed to learn from our Malindi lesson and again headed off without a plan and very limited knowledge of Watamu. Our tuk tuk got us into the area and then asked where exactly we wanted to go. Since we weren’t aware of the several different bays or resort names, the only available response from our ignorant mouths was, “Watamu.” So he took us into the heart of the village and left us there with a look of impatient pity and a disgusted wave of his hand.

And that is when we were attacked. Quite literally under siege from 8 touts trying to sell us everything from a snorkeling trip to beach towels. And I know for a fact that it was 8 different guys because they eventually convinced us to eat a cheap hole in a dive of a restaurant—as it was the end of our travels, we agreed that it would be a good idea to save money with a cheap breakfast and then just have a drink and a light snack at the fancier beach resorts—and then they tried to charge us over 8 times the value for our little breakfast. An extra hundred bob for each of those vultures. No line item prices mind you, just the big fat total which coincidently was the exact same price as what Meg asked seafood would cost. It seems no matter if we ordered a coffee or clams, they wanted a certain inflated amount of money from us. Having been in Kenya for almost 2 months at this point, we know the price of Swahili tea, chapatti and mondazi, and were ready to argue the price to our deaths as we were already sick to death of being taken advantage of. They eventually took the money we gave them, ¼ of what they were asking but still double the actual value of the meal, and left with me prying Meg’s wheelchair out of one of the tout’s hands and yelling at them to not follow us, not talk to us, not to even look at us. Once again those coastal cads managed to bring a hostile side out of me that I didn’t even know I had, and really don’t want to employ again.

But to their credit, they did heed my irate words and let us promptly hop another tuk tuk to the secluded beaches of A Rocha—a private beach and conservatory run by the Kenyan Wildlife Department. We probably would have been better off at one of the more touristy resorts where we could enjoy a brew to calm our put upon nerves, but we didn’t want to take any chance of happening upon a beach boy. The beach was blissfully abandoned by but a few local vacationers and the white crystalline sand felt like a cloud beneath our feet as we walked into the cool sky-blue waters of the bay. The one down side to the unbelievably soft sand was that it was nearly impossible to walk on without sinking a few feet down, and quite literally impossible to walk on with crutches. But who needs to walk the beach anyway. Meg and I contentedly spent a few immobile hours soaking up the sun and silence.

 
(Peace at last. Finally enjoying Watamu even amid the seaweed)

Then we were really done with Malindi and all the coastal salesmen. We washed the sand from our bodies, grabbed our bags, rejoined Francois at Bar Bar, an Italian bistro, for a few of the best iced coffees I’ve had since arriving in Africa and then headed to our late night flight back to the Nairobi which I caught myself referring to as home. That fact weirded me out a bit, but I couldn’t deny how much I missed the relatively hassle-free people, humid-less days and, of course, my honey bunny babes that I couldn’t wait to see again. And after one of the smoothest and most efficient flights of my life compliments of Kenya Airways, Africa was once again in my good graces.


(2 weary travelers relatively bright eyed due to the painless flight and the knowledge that no coastal tout will find us in Nairobi. Meg was apparently photographer for this entire trip as we have zero pictures together)

That is until we couldn’t get into Meg’s apartment for what felt like a fortnight and were force to spend 2 nights in a backpackers hostel with some of the weirdest peeps I have ever chanced upon. But that is a story for another time as this post was about the coast, and all its perks and pitfalls.

anonymous asked:

Do you have any images of the henna designs used and how they vary across different ethnic groups? I'm familiar with henna and my Indian neighbour taught me her traditions around it and applied some designs to me when I was a curious child and she was getting ready for a wedding, but I would assume designs very considerably between cultures as well as the context in which they are used. Would you be able to direct me to info on this? Thanks :)

You’re absolutely right — henna designs vary considerably from region to region… I often post pictures about it if you look through my henna tag. Here are some examples of different styles:

This is the style traditionally done in much of Morocco, known today simply as “bildi” (’rustic’ or ‘old-fashioned’)… Commonly associated with the “Imperial Cities” of Fes, Meknes, and Marrakech, it shares many similarities with the traditional embroidery (terz) of that region — note the division of space into diamonds and triangles, the use of parallel lines, and the toothed edging. Photo taken by me in Fes, 2014:

This is another style seen in Morocco, in the southern regions and Sahara. This “Sahrawi” style shares some elements with the henna of central and northern Morocco, but is similar in layout to the henna done in Mauritania. Photo from Flickr:

The henna of Mauritania is breathtakingly unique and immediately recognizable. In my opinion the henna artists of Mauritania are among the most talented and technically accomplished in the world; designs were traditionally done in reverse with a tape resist, and today they are also drawn (there’s actually a whole book about it!). Photo from Flickr:

And West Africa has its own style as well, commonly seen in Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and other places in the region — done in reverse with tape, like in Mauritania, but with longer lines and different layouts. Photo by Casey McMenemy, from my article on henna in West Africa:

There is also a unique and recognizable style in East Africa, on the Swahili Coast (Kenya, Tanzania, etc.). Unfortunately today they often use the dangerous “black henna” chemical dye, but as you can see it can be easily replicated with natural henna (from this article on henna on the Swahili Coast):

The countries of the Arabian Peninsula have their own set of styles too, known as khaleeji (“Gulf”), which are today immensely popular around the world (even in places like Morocco and India which have their own longstanding traditions of henna design). In the Khaleej itself there are many henna salons with local and international artists, and so the designs are constantly evolving; the constant, for me, is the open layout and the contrast between thick and thin. Here’s an example of some contemporary khaleeji-style work (from Instagram):

Of course, Persia was once the heartland of henna, and in the Safavid period we have many depictions of beautiful, elaborate henna patterns in illustrated manuscripts. While the tradition died out during the Qajar period under the influence of Western fashion, it is clear that there was once a “Persian style” of henna, which some artists have attempted to continue or revive. This is a (very zoomed-in) detail from Mir Sayyid Ali’s 1540 masterpiece “A Nomadic Encampment” (and for more on Persian henna, see this article):

And while India came rather late to the henna-pattern game, developing traditions of henna art only in the 18th-19th century, by the 20th century South Asia had become one of the centres of henna art worldwide, and the henna styles from the region are probably the most common and recognizable today. That’s not to say that they were always what we think of today as “Indian-style” henna — here’s an example of Rajasthani designs from the 1950s recorded by Jogendra Saksena, which are quite different than the style of henna common in India today:

Not to mention the fact that within the Indian subcontinent, there are (or have been, historically) distinct regional styles: Pakistani, Marwari, Rajasthani, and more… And of course, henna designs are constantly changing! What was popular and stylish twenty years ago is not the same as what was popular ten years ago, or what is popular now. Especially with the interconnectedness of the internet, artists around the world are able to learn from each other, spread innovations, and merge styles in new and exciting ways.

Compare this old-fashioned, recognizably Pakistani-style design (from Flickr):

To the contemporary work of Pakistani-American artist (and dear friend of mine) Sabreena Haque, who combines motifs and layouts from Indian, Pakistani, Gulf, and Moroccan patterns, along with inspiration from many other areas of art and nature (from her Instagram):

And there’s so much more to explore! There seems to be a unique style of henna patterns in the Balkans, similar to their tattooing and embroidery. What were henna designs like in medieval Spain? Yemenite Jews had their own unique patterns and techniques as well, which still need more research. And there’s more to say about the evolution of henna designs in Morocco too!

I could go on and on, but perhaps that’s enough for now. Let me know if I can answer any other questions!

TOUR BOAT, KENYA COAST

On the 11th of July 2008 I was snorkeling off the coast of Kenya near the town of Malindi. After struggling to take photos of the marine life I came back up to rest for a moment on the surface and decided to take a photo of the tour boat. It was only when I uploaded the photo did I realize how peaceful it was with the yellow boat on the blue waves. Yet it also appears chaotic with the wave apparently about to break over the boat due to the perspective.

PHOTOGRAPH BY PAUL JOHNSON

From@intelligentlifemagazine: the French-Madagascan photographer@GuillaumeBonn has been trying to capture the complexities of #Africa – especially #Somalia, #Kenya,#Mozambique and #Tanzania – for two decades. The result is the#MosquitoCoast, a new book documenting the region’s ways and wars. Here, a woman climbs the ruined steps of the cathedral in Mogadishu, which has been punished by years of fighting. To see more, search “Mosquito Coast” on intelligentlifemagazine.com.

anonymous asked:

Growing up, I was told Swahili people are only from the coast of Kenya and Tanzania. Sorry if this has been asked before, but how comes there are Swahili people in Congo?

Because Swahili people from Zanzibar came to Congo to trade, rape, pillage, conquer and enslave people with the help of their Omani brothers. After all that  some of them remained in Congo.  I’ve already written about it look through the history, swahili and waswahili tag and I answered a similar question before (here

Most Wikipedia entries are okay but I wouldn’t trust the numbers and I dunno why they left out Comoros and Oman

Several species of ants have shield-like heads that fit perfectly into the tunnels of wood-boring beetles in trees. This allows the ants to protect their nests if a predator were to approach - they simply lock themselves into position and block the entrance with their head! This includes ants from the Cephalotes genus (in the Americas) and the Carebara genus (in Kenya and Ivory Coast).