A Cultural Weekend In Maralal Samburu County

Growing up, the idea of moving to a new place intrigued me. There was something about our locality that got all our neighbors shifting because it happened frequently. It was heartbreaking to say goodbye to childhood friends. I longed for the day we would move as well for no other reason than to experience moving to a new place and of course, break hearts. Like the typical African mother she is, my mom kept saying soon. Tutahama tu. We moved alright. 15 years later. My obsession with moving was also fuelled by the nomads like the Samburu and Maasai that we learned about in school. I used to wonder why people that have the luxury of moving from one place to another could make it to the news thanks to the deadly cattle-raiding incidents that occurred among them. Cattle rustling was and is still rampant in Turkana, Samburu or Baringo.

I remember seeing these nomads in textbooks dressed in colorful, bright clothing with equally stunning accessories.
One time I asked the teacher how we could tell the difference between a Maasai and a Turkana seeing they dress the same. This teacher. All 40 year old of her and I say  40 years because all kids assume every adult is 40. This woman looked me in the eye and told me, you know because  the caption says Maasai. Never mind I did not know what caption meant at the time.


I remembered this incident two months ago when we drove to Samburu. It then hit me that my teacher couldn’t tell the difference. wawu! I also realized that these nomads moved for survival not luxury. The cattle rustling is all part of their culture. Well, they no longer move as much as they used to but they have retained their way of life from the way they dress, eat and means of survival. Did I mention that weekend happened to be the same weekend the Maralal camel derby was happening? All my life as a Kenyan, I have never heard of a camel derby festival but I instantly become interested in going.

We used Gilgil- Ol Kalau-Nyahururu-Kisima-Suguta-Maralal route. Yeah, you look at names like Suguta and Kisima, and know it will be a long drive. I mean, Kisima means hole in Swahili. Go figure. Somewhere between Gilgil and Ol Kalau, we got car trouble. Is it even a road trip without car trouble? It was 7 degrees that morning, and we wanted to help fix the car in a hurry and rush back to the car for warmth. We helped by taking selfies with the men in the background being proper handymen. After our very able contribution, the car was fixed.


Four hours after leaving Nairobi, we made a pitstop in Nyahururu. After having lunch at Thompson falls lodge, we paid 50 Kes to get a view of Thompson Falls.  We also met members of the Kikuyu tribe representing their culture. By the way, do you ever think you’ll find a Wanjiku falls in the UK? It’s the naming of natural features with such names that bothers me.  Anybody care to educate me?

Anyway I digress. Here are scenes from Thompson Falls.

Four hours later we made it to Maralal. We had spent eight hours on the road. We would be camping and any safety concerns were erased seeing we had security 247.  You can find all you need to know about traveling to Samburu here.

Catch up: What You Need To Know About Travelling To Samburu County

Remember the teacher who couldn’t tell me if the man was Maasai or Turkana? I cannot blame her. Honestly, how can you  know when they speak the Maa language? They also have a similar style of dancing referred to as the Adumu, also known as Maasai jumping dance but it isn’t just the Maasai jump because the Samburu do it too. Si Nigerians have Shaku Shaku, South Africans have Gwara Gwara, Ghanaians have Azonto and Kenyans have ODI dance. Couldn’t these Nilotes have a different way of dancing to make it easy to differentiate them? At some point, we asked some Samburu men for photos. The one I spoke to(not pictured below) stared at me blankly, and I knew he didn’t understand Swahili. I asked a man next to him to translate, and we had a swell photoshoot with him.

After the photo session, I agreed to tip them, and the same dude that supposedly couldn’t understand Swahili earlier asked:

“madam unatuma ngapi?”.

I found myself blurting out loud in utter shock “Ero! Unajua Kiswahili?”

You realize what happened right? It was a miracle! This man miraculously spoke Swahili from nowhere! Money equals magic.



I had no major expectations for the Maralal Camel Derby. I mean, I had just found out about it, here’s a review of the Maralal camel derby.

Catch up: Your Ultimate Guide To The Maralal International Camel Derby

Later we experienced the nightlife. Naturally, it was lit seeing the whole of Nairobi was here plus the international community. I sat next to this young man, Letiwa. He was chewing Khat and drinking Guinness. He asked about my experience at the derby. I told him I admired their culture. I talked about how beautiful everyone looked especially the women, then I asked the whereabouts of his wife and this African king straight out told me ” Mimi? Ati Bibi yangu awe hapa anatingishia wanaume engine mwili? Haiwezekani! “

 The next morning we woke up drove to Losiolo escarpment. It marked the end of our Samburu escapades.


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