Tag Archives: Mombasa

Fort Jesus by night

Centuries upon centuries. The Fort still has me in awe. It was delightful to see it at night.

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An art exhibition under the moonlight. Only in Mombasa.

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Looking across into the Indian Ocean. Now there are lights, imagine how it must have been when the Portuguese lived there centuries back.

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Kahawa tungu. Enjoyed as I watched an acting troupe rehearse at the courtyard of the Fort.

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GOD BLESS KENYA!

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Saving the Railway

When you think the railway you think of something old. A relic that belongs to a museum and whose time is past in this age of smartphones and driverless cars.

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Tayiana Chao is a stunning contrast to that thought.

Tall, slim, with long dreadlocks, afro jewellery and an infectious laugh she would pass for a uni student who moonlights as an model.

I met her in in a gallery but rather than her being the subject it is her photographs that are under the limelight.

Still in her early 20s, this retired computer scientist has a story to tell and she has already written her first chapter – Save the Railway.

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Save the Railway is an exhibition that is ongoing at the ShiftEye gallery.

It is the fruit of Chao’s 3 years labour of love.

Chao was picked to go to JKUAT and study Computer Science but instead of Juja she was sent to the Voi campus. Her first instinct was to say no but as a history buff and introvert, Voi won her over.

Being away from the city was heavenly and in her weekend exploring she stumbled on the Voi Railway station.

The picture of the Voi Railway station is stunning. A house built with red bricks, with a tree on the side and with the horizon endless. It stands bang in the middle of the exhibition taking pride of place as her first love in this project.

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Chao puts it brilliantly “…it takes you to a different time…the station exactly as it was..not in the present time..grand… antique..

With that a dream was born. To tell the story of the railway. Not as an item in the history books but rather as a living being.

Everyone knows about the railway start in Mombasa and end in Kisumu but what of its impact? Basically, what did the railway do for Kenya and Kenyans?

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Through her journey across Kenya searching for and photographing railway stations Chao learnt just how much the railway was part and parcel of people’s lives.

It was not history for the people who lived next to the railway but rather a living breathing thing.

She felt the emotional aspect of the Railway. The lives touched, the grievances, the poverty, the lingering hope. And she learnt that the Railway mattered. Life for many Kenyans revolved around the railway and you can not put a value on the Railway’s importance.

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Chao’s journey is curated in the Save the Railway exhibition that runs from the 19th of August to the 2nd of September at the ShiftEye Gallery at the Priory building on Arwings Kodhek Road.

What started as a hobby has taken a life of its own.

“..someone come all the way from India to see this! I felt so honoured…” gushes Chao.

She graduated as a computer scientist but she has taken time off being a programmer to think of the way forward.

She wishes to write a book on her experience chasing down Kenya’s forgotten train stations. She also wishes to complete taking photographs of the off-road train stations.

But that is just the second chapter of her book.

Computing for heritage is where her book will anchor next. As a techie Chao wishes to do culture tech and believes that restoration of history through tech is the way to go. Chao envisions a day when Gedi ruins will be mapped and one will be able to relive the 13th century.

With Kenya in the middle of the SGR hype, I had to ask if she has plans to photograph the current history being made.

“..why did the old railway fail? Even as we do SGR let us ask ourselves that. Development is great but we need to learn from our past..” was the deep response.

Chatting with Chao feels like taking a walk down memory lane as well as how the history looks at the present.

What made her achievement even more amazing that is that this was mostly a solo-project with Kenya Railways chipping by providing permission and transport for the first phase of the project.

The bodies you would expect to be involved the National Museum, Brand Kenya and even the government ministries were not.

Now to the twist to this tale of Kenya’s railway.

Hilary Ng’weno is Kenya’s best known historian. A nuclear physicist turned journalist turned historian Ng’weno has curated much of Kenya’s history. Makers of a nation anyone?

His daughter, Professor Bettina Ng’weno runs a production house and she is working on a Hollywood style movie – Last dance in Kaloleni.

The movie which is in the funding stage will look at life in African railway quarters in the early 1920s-60s.

How the railway as one of the biggest employers in the colonial time impacted in the urbanisation, the arts, the politics, the music of Kenya.

Chao is also involved in the movie and when I asked her if she will be an actress, she laughed her infectious laugh and said maybe as an extra.

My gut says that when Kenya’s history in the next 5o years is written, Tayiana Chao will be a name worth noting not least because she will have photographed, written and technologically curated it.

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Be sport. Go check out the Save The Railway exhibition.

 

GOD BLESS KENYA!


Hijab Tales

Eid Mubarak!

For all who fasted may your prayers, sacrifices and fasts be accepted.

I spent a bit of my teenager years in Mombasa and I really love the coastal culture.

From the food – mapochopocho, pilau mbuzi, mabuyu etc.

The music – taarab, bango.

And the dressing – hijab, buibui, kanzu, kofia.

So this conversation about Hijabs is not entirely random.

Basically I  wondered how it is to be a hijabi, young and trendy and so I engaged two of my Muslim friends in their early 20s on their hijab stories.

They both opted for anonymity so they shall be S.G and S.A :-).

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Courtesy – Google

 

ModerateKenyan – Why do you wear the hijab?

S.G – *hmmmm* Because it is mandatory from a  religious perspective. Also from my culture women wear the headscarf. Hijab is about decency.

S.A – *smiles, crosses legs, adjusts buibui* To conceal. Hijab means to cover. Necessary to cover one’s beauty. Personal choice. Save men from impure thoughts. Feel at peace when covered up. There is more respect when you are covered.

ModerateKenyan – When did you start wearing the headscarf?

S.G – When I was very young. My mum trained me how to wear it.

S.A – At 10. But since I went to a Catholic school and had to follow their rules I would wear hijab only on the way from home to school.

ModerateKenyan – Do you ever feel uncomfortable or get into trouble for wearing hijab?

S.G – When I was in high school. Went to a PCEA school. The rules said no hijab so if I wore a hijab I would get into trouble.

S.A – We are not in France. *laughs* But after an attack – Westgate, Garissa all eyes are on you, you are searched more and basically profiled because of the hijab.

ModerateKenyan – Ever considered not wearing the hijab?

S.G – *laughs and laugh* Yes I did! When I was in university. At USIU. I have really long beautiful hair and there were times I would want to show it off and the great make-up. So for a month did not wear hijab. Got so many compliments on my hair and looks. But Muslim friends would ask me what was going on. Also felt individually guilty. So resumed wearing hijab.

S.A – *shock* Doing away with my hijab is like doing away with my religion. Doing away with a part of me. No!

ModerateKenyan – Is hijab a choice or a must?

S.G It is a must. In the Quran there is a whole Sura on hijab.

S.A It is both. It is a personal choice that makes me confident, happier. It is also a religious obligation to cover up. Protects me from so much. If I remove then I am living a double life.

ModerateKenyan – Does it save on hair cost?

S.G – *lights up and really laughs* You have no idea what happens underneath. A married woman has to fix her hair to look good for her husband but me? I can have rastas, matutas, anything. And it is okay and no one knows.

S.A – Oh my! It so does. You have no idea. What is a bad hair day? And what are these things people put on their hair ati sijui weaves? No thanks. Lemme be covered with my hijab.

ModerateKenyan – Fashionable hijabs. Do you wear them? Why? Is it not a contradiction?

S.G – It is wrong. Hijabs should be decent, simple and plain. But I am young! As long as I am covered up then I feel it is okay to go for a fancy, colourful and trendy hijab. It is a tough balancing act. *shrugs*

S.A – Purpose of a hijab is to cover. One is not meant to stand out. One is meant to blend in. But then hijab does not mean you do not look good or you do not look trendy or fashionable. I am a woman. I want to look good. So balance is to ensure you are fashionable but decent. Not easy but I am trying.

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My curiosity was sated and I also got an insight on hijabs.

We are more alike than we are different but ignorance is a huge hindrance to our cohesion.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

ALLAH BLESS KENYA!

 

 

 


Of fairy tales coming true

On Sunday 1st of May 2016 the eyes of many football fans in the world were fixed on Old Trafford to see if Leicester’s fairy tale would reach its climax at the Theater of Dreams.

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A win and the 5000/1 underdogs at the start of the season would be crowned EPL champions at the home of the twenty time champions.

I had a front row seat to witness this unlikely spectacle and I was living a fairy tale.

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Walking in Manchester on match day was akin to Nairobi on Mashemeji derby day. Fans decked in their club’s colors, singing and chanting. The visiting Leicester fans were the noisier and livelier.

In the tram to Old Trafford, chatted with 50 year old Steve. For 43 years, he had been going to Old Trafford. Began with his dad and never stopped. Tradition inculcated. Steve bleeds Red for Manchester United and his passion is life and death.

Outside the Old Trafford tram station met Denise. A Leicester City season ticket holder who despite living in Dubai had attended all but two home games. She is the embodiment of the Leicester roots that had sprouted the fairy tale that had captured the world’s imagination.

Walking towards Old Trafford with the thousands of fans was like making a pilgrimage. Stalls selling merchandise, open trucks offering fast food and beer on the go, hawkers calling out for their wares, fans singing all made one forgot the freezing rainy weather.

Several searches and into the stadium I went. “This is it! This is it!’ was the mantra I continually chanted under my breath as I searched for my seat.

I could not stop shaking. Perhaps due to the biting cold but mostly due to the overwhelming sense of occasion.

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Seeing the teams warm up, seeing at close range the players I had only ever seen on TV so close was exhilarating.

The teams then went back to the changing rooms and I settled back on my seat watching the stadium fill up.

A few minutes before 4 and the teams lined up at the tunnel to walk into the stadium. The atmosphere was electric with 75,275 fans attending the historical match and the noise levels hitting a crescendo.

As the teams began their walk into the stadium, the announcer said “Ladies and Gentleman, Welcome to the Theater of Dreams, Manchester United and Leicester City.”

I screamed. The fan next to me screamed. Everyone screamed. I have never heard so much stadium noise. Words cannot do justice to the atmosphere at Old Trafford. You have to experience it to understand.

Antony Martial’s early goal got me flying off my seat. Wes Morgan’s headed equalizer and the unbridled joy of the 3,000 traveling Leicester fans was a sight to behold. The first 45 minutes flew past breathlessly. In the second half the pace was less frantic but the drama was still as intense. The second 45 minutes were topped off with a red card for Leicester and penalty denied for Manchester United.

The match ended 1-1. An apt result for the player’s endeavors on the pitch and in my mind as a Manchester United fan as well as a Friend of Leicester.

Leicester players walked across the pitch to acknowledge their fans. Manchester United fans gave Leicester players and fans a standing ovation. I marveled at the delightful touching moment of sporting camaraderie.

Outside the stadium, Leicester fans were in great cheer. They may not have bagged the three points to win the title but they had got a point and anything other than a Spurs win the following day and their team would be champions.

So they sung and sung and sung. In praise of coach Claudio Ranieri, in praise of Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez.

“We are going on a European tour..European tour..European tour” was chanted repeatedly.

Amidst the boisterous traveling Leicester fans were Kenyans and Burundians. Surprisingly. I talked to them in Kiswahili and they spoke of their over ten years support for Leicester and the delight of seeing them almost be champions of England. One of the Kenyan gentlemen again from Mombasa proudly informed me that he was the barber for Mahrez and showed me pictures to prove it. Fairy tale things.

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This is a story about fairytales. Watching the game in person was the furthest thing on my mind when I sat watching Leicester City’s 4-nil win over Swansea on Sunday April 24th.

“Ulloa again. 3-0. Three points seemingly bagged without Vardy. 8 points ahead with 3 games to go. Your move Spurs. #FriendsOfLeicester

Is what I tweeted after Leonardo Ulloa scored the third goal in that match.

“Next Sunday – Man Utd v Leicester. Teren. Top 4 chase v Title chase. #FriendsOfLeicester tings will be tested :-).”

Was my follow-up tweet.

What I meant was that my decade’s long love and support for Manchester United would be tested by my season long love of at that point runaway league leaders Leicester City.

Manchester United after a topsy-turvy season were somehow still in contention for a top four finish in the English Premier League and a chance to play in Europe. A minor fairy tale given the nature of the season with manager Louis Van Gaal in charge.

However the bigger fairy tale was the almost being relegated to top of the table exploits by Leicester City. A collection of castaways, journeymen, and nobody’s who had somehow not only managed to escape relegation but to everyone’s shock sat atop of the English Premier League.

Imagine my joy when the following day, Monday, I learnt of an opportunity to travel to the United Kingdom to watch the Manchester United versus Leicester City game at the Old Trafford.

But there was a twist to my taste of a fairy tale experience. I needed a UK visa urgently. Tuesday was spent filing and dropping the application while Wednesday and Thursday were spent praying, crossing my fingers and refreshing my email.

An email from the visa processing office on Thursday had me running across town to Westlands to get the results which to my eternal delight were positive. My joy knew no bounds. My fairytale was on track.

Lift off from JKIA was Friday lunchtime. Touchdown in cold and rainy Manchester was Saturday morning.

The tickets availed required dressing up and thus a trip to Primark to suit-up was the first order of business. Three hours, two carry-ons bags and a MacDonald’s detour later I was back in my hotel room.

A quick shower and out I went to navigate Manchester. First port of call was the mecca for many a football fans. Old Trafford. A stadium and museum tour were the goal. Got myself to the tram station after several wrong turns, managed to buy a tram ticket from the automated machine and I was on my way.

Three stops later I alighted at the Old Trafford station. Purposeful strides. Heart beating faster. Mind on overdrive. Imagine my shock when the first signage I saw was Emirates. Did a double take and realized that this was the Manchester Cricket Grounds. Sharp intake of breathe and off I went again. Couple of minutes later and I was at the Sir Matt Busby Way. A motley of fast food joints and a pub aptly named Trafford were begging to be sampled but I had my eyes on the ball.

And then finally there it was. Old Trafford. In its magnificent imperious splendor. The Theater of Dreams. I was in dreamland. Spine tingling. Mouth agape. Hands on my head. Heard myself chant Oh My God repeatedly. Sat on a bench to steady my shaking legs. This was it. This was my fairytale come true.

After halfway composing myself I made my way in. Stewards in the black uniforms and bright yellow reflector coats stood at the entrance standing between me and my goal.

With thousands of fans in Manchester for the historic game to my horror the stadium and museum tour was sold out. I was in shock. So near yet so near. Fairytale was turning to night mare.

As I stood there for who knows how long to catch my bearings a steward brought the news that there was an opening for a 30 minute tour. Oh joy! I jumped on the opportunity faster than Bolt at the Olympics.

Started with the museum tour which was orgasmic. The trophy room is overflowing. The memorabilia from Keane, Cantona, Schmeical, Giggs playing days was a marvel to behold. The video reliving the 1999 UEFA champions’ league final win gave me goose bumps. Seeing the three trophies from the treble year as well as the three jerseys from each of the treble season competitions brought so much pride.

Then was the stadium tour. Walking in and reading the “You are now entering the Theater of Dreams” sign on the wall almost made my heart stop. Short flight of stadium and bathed in glorious sunlight was the stands and pitch.

Standing at the Sir Alex Ferguson stand, facing the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand with the Stretford End on my left. A sea of red folded up seats. The pitch in impeccable condition. Sensory overload as an old gent gave us a speech on the different stands and cracked us up with dry British humor. Time stood still as I absorbed all these then flew as the old gent abruptly announced it was time to leave.

Traced my steps back to the museum and relived the memories. Then finally grudgingly walked out of the stadium.

 

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As I sought to say thank you to the stewards who had given my dream life and to ask for directions to the merchandise shop another fairytale experience awaited me.

“Habari yako” asked one of the stewards. Kiswahili at Old Trafford was surreal. “Mzuri,” followed by “Ala, hutoka wapi wewe?” Was my reply once I got over my shock.  “Wewe wafikiri natoka wapi? Huko huko utokako” was the swift reply.

With the ice broken we chatted for 15 minutes. Mohammed from Mombasa left Kenya close to thirty years ago to study in the UK. For 25 years he has worked at Old Trafford in his own words, kutafuta rizik. When I marveled at the fact that he must have seen all the Manchester Legends up close, his reply was simply, wanatalanta…lakini si ni binadamu tu…What was a magical dreamy experience to many was routine day’s work to others. Grounded me.

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Different from Kenya where the full buffet of EPL matches is on offer to football fans, in the UK very few pubs show the games. So when I walked into Trafford Pub run by Stacy and Sarah and found the Arsenal Norwich game on-going I pulled a seat and soaked up the British pub experience.

Still walking on cloud nine I made my way back to the hotel with a spring on my step.

The title deciding Chelsea versus Tottenham game would find me 30,000 feet in the air as I traveled back home on Monday night.

Having watched a game at the Old Trafford I now broke new ground. One of my traveling companions streamed the game on the plane and my fairy tale continued as I watched Spurs throw away a 2-nil lead at the break to draw with Chelsea.

Eden Hazard’s beautiful equalizer was met by loud cheers and the final whistle and the ensuing brawl by high fives.

Incredibly Leicester were champions of England.

A fitting end to an incredible UK tour that was the stuff of fairy tales.

GOD BLESS KENYA!

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PS: This trip was part of a promotion by gaming platform mCHEZA to reward its customers by giving them fully paid for VIP trips for European live match experiences. Other games lined up for the lucky winners are the UEFA Europa league 2016 finals on May 18th and the UEFA Champions League Finals on May 28th.


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