In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare posed the question, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name smells as sweet.”
In Nakuru town, you do not need to fly to London, as it is just a short distance away. Also, ensure that you are not hoodwinked by Ponda Mali. No wealth is squandered in Ponda Mali and, instead, you might have your day with a petty thief, who might leave you with some broken bones.
At least five estates have endearing names but their conditions are pathetic and do not match their names.
These names were obtained from people, through different occasions, circumstances, incidents and locations.
1. Ponda Mali
The name Ponda Mali loosely translates to 'squander or enjoy wealth' but there is nothing to be enjoyed in this estate that lies to the south of Nakuru.
While the name depicts a posh place where residents ‘only sit as they enjoy their wealth’, the slum is the exact opposite.
The informal settlement doubles as a fish depot and a matatu turning point.
It is characterised by poor housing, noise pollution and numerous drinking dens.
It also boasts a market and several movie halls.
Resident John Maina told Nation.Africa: “Ponda Mali is that place where everyone lives a day at a time”.
"It is a slum, but residents seem happy with life here. To visitors, the name is the complete opposite of the conditions in the estate,” he said. It is also a haven for criminal groups.
Outsiders may think that conditions in London estate, to the northwest of Nakuru, resemble those in London, England. But there are no lush green spaces, people over-apologising on the streets or an orderly, centuries-old public transport system.
Instead, just like in any other ghetto, Nakuru’s London is known for its many drinking dens and high crime rate.
Pigs are common at London estate’s largest dumping site, also home to vultures - Gioto.
The many factories located in the area also cause air and sound pollution, making its sweet name just a name.
The estate was named London because of its raised position, said resident Joseph Ombati.
The estate sits on a high point and one can have a nice, panoramic view of the world-renowned Lake Nakuru.
"Young people used to visit and enjoy the view of Nakuru town and Lake Nakuru. They, therefore, called it London, a higher place than others,” he explained.
A majority of London residents are small-scale business people and lower-middle-class civil servants.
It also houses college and university students studying at Egerton, the Moi family-owned Kabarak and others.
Hilton is another cosmopolitan estate, near London estate. It, too, is on a hill, and that is how it earned its name.
It also offers a panoramic view of Nakuru town and its neighbourhoods. But it is home to dens selling busaa and other illicit drinks.
The local joke is that one can enjoy cheap nyama choma (roast meat) in Hilton and wash it down with busaa or chang’aa and then sleep in 'London’.
The estate borrows its name from the official residence of the president of the United States in Washington, DC, the large, two-story mansion painted white.
Located on the Nakuru-Subukia-Nyahururu highway, the area once had a house decorated with US flags, painted all white and christened the "White House".
Unfortunately, it was demolished in 2019 by the Kenya National Highways Authority because it was on a road reserve.
The building was once owned by a Kenyan citizen who had lived in the US for many years. Upon returning home in the early 1990s, he decided to relive his memories of life in the US by putting up a building.
He chose a serene location, about three kilometres from the Nakuru town centre, where he built a beautiful wooden house and painted it all white.
The main entrance was decorated with several US flags and so were the walls inside.
Guests and even passers-by could see a list of all the 50 US states.
The owner created a beautiful club and he did not go wrong by including nyama choma among the services he offered.
When the “White House” was built in the early ’90s, there were no other buildings around it, but the area has since grown into a middle-class estate, with schools and hospitals, which have adopted the name White House.
Many people from Nakuru County and beyond would pass by the building just to catch a glimpse of it.
With its white exterior and fluttering flags, it could be seen from a distance because it was the only one in an underdeveloped location.
On its walls, the building had the names of all former American presidents.
Inside, there was a bar, divided into two sections, representing the two major US political sides: Republicans and Democrats.
The tables in every room contained the names of all states in America. People espousing different ideologies and political positions sat in their respective areas.
Residents say the owner of the White House loved the US and its system of government.
In the early 2000s, the building was sold to a different investor and with the new management, everything changed.
The building was turned into a merchandise shop, a bar and a gym.
The area has since grown into an estate housing college students and civil servants, because of its proximity to Nakuru town.
However, its name does not match the conditions.
The estate is adjacent to the posh Milimani estate, the Kenya Industrial Training Institute and Ranges View.
Single rooms are also available here for as little as Sh3,000, making it affordable for college students and young people landing in Nakuru for the first time.
5. Mzee Wa Nyama:
This is a bustling small centre that earned its name from a passenger’s lost meat.
The story goes that an old man who lived in the area alighted from a matatu one evening but lost the meat he was carrying home. He retraced his steps to the centre, where he asked around if anyone had come across his meat.
The incident became a topic of discussion at the centre for days, earning the place its name as Mzee Wa Nyama, a play on the old man and his meat.
6. Flamingo Phase 1:
The estate is normally associated with the glamour and serene environment of flamingos.
But it is an informal settlement and a base for a criminal gang known as Confirm, which has swindled Kenyans out of millions of shillings through fake electronic money transactions.
Overcrowding and makeshift structures are the hallmarks of Flamingo.
The estate was also hit by outbreaks of cholera and other waterborne diseases due to overflowing effluent from pit latrines.
Interestingly its next-door neighbour, Flamingo Phase 2 estate, is connected to the main sewer line.
Flamingo Phase 1 is an isle of secrets. Besides being home to criminal gangs, it is the de facto capital of illicit booze in the region.
Hard drugs and illicit liquor are hawked even in food kiosks.
Unlicensed outlets selling adulterated alcohol have also found a home here.
"A majority of young people here are unemployed and engage in crime, selling drugs and illicit liquor or both, while law enforcement agencies have turned a blind eye to the vices," said resident Joseph Karanja.
There are more litres of illicit liquor, chang'aa and busaa than there is water in this slum, locals say. It neighbours Kimathi estate.