There’s more to Maralal than livestock theft

About a Kilometer into the Amateurs' race at the Yare Camel Club in Maralal, Samburu on 25th August 2012. PHOTOS | CHARLES KAMAU

What you need to know:

  • The town, which is also home to Kenyatta House, where Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was detained by the colonialists, serves as a base for tourist activities such as bush walking and hill trekking.

What immediately comes to mind when you mention the name Maralal is cattle rustling and highway banditry.

The small hillside town, which is the headquarters of Samburu County, has always hogged the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
However, There is more to my beloved Maralal than the fighting, livestock theft and gun culture.

Maralal town lies east of the beautiful Loroki Plateau. It abounds with resources like wildlife, livestock, land, pasture, water and vast forests. Nearby is the Maralal Game Sanctuary that borders the forest.

Herds of buffalo roam the sanctuary. You can also see zebra grazing peacefully on the outskirts of the town, seemingly unperturbed by the traffic or passers-by.

Seasonally, herds of elephant pass through the sanctuary, descending from the forested hills which lie to the north.
Much of this wildlife can be seen from the comfortable terrace of the Maralal Safari Lodge.

A few kilometres away is the Losiolo escarpment, another breathtaking landmark.

In all directions from Maralal is majestic scenery whose grandeur is enhanced by its consort with wildlife and by the calm dignity of the herdsmen and their herds.

The town, which is also home to Kenyatta House, where Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was detained by the colonialists, serves as a base for tourist activities such as bush walking and hill trekking.

The famous Maralal Camel Derby hosted by Yare Safaris and sponsored by the Kenya Tourism Board is a major event in this town.
The derby, introduced over a decade ago, attracts participants from all over the world.

It has changed from a traditional camel derby to an all inclusive sporting activity and every year, thousands of tourists flood the hilly Samburu County to attend the electrifying event.

Butterfly people

The town is a home to the Samburu, Turkana and Pokot communities.

The Samburu, also called the Butterfly people, are the dominant community.
On the streets of Maralal, you come across young men and women in traditional attire comprising of a striking red cloth wrapped around like a skirt (called Shukkas) and a white sash.

This is complemented by numerous colourful beaded necklaces, earrings and bracelets. Both men and women wear jewellery although only the women make it.

The Samburu also paint their faces using striking patterns to highlight their facial features.

The beauty of Samburu women is accentuated by large quantities of beads ringed gracefully around the neck, carefully bent tin bracelets and anklets and a wrapper tied at the shoulder.

Many variations on colour and patterns of beadwork have made Samburu women’s beadwork business in the town a popular place to visit for both local and foreign tourists.

Much of the land is now protected and community development initiatives have extended to eco-friendly lodges run by locals.

As a visitor, the best way to get to enjoy your stay in Maralal and the entire Samburu County is to stay at a community-run lodge, or enjoy a walking or camel safari.

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