Category Archives: Travel

In Kenya, islanders on heritage site count cost of $25 billion mega-project

Lamu Island on Kenya’s northeast coast was established some 700 years ago as part of a thriving Indian Ocean trade network that eventually stretched to Oman, India, Portugal, and China.

The mixing of those cultures produced the Swahili people and language, as well as an Islamic renaissance of architecture, poetry, and cuisine.

Lamu is regarded as the best preserved Swahili settlement in existence. The history, the remote white beaches, the carved wooden doorways, and the winding alleys, all make it a top Kenya tourist destination.

But change is coming – more drastic than any in Lamu’s history – that could irreversibly transform this ancient place. Read more…

Photo: Ben Curtis/AP

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Lamu after dark

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It was near nine o’clock in Shela, the sleepy village on the northeast beach of Lamu Island, when we ran out of soda for our brandies. Continue reading Lamu after dark

Why to visit Lamu ASAP. It’s as cheap as it will ever be.

View image on Twitter

My buddy Ian Cox made this storify using some tweets of mine about why you should  visit Lamu. His words:

My friend Jason visited Lamu Island on the nothern Kenyan coast for work and tweeted these photos. I won’t bother to explain the charms of Lamu as it’s all over Google. Right now the tourism industry is suffering and a huge number of the residents have been laid off from work. Why is it so? Read more…

For S. Sudan aid workers, bad weather is as much a worry as violence

 

People trudged along the main passageway through the United Nations’ Malakal Camp for Internally Displaced People in South Sudan in late July. The wet season makes life for hundreds of thousands of refugees very challenging, as bad weather can make roads and paths impassable, exacerbate the difficulties of distributing aid. Matthew Abbot/AP

It’s been a grim week for aid workers in South Sudan.

On Monday, a pro-government militia in the contested oil-producing state of Upper Nile shot dead an employee of the humanitarian group Norwegian People’s Aid. That murder was followed by the killings of five aid workers on Tuesday in the same region. Hundreds of others then evacuated the area, leaving behind 127,000 refugees who had depended on their assistance.

The killings underscore the immense difficulties humanitarians face in trying to save tens of thousands of lives. South Sudan’s civil war is pushing the country toward famine, intensifying the need for outside aid. Yet violence against aid workers has been a striking component of the seven-month war, now considered one of the world’s worst conflicts.

The United Nations warns that 3.9 million people need to be fed by year’s end or 230,000 children will suffer acute malnutrition and 50,000 could die. Farmers have missed the planting season because of fighting, and militiamen have looted food stocks meant for hundreds of thousands of civilians.

A massive aid machine – currently the world’s largest, according to the UN – is mobilizing to prevent that disaster scenario. But the barriers are high: Roads are nearly nonexistent here and are clogged by rainy season mud. Those needing food are dispersed across one of the world’s largest grass swamps. Agencies are a billion dollars short of funds, and fighting prevents workers from reaching the worst hit places. Read more…

East Africa’s elegant antelope on the verge of bowing out

 

Antelope conservationist Abdullahi Ali, left, and an assistant, track radio collared hirola using a radio receiver at sunset near Masalani, Ijara District in northeastern Kenya. Jason Patinkin

Africa’s most endangered large mammal species isn’t the majestic mountain gorilla or the stately black rhino.

It’s the hirola, pronounced “hee-ROH-la,” a tawny brown antelope with spiraled, curved horns and a long, skinny snout whose facial markings make it look like it wears eyeglasses.

With just over 400 individual creatures living in a small section of northeastern Kenya, the hirola is not only more threatened than Africa’s most famous species, it is also the world’s most endangered antelope species.

But outside the narrow strip of sandy, thorny wilderness along Kenya’s volatile border with Somalia, few know the hirola exist at all – or of the need to conserve them.  Read more…

Welcome to Little Mogadishu

A Somalia refugee named Mohamed drinks tea outside an Eastleigh cafe at dusk. Jason Patinkin

Nicknamed ‘Little Mogadishu,’ Eastleigh is a refugee haven for Somalis, Ethiopians, and some dozen other African nationalities. In recent years it has also become a unique import-export commercial hub, one now in jeopardy as Kenya conducts crackdowns and deportations on foreigners to root-out tackle suspected Al Shabab radicals.

Picture slideshow.

How Kenya’s ‘war on terror’ is disrupting a thriving Nairobi district.

Somalis in Kenya face mistrust.

These digital maps could revolutionize Nairobi’s Minibus Taxi System

Photo credit: shankar s via Flickr

How do dozens of competing private bus companies keep a city’s public transportation system running without any formal planning? With a lot of success, it turns out. That’s according to a new map of Nairobi’s infamous matatu minibus system released last week.  Read more…