Locating a Lion

Locating a Lion

My mother Shelina Popat worked in the Maasai Mara in tourism as a 22-year-old. One day a VIP guest, a middle-aged woman, arrived from England. She was very eager to see a lion. After her first game drive, the woman went to Shelina and explained that she really wanted to see a lion and she was only staying for three nights. Shelina told the woman not to worry, since lions were frequently seen. But for some reason the Mara’s lions went on strike that week and by the woman’s last night, she still had not seen a lion. The woman kept complaining how she came all the way from England to see a lion and how disappointed she was. The woman had only one more game drive the next morning. When she came back from her last game drive, she still hadn’t seen a lion. Feeling very dissatisfied, she went back to her tent to prepare to leave for the airstrip. Shelina drove the woman to the airstrip to drop her off. However, on the way to the airstrip the woman needed to relieve herself. Shelina drove her to a location known for being deserted with no wild animals roaming about. She stopped the car in front of a large bush. The woman got out to go pee, while Shelina waited in the car. A loud scream erupted from behind the bush. The woman appeared, running towards the car with her shorts around her ankles, screaming, “Lion!” Shelina couldn’t help but laugh. The woman was terrified but also delighted. She finally saw a lion, even though not in the...
The Rarest Thing on the Coast

The Rarest Thing on the Coast

As a child, our family often spent holidays at the Mnarani Club in Kilifi. One vacation in the 1960s the Club, managed in this days by Monty and Peggy Hayes, organised a scavenger hunt for all of us children. As we raced around collecting things for our list, we pondered one item. We had been asked to bring back “the rarest thing on the East African coast.” What should we bring? We had an inspiration. Monty’s bald head still had three or four hairs. If we could pull one of those out, surely that would qualify as the rarest thing on the East African coast. Someone managed to sneak up behind Monty and pluck one of his precious few remaining hairs. Monty wasn’t too impressed with us, but with his rare strand of hair our team won the scavenger hunt. Joannah Stutchbury, Nairobi This story appeared in the Only In Africa section of the June/July issue...
Taita – Taveta Battlefield Tour

Taita – Taveta Battlefield Tour

World War I  Old Africa Battlefield Tour Taita-Taveta August 2014  Part One – Voi  We met up in Voi on Saturday afternoon, August 23, 2014, with other members of our Old Africa group touring the World War I battlefield sites in Taita-Taveta. James Willson, author of the book Guerrillas of Tsavo, a richly illustrated volume of history focusing on the war in that area, met us and took us first to the Commonwealth Graves Cemetery in Voi. James explained about the beginning of the war and how the rail line, with a station at Voi, was vulnerable to sabotage from German forces coming in from neighbouring German East Africa. After wandering up and down the rows of white headstones and reading the names of the young men – so many young – the reality of the cost of war set in.               We stopped briefly at an open field where the tents for the Carrier Corps would have been set up for the thousands of African porters required to supply the British troops. These soldiers were stationed in the bush in Maktau and in other camps and forts to form a line of defense for the railway. Eventually a rail line would be put in to Maktau and all the way to Taveta, but at the beginning of the war in 1914 all supplies and much of the water went to the troops on the heads of African porters. Without their service, the soldiers on the front lines couldn’t have survived.               We drove from Voi to the Taita Hills in the late afternoon, the sun creating...

Nairobi’s First Stripper

About the year 1948, Nairobi had one very popular nightclub called the 400 Club that, with new management, changed its name to The Travellers Club. The new manager sought the permission of the Michael O’Rourke, the then Commissioner of Police, to employ a professional strip-tease dancer on a short assignment. Michael had a preview of the act and gave his permission on condition that the Club staff should be excluded from the performance. (That was the way things were in those far-off days). The show was a great success with full houses almost every night. Eventually, for the final performance by this somewhat overweight lady who was certainly past her prime, she promised to put on a fan dance. There was standing room only for the customers. Sure enough, about midnight, all the staff were sent home and a small low platform about the size of a coffee table was brought onto the stage with a curtain all around it. The lights dimmed, seductive music was played, the curtains opened and the lady proceeded to dance with a pair of huge ostrich feather fans that hid her attractions from view. At the end of the dance, the lady was back on the platform and then simultaneously she threw the fans apart, the lights went out and the curtains closed. There was tremendous applause and yells of, “Encore, encore!” Then after a few minutes the lights dimmed again, the seductive music started and the curtains opened. However, instead of the stripper, who should appear with the fans and dressed only in his jockey underpants was none other than the manager...