In the quiet village of Berea in Subukia, Nakuru County is a cultural hub that has sought to maintain a link between the traditional world and the current modern world.
The Bomas of Nakuru, which is located along the Nakuru-Nyahururu highway, is characterised by traditional villages and a collection of artefacts that effortlessly mesmerise historians and other curious minds.
Although it is a privately-owned facility, Bomas of Nakuru is a replica of the state-owned Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi city.
According to the owner, Mr Stephen Kariuki, the idea to put up the cultural haven was a way of running away from the non-profitable maize farming that is common in the area.
Mr Kariuki, who is a retired senior chief, said he felt the need to turn part of his parcel of land into a lucrative business that would serve him well after retirement.
INSPIRED BY YOUNGEST SON
“My youngest son Martin is the one who told me about this idea and after consulting with my family, we decided to set it up,” said Mr Kariuki.
The plan was then actualised in 2015 and on April 28 the same year, former Nakuru County Governor Kinuthia Mbugua officially opened the facility.
During what Mr Kariuki termed as phase one of the project, the ambitious business man set up villages of the,Kikuyu,Maasai,Kalenjin,Kisii,Embu,Mijikenda,Teso,Luhya,Kamba and Luo communities.
The villages vividly describe how our fore fathers co-existed with details such as the position of the granary, the cattle shed, the boys hut and the husbands hut carrying a lot of meaning.
For instance in the Kalenjin village, you will notice that the boys and husband slept closest to the gate in order to protect the family from any danger from outsiders.
“The cattle shed was also hidden at the back of the compound to wade off cattle rustlers who were very common at the time and still are to this date,” said Mr Eliud Kamau, the tour guide.
It was also fascinating to learn that the Mijikenda community had a watch tower in their compounds to keep watch of slave traders during the slave trade era.
Another interesting bit was the structure of the huts in the Teso village which according to Mr Kamau were made in a pyramid like structure similar to the pyramids in Egypt.
“This is because it is believed that the Teso community originated from Egypt, hence the structure of the huts,” said Mr Kamau.
He noted that the facility was highly dependent on schools that brought in their students to learn about our country’s culture and lovers of history who are both local and international tourists.
“Our busiest months are in March, August, November and December. The rest of the year we experience low human traffic,” he said.
The facility also hosts a room full of artefacts like gourds, horns that were used for communication, water pots, stones used to grind millet and maize into flour and the traditional three-legged stools.
COLONIAL ERA DOCUMENTS
It also has colonial era documents like the pass book and coins that were used during the colonial period.
In an attempt to attract more tourists to the facility, Mr Kariuki introduced wild animals like the ostriches, crocodiles, the rare Columbus monkey and the blue monkey.
It also has a sports ground suitable for team building, camping and picnics where visitors can bring in their own food or order from the in house restaurant.
However, the running of Bomas of Nakuru has been met with challenges over the past two years.
“During the El nino rains in December 2015, the Maasai village was ruined but despite writing to the Nakuru County government for rehabilitation of the village nothing has been done,” said a seemingly disappointed Mr Kariuki.
He said the county had not shown any interest in partnering with the facility to upgrade it even though he pays huge amounts of money to the County in form of licenses.
“With the support of the County, we could be able to finish phase two of the project which will include conference halls, cottages and rooms that would offer accommodation to visitors who travel from outside the county,” said Mr Kariuki.
This he added would help to keep the facility vibrant the whole year round as it would not depend on tourists during the festive season alone.