The house that Khashoggi built

Wednesday July 28 2010

Ol Pejeta house built by Adnan Khashoggis. Liz Muthoni | NATION

Ol Pejeta house built by Adnan Khashoggis. Liz Muthoni | NATION  

By Wachira Kang’aru, [email protected]

In 1978, flamboyant wheeler-dealer Adnan Khashoggi built what is now a legacy of his love for grandeur in Kenya. He has since gone through rough patches, including brushes with the law for racketeering, and was a key player in the Iran-Contra weapons affair that almost brought down the Ronald Reagan administration. He now lives in quiet retirement in the tax haven of Monaco.

The Khashoggi legacy is a magnificent farm house at Ol Pejeta Ranch that cost him $7.5 million (about Sh50 million then and Sh607 million at the current exchange rate). This sum is enough to build three official residences for Kenya’s vice-president at a cost of Sh195 million. Or a 70-unit housing estate in the leafy suburbs of Nairobi at Sh8 million apiece.

Set in the middle of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, the house is still a source of inspiration. It is now leased to TPS East Africa, which plans to pump in at least Sh145 million for its renovation. Each room goes for Sh35,000 a night, full board.

The property stands on 3,200 square metres in the 24,000-acre Ol Pejeta Conservancy, with the back doors opening to the spectacular backdrop view of Mount Kenya in all its snow-capped majesty.

Step out of the luxurious ambiance and you are surrounded by tropical woodland with a watering hole, affording the occupants the luxury of viewing wild animals as they drink.

The front is the most magnificent, with the wall sporting a decorative half-timbering that conceals the glass wall to give the house a pleasant wooden look.

“It makes the house an object of aspiration to many,” says James Odenyo, the manager in charge of the house.

The main house has four bedrooms, all ensuite with walk-in dressing rooms, two lounges, dining room, living room, two private swimming pools — one for the visitors and the other for the owners, and two large balconies with an excellent view of the game grazing quietly on the plains. It also has a separate two-bedroom coach house.

The house is part of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, which is situated next to the larger Sweetwaters Conservancy covering more than 110,000 acres and extending to Mt Kenya on one side and the Aberdares Forest on the other. Its former owners — Lord Delamere and Marcus Wickham-Baynton — turned the vast tracts of land into a ranch. Subsequent owners included Christina Onassis’ father-in-law Roussel and, later, Adnan Khashoggi, who used the ranch house as a private hideaway.