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Eldoret’s Wagon Hotel: Where Boers thronged for recreation

Monday August 26 2019

Wagon Wheel Hotel

Wagon Wheel Hotel in Eldoret town, Uasin Gishu County. It was built in 1926 on a three-acre parcel and is a symbol of how Eldoret was segmented between the Boers and British settlers. PHOTO | JARED NYATAYA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

BARNABAS BII
By BARNABAS BII
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STANLEY KIMUGE
By STANLEY KIMUGE
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The link with Boer settlement and the influence of the British royalty forms the unique history and heritage of Eldoret, the industrial hub and tourist destination of the North Rift.

Most of the old buildings made of red bricks have retained their character in the town that came into being as a result of the occupation by Boers.

Fearing British rule, the Boers used ox carts to move from South Africa to Kenya.

A majority of the Boers — or Afrikaners — who arrived in Kenya settled in Uasin Gishu, occupying huge tracts of land for the purpose of agriculture.

RECREATION CLUBS

They built recreational clubs, among them Wagon Wheel Hotel, which has maintained its distinctive character since.

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Built in 1926 on a three-acre parcel, Wagon Wheel Hotel is a symbol of how Eldoret was segmented between the Boers and British settlers.

While the Boers thronged Wagon Wheel Hotel for recreation on Northern Avenue, the British had Lincoln Hotel on Southern street in the town that was split into two by the now Uganda road.

Though the Boers left in the 1960s, the hotel remains as one of the oldest buildings in Eldoret and has retained its wagon shape feature.

PRIVATE CLUB

The hotel was built as a private members’ club for mainly senior railway staff as well as the Afrikaner farmers.

It has pictures of the wagons of the Great Treks — as the journeys from South Africa to Kenya were known then.

The dining area itself is in the shape of an elongated railway wagon with a looped roof.

“This dining room has a sitting capacity of 120. We have maintained it in its original form as it is our trademark,” says hotel manager Hesbon Kinuthia.

Some families of the Boer settlers still own land in parts of Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia counties.

STATUE

The Wagon Wheel statuette is at the entrance of the hotel and the main dining place, making the building unique.

The hotel boasts of 102 rooms and an ultra-modern casino, the only one in the vast North Rift region.

“Even as we retain the original features of the hotel, plans are underway to have a swimming pool, fully equipped children’s playground and a discotheque to satisfy the needs of our ever growing clientele,” Mr Kinuthia said.

The hotel is owned by Sego Investments, which runs similar businesses in Rift Valley and several parts of the country.

“Although the hotel was started by Boers, it has changed ownership with time and it is currently wholly owned by locals,” Mr Kinuthia disclosed.

NYAMA COMA

The Wagon Hotel is a popular joint for nyama choma lovers.

The casino operates strictly at night.

But the history and heritage of Eldoret can never be complete without the mention of the Rat Pit bar which is next to the Standard Chartered Bank, the first financial institution started by the Boers as they settled in Uasin Gishu, Trans Nzoia and the North Rift in general.

Can you imagine a bar that is never manned?

It is a place patrons can just walk in, take a drink and leave money on the counter.

If one needs change, he can take the equivalent amount from what has been left by other patrons.

It is mind-boggling in the contemporary society but that is the tale of Rat pit bar which also forms part of the rich heritage of Eldoret Town.

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