Mandhary mosque in Mombasa Old Town.

“As we journey through time remember: There are always two sides to history. The visible one – that which we see and admire, and the invisible one – that which stems our curiosity and enchantment”. 

Screen Shot 2018-06-17 at 18.28.15

Mombasa Old Town is one of the historical tourist attractions on Mombasa Island. It is located on the southeast side of Mombasaa nd occupies an area of 180 acres. It is inhabited by a mix of local, Arab, Portuguese, Asian and British communities.

Mandhry Mosque (on of the oldest Mosque) is next to the Fort Jesus in Old Town,Not too far from Basheihk. The architecture recaptures a bygone era influenced by the African, Arabic and European cultures, from the narrow streets.

There are many curio shops that sell arts and crafts, antiques and popular Kenyan souvenirs, as you walk towards the Mosque.

Mandhry usually takes away the antiquity award from Basheihk owing to its written and dated records. The mosques does not disappoint in architecture either; the front yard takes an ornate seat-like shape regaled by calming ocean breeze.

Founded in 1570, Mandhry Mosque in the Old Town is the city’s oldest, and an excellent example of Swahili architecture, which combines the elegant flourishes of Arabic style with the comforting, geometric patterns of African design – note, for example, the gently rounded minaret. Not open to visitors.

IMG_5020

Advertisements

Butterfly Conservation at Haller Park.

IMG_4935

From far, its a beautiful house, small, in fact very small. It sits in a lavish green farm, one you couldn’t afford yourself. It surrounded as you can see with more green, with no glass windows and doors, its very inviting. You see it from far and want to just get close, then you want to get in then you want to live there, but then you are reminded that what you paid at the gate only lasts you for a day, and now that its 2pm, the day is running fast.

But maybe you would think a beautiful house with no owner? No, not this one, a middle aged man sits inside listening to some music coming out of his phone, his name…Peter Oruma. He has a pen and paper, apart from the phone off-course. Still on the table are lives, this am thinking are from a specific tree, different kinds, with plastic containers with the lids cut in the shape of a butterfly, there I have my answer. I might just have been jealous that Peter gets to spend his day in this place I want to call home, but even for him…..its not his place.

IMG_4941

This is the home of the butterflies. If Haller Park was a country for many animals, then where I am standing will be the butterflies province and this house would be the factory. Its impossible to imagine what goes on around here. In the first stage a girl butterfly lays eggs. A butterfly first starts out as an egg. A girl butterfly lays the eggs on a leaf. She lays the eggs really close together. The eggs are really small and round. About five days after the eggs are laid. A tiny worm-like creature will hatch from the egg.

 

A caterpillar is sometimes called larve. A caterpillar is a long creature. It looks like a worm. Most caterpillars have a cool pattern. This pattern has stripes or patches. The caterpillar is hungry once it has hatched. It starts to eat leaves and flowers. It eats these all the time. It first eats the leaf that it was born on. This is the eating and growing stage. All this happens here, in this small house.

So I understand the importance of this small house here at Haller Park. The house is of great help in making sure that butterflies are breading in a controlled environment that minimizes the risks. When you pay at the gate, Peter says; and you come in here, you should see the butterflies, and this house is here to make sure that you will be guaranteed to see them. Makes sense to me.

But then I ask if he studied somewhere, what is the scientific term Peter, of this thing that you do, we go to google very fast to just verify some term Peter said, but the surprising thing, he never studied in anywhere, it just passion, persistence and the love for the butterflies that has made him. Such an encouraging story for me, what greater love. Peter sends us to where he keeps the butterflies after they leave this small place and while we are there, we can only appreciate his contribution to their being alive.

Tell me how important your job is, tell me how hard you work, how you build the app that has revolutionized health care, how you open the highway with your heavy machines and keep the traffic flowing, how you are the judge that sends the bad guys to jail, or the police that arranges their appointment with the judge……tell me how important your job is…….and then I will tell you how important Peter’s Job is.

A Visit to Haller Park.

haller

It was really wet when we arrived in Mombasa. The weather APP said there will be rain the whole week, thanks to nature we managed two days of full sun on our one week stay. We were backpacking with my wife, very small budget and my birthday to think about, the plan was to enjoy small pleasures while we usher in my birthday on the 23rd of May. So our first stop on day one was Haller Park, they say this is the most visited place in Kenya.

We paid Ksh500 per person to visit this park, its green with water everywhere, you can feel the fresh air around. Amongst the things done here is restoration of the old quarry, keeping animals like Giraffe – which I was privileged to feed, Crocodiles swim innocently in their waters, fish nursery ,butterfly farm, hippo farm and many others. They also recycle old tyres to produce new energy.

IMG_4932
Fish Nursery

Everyday at 11am you can get an opportunity to feed the Giraffes and at 4pm when the Hippos are fed. We were not able to be there till evening so we took the morning opportunity of feeding the Giraffes.

IMG_4876
The food is Ks50 a pack

The park is surrounded by water bodies everywhere, its beautiful to just look around and admire how water brings nature to life. Lots of trees, lots of water and lots of monkeys.

IMG_4918
Home of the Crocodiles

This is also home of Mzee, the tortoise who is now 250 years and still going, we have also a Mzee crocodile who is 150 years. Lets just say animals here live to be very old. Mzee has been put in a protective care, in one place with a warthog and antelope, he has  cracks on his shell.

IMG_4963
This is Mzee

When you are here you will see how well we can conserve the mangroves. This special trees are under attack especially in this part of the coast. Because of its hard wood they are used in basically everything. At Haller Park, they are thriving really well and its good to just see them this way.

IMG_4960

Snakes also have found residence here, I hear they are fed on chicken and small birds. The big snake can eat two chickens in two weeks, and seat in a glass box just doing nothing. I don’t know if its a good thing not to witness them feeding, because what normally happens is that the chickens  are thrown into the glass box alive, the snake will kill the chicken, take a rest before they start to feed on them. I love watching it only on national geographic.

IMG_4979
They can really be innocent

When you see baby crocodile, I was telling my wife, you will not Imagine that one day they will grow so big and possibly eat somebody. Here the baby crocodile are separated from the old ones. I am sure the old crocodiles might want to feed on the baby crocodiles, i mean there are no guarantees in the animal kingdom. This babies are also not innocent, they can feed on you.

IMG_4988

This was my first time visiting Haller Park despite having lived and worked in Mombasa, but still felt like the best time…..with my wife on my side on my birthday, it couldn’t have been any better day for this. Am sure as you visit this place, you will enjoy the calm and peace we have enjoyed here.

Enjoy your travel, if you do.

The Spirit of Travel on Madaraka Express.

How-to-Book-SGR-Madaraka-Express-Train-Seat-using-Safaricom-Code-639

The Madaraka express leaves Nairobi terminus at 2:30pm, we are on schedule. It is a beautiful day to fly but the train will do the work just fine. It will be 5 hours or 7:20pm local time is when we arrive in Mombasa terminus. Gone are the days, gone are the days…..I say to my self.

My first travel to Mombasa I had just finished high school, I was looking forward to something great, something of the future. Apart from me finishing school, something else had happened, that thing, that threatened to get me in a police cell was the reason my mother put me in a Mombasa bound bus. But I tell you, this is a story for another day.

A while back it took many hours to travel to this coastal town, to a common man whom flying was unthinkable luxury, they had to put in the time. Today things are different, thanks to the debt hole we as a country dug for ourselves. Its a fact that for at $5.6m per kilometre for the track alone, Kenya’s railway line cost close to three times the international standard and four times the original estimate.

So it is perhaps not surprising that Kenyans have been asking why they seem to have paid so much. But that is a story for another day, today I just want to have a feel of this mega expensive project. Luckily the damage for me is kshs2.1 per kilometre and I want to see if every shilling counts. Its a slow start from Nairobi, suddenly the Athi River station is behind us, we head to Emali. This is an express train so we are not stopping at the small stations.

The guys hawking the snacks are live, in-fact my feeling is that food is the business not travel. At this point I don’t like my  aisle seat, with my wife seated on the opposite row its difficult to be affectionate when people are busy on the move. The seats are not very comfortable but never mind if you booked on second class, first class would be better. But the people making the seats should have done better I think.

By the time we arrive in Emali i am already on my feet. My wife is even making fun of me, my body has had enough already. I am also wondering if the train can be faster, maybe maintain 114km per hour for at-least two hours. But never mind me, I am not a train captain and I even don’t know how it works.

At some point we meet with the train that left Mombasa at 3:30pm, then the train slows down as we approach Tsavo, and at this point we are able to spot some elephants and other wild animals from a distance.

saltlick4

The train keeps rolling and sunset engulf us, and I know we should be approaching Mariakani then Mombasa our last station.  Our speed reduces to 34 KM an hour as we pass Mariakani station, headed to our last Station. We arrive Mombasa terminus 7:20pm, I am still standing. I have been standing better part of the way.

A sea of humanity pour out of the train to the empty station, the smell of Mombasa, the heat welcomes us with a smile. The weather app said there will be rain, it lied. Finding ourselves to our respective mode of transportation to the city, I think about how things have changed for the traveller.

One of my seat mate on the train is a frequent traveller between Nairobi and Mombasa, and he finds the train really useful. This means that when the government does things that improve the life and work of its citizen, they thrive. I agree with many that the government should have done more, done better, but for now “it is what it is”

The Horseshoe on the Car.

“Because horseshoes are tools designed to protect the horse’s fragile hooves from the harsh paved roads – so they protect everything they touch”.

horseshoe

My first car had it and now my second car has it, It is in my house and I have given it to my sister and it hangs in her kitchen. My wife and my friend don’t understand whats up with the horseshoe, she expressed her shock when she saw it on the car.

Many believe the origin of the lucky horseshoe can be traced back to an old legend about Saint Dunstan.

Saint Dunstan (924-988) is the patron saint of blacksmiths, goldsmiths, jewellers, locksmiths, musicians and the blind. He was a reformer, statesman, abbot, and archbishop of the tenth century in England. The feast day of Saint Dunstan is May 19th.

There are several very old legends about Saint Dunstan and the Devil. Most stories tell the tale of how Saint Dunstan constantly was tempted to do wrong by the Devil disguised as a beautiful woman.

Saint Dunstan was a brilliant blacksmith. One story refers to his exceptional talent as a blacksmith. The Devil was hard at work trying to win Saint Dunstan over. On one occasion the Devil cornered Saint Dunstan and made him promise to nail a horseshoe on the Devil’s horse.

Saint Dunstan pretended to agree on taking on this task. The devil stood close by to make sure Saint Dunstan was true to his word. Saint Dunstan then suddenly grabbed hold of the Devil’s foot and with strong determination nailed the horseshoe on the foot of the Devil instead of his horse.

The devil screamed as the pain was horrific. The Devil in extreme agony begged Saint Dunstan to remove the horseshoe.

Saint Dunstan agreed to remove the horseshoe from the Devil’s foot under one condition; the devil was to swear never to enter any house that had a horseshoe hanging by the door. The Devil agreed instantly.

Where I come from people have different beliefs but horseshoes is not one of them, but on the other side we are integrated by the Asian community, very open, very different, very horseshoes believers.

A brand new shoe hasn’t protected anything yet, while an old worn out one has done its job and can move on to spreading luck somewhere else. We’ve had people knock on our door asking if we had an old horseshoe to put on their new cars!

IMG_4577

But there are other more convoluted “rules” to make sure the horseshoe is as lucky as possible:

  • It must be have been worn by a horse previously, as I said already, and the longer the better. You can tell a shoe that stayed on for a long time from one that was lost soon after applying because it will have nearly paper thin areas, ragged edges, scrapes, bumps and a good deal of rust on only one side (the one NOT touching the ground). Grungy is lucky!
  • The shoe must be nailed with the open side up (like the letter “U”) otherwise the “luck will fall off” and be wasted. Best if nailed above a door or in the front bumper of a vehicle; something about the shoe being the first thing one sees when getting home and the first part the vehicle that arrives anywhere.
  • The luckiest of all lucky horseshoes come from the LEFT HIND foot of a GREY MARE (female horse). Don’t ask me where that one comes from, it’s just tradition.

That is why the horseshoe forever more will keep evil out of the home, according to this old legend. No matter what the reasons may be there is no doubt that the horseshoe remains an everlasting symbol of good luck.

Do you have your own good luck horseshoe?

Is Working at Home the Future?

working-from-home

In recent days Nairobi has found itself in a wet weather situation, and when it rains, it pours. There is something I have never understood about this city, things almost get to a stand still when it rains. We have seen crazy traffic in the morning and evenings, some commuters getting home in the. Middle of the night.

Last Thursday I called a friend of mine at 10am, she answered the phone in bed. She stretched and from a distance I had the bed crack, (I know she needs a new bed) but that is besides the point. We talked for a few seconds, and suddenly she was confirming what we were talking about on google.

If you are like me you know how cold or how warm a bed can be, it all depends with your investment. Today it poured the whole night and morning. Truth be told, the best time to have people work from their houses, just like my friend.

I have researched on a few organizations who have invested in systems that will make it easy for their employees to work remotely but still operate on a colonial mindset. Even though they have paid top dollar for the system, they imagine that you struggling to wake up in a cold wet morning, driving through a river like road and getting to work three hours later in part of your job description.

Why then would they care to have all this if its not put to work, even the United Nations still want to bus thousands of employees to Gigiri and still have programmes on reducing carbon emission.

I hope in the coming week some of you will visit the European Union office in Nairobi, which encourages people to work remotely. The boss says “don’t come to work if you don’t have shit to do” but still pays your salary at the end of the month.

But I will not end without saying this, if your work is cutting Kidero grass on Uhuru highways….and I say this with a lot of love, you gotta get to that shit. But if you are they guy posting how grass is being cut on Uhuru highway on the Governor’s FB page, that shit you can do it without leaving your bed. If you think people can not work while in bed, ask my friend, stretching in bed at 10am on a Thursday, she picked my call, she checked it on google and we were in business.

Before she hang-up she said she will mpesa 6 grants, am still waiting.

But there are a whole host of other benefits to home working, particularly from a health and wellbeing perspective. Below, we look at the seven reasons why home working is the future.

1. Reduction in commuting time

Not only is commuting often stressful and unpleasant, it also take up time that could otherwise be spent working or doing something else productive.

Employees who can work from home will also spend less money on petrol or train fares, which may give them less of an incentive to ask for a salary boost to cover travel expenses.

2. More productivity

Many people who work from home claim to be more productive because they’re not in a loud environment or distracted by co-workers.

In fact, according to a Canada Life survey, homeworkers rank their productivity as 7.7/10, compared with 6.5/10 for office workers.

A spokesperson for employment agency Reed said: “There are some obvious advantages of working from home that you’ve probably heard before – avoid the nightmare commute, work in your PJs – but the benefits go beyond that.

“Working from home can really help to increase your productivity, as the absence of office distractions makes it easier to keep your head down and actually get your work done.”

3. Fewer sick days

The survey also found, unsurprisingly, that home workers took fewer days off sick than those based in the office.

Employees working in an office took on average 3.1 days of sick leave last year, whilst homeworkers only took 1.8 sick days, Canada Life found.

That’s because employees who have a cold or are mildly sick can still get work done at home, while office workers are more inclined to take the entire day off to avoid leaving the comfort of their home.

In addition, the better work-life balance means workers are less likely to get ill in the first place because their stress levels are typically lower.

While the benefits of working at home are endless, I have only picked a few, am sure out there depending on what you do, you will find it beneficial working at home or if you are an employer, or if you are an employee.

East Africa Big Data Analytics and Cloud Computing Summit Held in Nairobi.

data

Is East Africa ready to unlock the big data value? This was the big question that engaged the crowd of Tech experts that converged at the Strathmore Business School for this years East Africa Big Data and Cloud Computing Summit.

A couple of years back, the mantra “Content is king” ruled every aspect of innovation. We are now in an era where the trending terms are big data, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) and the new mantra is “Big data is king”.

Big data describes the massive volumes of structured, semi-structured and unstructured data that organisations can mine or analyse to gain insights which they can then use to enhance operational and strategic decision making, (If your Data can fit on a spreadsheet, its not Big Data). The sheer amount of data demands cost-effective and innovative ways to process information and make sense of it. That is where machine learning and AI come into the picture.

By effectively harnessing the power of big data, Kenya, and Africa, could drive massive productivity gains, cost savings and even new business models in sectors such as government, health, insurance and transport.

The East Africa Big Data Analytics and Cloud Computing Summit was born out of a much-needed opportunity to unite the data and analytics players and potential end-users of their expertise.

The event was scheduled for May 2nd and 3rd, 2018 at the Radisson Blu, Nairobi, Kenya, but we had last minute change of venus as the day approached and the two day event being shrunk to one day. The event featured 10+ industry expert keynote presentations, 12 panel discussions, covering a wide range of topics including Big data analytics, Machine learning techniques, Predictive modeling and analytics, Data security, Data mining, Cloud computing and Cyber security.

Industry players like Safaricom, where at hand to shade more light on how they have managed to create a data centre, their challenges and achievements and how they have continued to keep it working and more importantly secure. Safaricom and Equity group were louded to be the leading organizations in working towards the realization of millenium development goals – something that many Kenyans have forgotten.

Industry were encouraged to come up with mechanism that allows Telcos to disclose statistics that can be used to show trends and the need to close the gaps, while engaging in public participation in policies.

Check Point through their country manager Kendi Nderitu, put emphasis on security to enable the success of Big Data and Cloud Computing. Security involves everyone, whether the Cloud service provider or the user, security should be a priority at all levels. Gone are the days when the subject of security used to come last in a discussion when considering cloud services, now its top on the agenda.

IMG_4258

The internet in Africa has become more affordable and accessible to the masses. Kenya is ranked as having the fastest internet speeds in the continent, according to the ‘State of the Internet Connectivity Report’ by Akamai 2017 quarter one report.

Having the right infrastructure, capacity and security to innovate and explore these technology trends is crucial.

However, in Kenya, in spite of all our success stories already recognised globally, we are just at the beginning of our unique ICT revolution. We are huge contributors to the “Africa Rising” narrative. Let us continue to innovatively explore how we can invest in these exciting future technologies which will take Kenya into its bright destiny.