Oman Observer

The East African Connection

SHARED THOUGHTS –
nizar.nmh.musalmy@gmail.com –

At the beginning of this year, when I took the mother of junior to a land like no other, Junior and his sister protested strongly for not taking them with us.  If you don’t remember, we left them at home and went to that place poised just above the Equator amid the balmy waters of the Indian Ocean. We went to that island that has a reputation for natural beauty. When Junior and his sister persisted in their protest, I promised to take them some places. So this summer, I chose East Africa for them. When I say East Africa, I mean Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya respectively.
After landing at Entebbe International Airport, we drove across these four countries clocking some six thousand kilometres. Quite a long trip, but we had made a provision of a full month and kicked-off our trip from the Ugandan capital — Kampala and went South West to Kabale. Here I took the kids to a resort located on the showers of a beautiful lake Bunyonyi. This Resort is a perfect getaway for visitors travelling within the region. The region is a territory of several bird species while the climate and mountainous terrain makes it a perfect place for camping. As we enjoyed the boat trips and the nice weather, we accommodated ourselves in comfortable safari tents, rooms and cottages.
We then entered Rwanda — a land of ‘a thousand hills’ into Gisenyi. Gisenyi is a city on the shores of Lake Kivu, with sandy beaches. Here we did some water sports. The northern shore of this lake is a flat plain featuring lava formations from the eruptions of nearby Mount Nyiragongo. Here I took the kids to a hot spring for some natural massage. Then we entered the capital city Kigali — a city that is developing fast. This showpiece capital managed to impress Junior, his sister and their mother too. As a clean, comfortable and ordered city, Kigali makes you feel safe and have a sense of tranquility. We then resided at Lake Muhazi — a long thin shallow lake in the east of Rwanda. At this flooded valley lake, we enjoyed fresh fish direct from the lake. We then passed through Rwamagana a city very much influenced and impacted by many Omanis that used to live there. Due to Rwanda’s hilly nature, coldness, value of cleanliness, honesty and government’s commitment; you might think you are in Switzerland. It is worthwhile noting that Rwanda banned the use of plastic bags and we were not allowed to carry any in the country.
We finished Rwanda by entering Tanzania through Rusumo border post and drove all the way to Bukoba. Against all odds, we drove through terrains of this East African country. Nothing could stop us, save being slowed down by some rough roads. The kids enjoyed the ride, for there was so much beauty to marvel at although the tyres of our vehicle could in some instances roll over a group of so many pot-holes in some roads causing us to go zigzag. In fact some pot-holes have pot-holes within. But to be fair, there are also many floor-smooth roads as well.
In Bukoba we enjoyed the shores of Lake Victoria, the nice weather and the green terrain environment and some drizzling rains as we passed thorough Katoro, Kamachumu and Izigo. We then embarked on a journey to Mwanza. To get a nice view of this city, we climbed to the top of Capri Point. Here we also walked the popular interesting shores of Lake Victoria. We then proceeded to Kahama — a town known for its underground gold mines. Through Dodoma we went across the country up to its capital city Dar Es Salam and later continued to Tanga. In Tanga, we mainly resided in Lushoto. Lushoto is situated in the Usambara Mountains. We enjoyed the nice hotel with lively villages between high forest peaks. Lushoto has an altitude of about 1,400 metre which ensures a cool temperate climate, and this makes it a favoured mountain retreat. I can’t fail to mention how the kids enjoyed the barbecue and the local food before we ascended the mountains. Tanzania has a strict 50km/h speed limit on some roads. You wouldn’t want to exceed it.
We then entered Kenya; into Mombasa. Mombasa is located on the Eastern coastline of Kenya bordering the Indian Ocean. Here we enjoyed its popular beaches, diverse marine life, world-class hotels and a friendly atmosphere. Due to its tropical climate; we filled our activities at the beach and at sea. I made a point of taking the family to the all famous Mombasa Lighthouse which offers some gorgeous views of the port and the opportunity to munch on real African street food. Mombasa Lighthouse is one of the top places to enjoy a snack. The food at Mombasa Lighthouse will be some of the most nutritious and versatile of items that you will sample and some of the items available are real staple foods for the locals like cassava, sweet potato, maize and coconut, so they take pride in selling it you.
We then proceeded to the capital Nairobi. The kids were impressed with this large beautiful city. They were told that Nairobi means “cool water” in the Masai language, a reference to the Nairobi River which flows through the city. The city is popularly referred to as the Green City in the Sun and the weather was fantastic. We continued our journey and went through Kisumu highlands; we saw beautiful-rolling country sides that kept surfacing on one after another as we passed through towns, villages and forests. Kericho’s willingness to attract us with its hills, sliced by interlocking spurs and tea plantation summed up Kenya.
We drove back to Uganda and continued to enjoy the beauty of this East African state popularly referred to as the ‘pearl of Africa’. We enjoyed its matoke, cassava, pineapple, jackfruit, the botanical gardens and its monkeys at Entebbe. The green from the trees and grass at Mabira forest lured our entire feelings. This forest gave us a touch of quietness and natural beauty. There are many things you will see and not bother to see again but not the beautiful gushing waterfalls.
I would be betraying my heart if I did not make any mention of my cousin who did not have much trouble switching left and right hand side of the road while driving in these four different countries. All praise to him for managing to safely manoeuvre the hills and negotiate all corners. With such a safe and sound driver in control, one may think that no mess can be found on the roads even after being on them for four weeks.
All in all, the entire ride was refreshing, for there was so much natural beauty to marvel at. I am glad we holidayed together as a family. It was indeed more satisfying as we focused a little more on life and how to enjoy it. And yes we escaped the overbearing heat in the Gulf.