The Bomas of Kenya

Our final few days in Nairobi have been our busiest so far.

Thursday – Carnivore
Thursday I worked for only a few hours in the morning before heading out to meet another American woman for lunch. She’s the wife of one of Leo’s colleagues here, Dave, and they’re here for three months. Her driver picked us each up and then we drove into the green hills near several embassies to a place called The River Cafe. Combination restaurant and plant nursery, the lush hills and canopy tent provided a lovely setting for a delicious meal. Here I often catch whiffs of jasmine and honeysuckle and this place had plenty of the latter. A few wandering tomcats completed the ambiance.


After yet again sitting in traffic, I arrived back at the hotel at 3 p.m. to work for a few more minutes before getting into another car at 3:30 and heading out to the IBM site where Leo has been working. There, I met him and his colleague Martin, a German man around our age.

This was the night we were finally trying Carnivore. Every single thing we read about Nairobi mentioned this restaurant, a place best avoided by the faint of stomach and vegetarians. Carnivore is similar to a Brazilian steakhouse: if your flag is up, they constantly cruise by your table with roasted meat, slicing off hunks of it with a machete inches from your eyes, dropping it right onto your hot plate. Meat came in many varieties, including beef, pork and lamb, served many times in different ways, and then ostrich, crocodile, chicken, turkey, liver and more. Leo was sure to try the ox balls. His review: wet meat that flattens and falls apart into mushiness. “Unpleasant,” he reported. (I’ve tried them before so I passed this round.)

Here is the Carnviore roasting pit:


The other great thing about this meal (aside from burping up meat for hours afterward) is the Dawa. In Swahili, “dawa” means medicine. More than one bar makes this beverage, but at Carnivore, it’s a production. The smiling “Dr. Dawa” arrives at your table, with an Prohibition-era cigarette tray slung around his neck. The tray contains the ingredients he needs to stir up this medicine, which our server urged us to try in order to whet our appetites. His dawas are vodka, limes, honey and a bit of brown sugar. The glass is served with a small muddling stick so you can mix it all up. Delicious! I later tried a rum-based dawa elsewhere. I found the heavy rum flavor overpowering and therefore not as tasty, but I suspect others may disagree. Gin would also do nicely.

The fixed-price meal included dessert, bread and some sides plus sauces for the meat, so we waddled more than wandered out to the parking lot. Still, a memorable meal is sometimes worth it!

Friday – Surprise Work
On Friday, I accompanied Leo and Martin, who rode together daily, to their office that I could work from a real desk and office chair. Besides, I was sick of the hotel. The building is the former library of the adjacent Catholic University, a place where you’ll find cows strolling the grass along with students. The office is very nice, smelling faintly of plaster and wet paint. I got a ton done while there all morning. At lunch, I joined them on their daily walk to the cafeteria, where they dine on a full plate of hot food and a Coke for about $2.50 each.

The afternoon proved more interesting. That morning they’d been on the phone with some bigwigs and something urgent required their help. So a driver fetched our trio at 1 p.m. and we headed to the other office, closer to the city center, where they could assist. The work took awhile, making me glad I’d packed a book in addition to my laptop. We ordered dinner in, but after that, I decided there was no point in waiting any longer. So I headed back at 8 while they continued for another two hours.

Last Weekend
Unfortunately, this project also meant working Saturday and part of Sunday. While Leo worked Saturday, I worked, ran an errand and bummed around with my book outside by the pool. Dave and his wife picked me up at 5:30 and we headed out to dinner in Karen, the suburb where all the ex-pats live. (So named for Karen Blixen, whose museum house Leo and I had previously visited.) The restaurant/guest house was packed with a mix of Americans and Europeans, many cheering at the rugby match on TV. Leo and Martin eventually joined us and we had a nice meal.

Today, Leo headed into the office once more, hoping to finalize a few things and finish early. I met him and Martin for lunch. Martin returned to work, while Leo and I headed out to the Bomas of Kenya. This cultural center has a few traditional Kenyan huts set up for visitors to see, but the main draw is the dancing. According to Lonely Planet, “the artists perform traditional dances and songs taken from the country’s 16 various tribal groups.”


We stayed for an hour to watch, then headed back to get Martin and return to the hotel.

Tomorrow, we head home. Our flight does not leave until late at night, so we have a few activities planned. But we won’t have much Internet access, so farewell from Nairobi, and we will see you soon!

One thought on “The Bomas of Kenya”

  1. Wonderful posts Jen. I love reading about your experiences you made them come to life for me. I love the idea of Dawa we should try the recipe here sounds delicious. See you both soon!

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