If you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must start by lifting stones today~ African Proverb
Howdy good people! Welcome back to the ‘Best of Nairobi Series’! Today we explore the African Heritage House, a true gem that speaks to the heart of Africa.
The more we explore our Magical Kenya, the more I realize that it has a knack for surprising us at every turn. Pure surprise is exactly how I felt, on learning about the African Heritage House from my friend Clare.
As you well know I don’t let curiosity harbor for too long. 🙂 So I reached out to Alan Donovan, the founder and owner of the African Heritage House, to organize a visit.
Imagine a place at the head of the Nairobi National Park, a house so rich in the African culture that it takes you on a journey to Ghana, the Congo, Niger, Morocco, Mali, Tanzania, Nigeria… all under one roof! And even then, you still can’t grasp it all! Are you feeling a little light-headed yet? Well stick around my dear friends, for more. 😀
The African Heritage House: Where It All Began
Alan Donovan, is no less African than you and I. In fact, I suspect that he may be even more African than the majority of us.
(on a light note) 😀
I am not African because I was born in Africa but because Africa was born in me~Kwame Nkrumah
A native American, Alan has been in Africa since the late 1960’s, having started off as a Relief Officer during the Biafran war in Nigeria.
He later found his way to Nairobi, after journeying through the Sahara Dessert, and the Congo.
In Kenya, he settled among the Turkana for a while where he encountered their aboriginal art pieces and handcrafts. He says that he particularly admired how much they achieved with limited resources.
He brought back a collection of these pieces, and his friends encouraged him to hold an art exhibition in Nairobi. There, he met Joseph Murumbi, the second Vice-president of Kenya, and the only African present at the exhibition.
Their love for indigenous African art saw them become great friends, so much that they set up the African Heritage Gallery together. This inspired Alan to follow his dream of building the African Heritage House, a place that is truly African in all aspects.
Today, the African Heritage House is not only the ‘Most photographed house’ in Kenya, but also a National monument, under the Museums of Kenya.
How To Get There
The African Heritage house is quite easy to find. It is located on Mombasa Road, opposite Mlolongo, about 30-45minutes’ drive from the city centre, on a good day. 🙂
If you are going by bus, pick a bus (no. 110) at Railways Station, to Mlolongo via Mombasa Road. This part of the town is usually a bit parlous so keep your phone and wallet safe.
Alight at Petmak Petrol Station, and cross the road as the house is on the opposite side from where you alight, near A.I.C Kasina. Look out for a private drive way named, Alan Donovan and walk a short distance to the end of the road.
If you are driving, drive to Mlolongo, and keep an eye out for Petmak Petrol station. Follow the same directions indicated above.
Tip: Contact Alan in advance (on 0721 518389), so that you do not get lost or you can also locate it on Google Maps.
What To Expect at African Heritage House
I have to admit- it’s next to impossible to describe the African Heritage House experience in detail. It is such a rich ordeal, that you absolutely have to experience it yourself, to fully appreciate it.
This is why I will share some of the notable moments from our visit, that will hopefully inspire you to take this amazing tour in Nairobi. 🙂
Iced Tea Compliments A Guided Tour
The first thing they do, is to offer a glass of iced tea, when you walk in. The iced tea was more than welcome, with the sun burning full-throttle.
By this time, my sister and I were simply mesmerized by the view of the Nairobi National Park, and the house itself. As we began our tour, I regretted not coming earlier so I could relax and take it all in. Here we met Tae a friendly, native Korean living in the US, who was also partaking the tour.
The tour itself is a major throwback. The guide plays a recording of Alan Donovan on a radio cassette player, talking through the details of the tour.
It would have been great to take this tour with Alan in person though, because nothing beats that human interaction for sure! The guide stops the tape at any point to answer questions.
They charge a minimum fee of Kes. 4,000 for up to 4 people and Kes. 1,000 for each additional person after, for 2hours max.
Train Stops and Wildlife
Can you imagine living in a house where the train stops for you? Back in the day, the train would stop to drop passengers at African Heritage House.
Today, you can hire the train for such events as weddings, although it is quite costly.
On a good day you can view wildlife from the house like Giraffes and Buffalo. We managed to spot a zeal of Zebras in the distance.
African ‘Treasure Island’
The African Heritage House is like a treasure island with beautiful, unique, rare pieces of art and artifacts from all over the continent.
The house itself is a work of art! It is based on the Mud Architecture of Africa, or what Alan fondly refers to as the ‘Lost Architecture of Africa.’
One of my favorite pieces was an old clock from the US, with carvings done in Zanzibar; I must have spent my entire time staring at it.
(no pun intended)
Every single piece has some meaning, and represents a different African culture.
Sleep and Dine Like African Royalty
The best part about this place is that you can actually visit for a stay! Yes you read correct, how crazy is that? 😀
They have 4 different suites’ options: Lamu Suite, Moroccan suite, Bakuba suite, and the Roof Room. Each room is furnished, styled and designed with accessories and pieces from its mother country/place.
The rooms are like nothing I’ve seen before….
Even the bathrooms in each of the rooms, is a trip like no other.
You will love the views from the Roof room, where you can also dine and relax.
They charge Kes. 3,000 per person for Lunch plus a tour of the house. This includes free use of the pool.
A sun-downer dinner and tour is available at the same amount. It is inclusive of soft drinks.
Our tour ended over more iced teas and a nice chat with Alan. He shared a couple of timeless stories about his time in Kenya and the African Heritage House.
- If you wish to visit for a Lunch tour or Sun-downer tour, be sure to call and inform the house management in advance
- They do not allow pictures within the house, which is all the more reason for you to visit and experience for yourself 🙂
- You can book the House and premises for an event like a wedding reception; they charge a minimum of Kes. 50,000 for up to 100 people
It is a perfect option for lovers of African art and culture, but also for anyone wishing to learn more about our continent. If you are looking for a rich, cultural and scenic getaway in Nairobi, this is an excellent choice.
Many thanks to Alan Donovan for according us this pleasurable and memorable visit.
Thank you for reading my dear friends! I hope you are inspired to visit this African gem, that is right within our reach. 🙂
Did you enjoy the post? I would love to read your feedback, comments or questions below! I will be sure to hit back. 🙂
P.S. <Stay Inspired Always.>
P.S.s. Sharing is Caring>>Share this via the post buttons below. 🙂
Photography Credits: Helene Wikstrom, Lena Ulgenes & Marion Mithamo.
PatriciaNovember 21, 2017 at 4:35 pm
Lovely place great write up I’m surprised as well never thought it right within our reach
Scrapbook JourneysDecember 21, 2017 at 10:20 am
Thank you for reading dear! Yes it’s been right under our noses all this while…but now we know 🙂
J. Shan'Trice - Fashionaire SheApril 12, 2017 at 1:57 am
The African Heritage house is so beautiful made and impeccable inside. I have always dreamed of going to Africa and this just makes me want to go more. Thanks for sharing!
Scrapbook JourneysApril 20, 2017 at 10:00 am
Thank you J Shan’Trice! Hey welcome to Africa I can be your guide here in Kenya
daveApril 11, 2017 at 1:04 pm
It is such a good and attractive place.The art is real
Scrapbook JourneysApril 20, 2017 at 10:06 am
Thank you for reading Dave! So appreciated! One more place for you to visit in Nairobi!
jeenApril 8, 2017 at 10:42 pm
Great write up, its been long since my last visit to African Heritage house, but you just took me back and it felt as though I was there.
Keep up the great write up.
Scrapbook JourneysApril 20, 2017 at 10:07 am
Hi Jeen! Thank you for reading! Glad to read that you’ve been to A.H.H, and I hope you will visit this beautiful house once again. 🙂
RosaApril 8, 2017 at 6:55 am
At MLOLONGO??? I am so surprised. Thanks! A must visit!!
Scrapbook JourneysApril 20, 2017 at 10:08 am
Yes and Yes Rosa, right under our noses!! 😀 Yaay do visit, would love to hear what you think. Thanks for reading!!
NeshApril 7, 2017 at 10:59 pm
Wow, that is a gem and a true definition of Majical kenya. Thanks again for sharing again and it’s a must visit place for me. Keep up with the great job
Scrapbook JourneysApril 20, 2017 at 10:09 am
Thank you for reading It’s a pleasure and happy to know you’ve added to your list! We keep on!
Corina CulevaApril 7, 2017 at 11:06 am
I must say, I have been checking flights and making plans about Kenya since I saw your first post about it. You really inspired me.
Needless to say, this post is great! Thanks for sharing!
Scrapbook JourneysApril 7, 2017 at 6:12 pm
Wow Corina, I am super excited to read this! I am so glad that you’re inspired to visit- Karibu Kenya (Welcome to Kenya)! Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment, super appreciated!
Neil CoppingApril 6, 2017 at 11:38 pm
Great post and beautiful pictures. I am putting Kenya on my number one list of places to visit next year. Looks amazing. Thanks for sharing this with us!
Scrapbook JourneysApril 7, 2017 at 6:15 pm
Whoa Neil! Yaay, great to hear that Kenya is at the top of the list, whoop whoop! Karibu Kenya (Welcome to Kenya). I am truly encouraged by your comment, and Corina’s too! Thank you ever so much for reading, and may all your plans to visit come to fruition! Many thanks!
Godwin JimmyApril 6, 2017 at 11:22 pm
Great post, would love to visit African heritage soon.
Scrapbook JourneysApril 7, 2017 at 6:16 pm
Thanks for reading Jimmy! Awesome, yes do give this amazing place a visit! 🙂
Enock KApril 6, 2017 at 5:36 pm
Wow..thanks Marion…superb description and writing…a place i would love to visit…any boarding fee?..honey moon package ?
Scrapbook JourneysApril 6, 2017 at 6:50 pm
Hi Enock! Thanks for reading and taking time to comment! Thanks for the question, I have updated the post with the rates… I will find out about honeymoon packages. All the best! 🙂
Mwangi Kinoti KiaraApril 6, 2017 at 2:38 pm
Always an inspiration!
Scrapbook JourneysApril 6, 2017 at 6:48 pm
Thank you Mwangi Kiara! I thank God for the opportunity! Stay inspired 🙂