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.>
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Photography Credits: Helene Wikstrom, Lena Ulgenes & Marion Mithamo.