Travel

A desert museum off the beaten path

The main entrance of the Loiyangalani Desert Museum in Marsabit County. PHOTO | KENNEDY KIMANTHI | NMG
The main entrance of the Loiyangalani Desert Museum in Marsabit County. PHOTO | KENNEDY KIMANTHI | NMG 

Located on top of a hill, with a backdrop of the picturesque Lake Turkana, also known as the “Jade Sea, the Loiyangalani Desert Museum in Marsabit County is the only one of its kind in East and Central Africa.

The name Loiyangalani means “a place of many trees” in the native Samburu language.

For visitors seeking the not-so-beaten tourism path, it is among Kenya’s lesser-known gems scattered across the country that offer both domestic and foreign visitors a new experience aside from the beaches and the ‘Big Five”.

The refurbished facility under the management of the National Museums of Kenya and county government opened on June 14, 2014 and is a treasure trove that includes remnants of early man, cultural artefacts and photographs of the 14 communities living in the county.

It also has sizable material on characteristics of different communities, historical scenes and sites in Marsabit, basketry, music instruments, various methods of making bark cloth and traditional dressing and fashion.



Loiyangalani Desert Museum curator Ramon Moghal shows a traditional head rest commonly used by the Samburu and Turkana communities. PHOTO | KENNEDY KIMANTHI | NMG
Loiyangalani Desert Museum curator Ramon Moghal shows a traditional head rest commonly used by the Samburu and Turkana communities. PHOTO | KENNEDY KIMANTHI | NMG

The communities are the El Molo, Rendille, Samburu, Turkana, Dassanatch, Gabra, Borana, Konso, Sakuye, Garee, Waata, Burji, Sidama and Somalis.

There are also different kinds of smoking pipes, storage gourds, drinking utensils and drinking vessels.

Here, you will also find pictures of Ahmed the elephant. Ahmed was granted 24-hour protection by President Jomo Kenyatta in 1970 after he visited Marsabit National Park and a forest guard was assigned specially to keep a watch on him.

The male bull with huge and long tusks died in 1974 of natural causes at 55 years and its skeleton and a life sized look-alike is still preserved.

Museum curator Ramon Moghal, who is also a nature photographer, said Kenyans must be allowed to get in touch with their history with Marsabit being considered the world’s cradle of mankind.

On display, Mr Moghal said, are rich cultural traditions nurtured by interaction among the various communities in the region.

“Items in this museum display beauty and value. All the artefacts are aesthetically and tell a story individually,” he said.

The museum, he observed has boosted contribution to national development in preservation of cultural heritage, education and job creation.

There are also self-contained cottages at the museum where visitors pay Sh2,000 per night.

“The local community has really helped in identifying tangible and intangible heritage,” Mr Moghal said.