Money is Glory in booming Nairobi

The roads of the metropolis Nairobi are overflowing. But a Masai shepherd guides his cows without hesitation through the chaotic traffic. He is on his way to a scarce green patch. There are office buildings mushrooming everywhere, but there used to be nothing but grass. The pastures where the Masai herded. Water stood for life and directed the destination. In 2012 the only way to live up to Nairobi is with money. This is not a well kept secret, commerce is everywhere. It is an verpowering mix of sounds, smells and colours, many, many colours, especially on the countless billboards along the roads. With money the world is within reach. The soccer hero of Africa, Didier Droba, advertises for the Korean brand Samsung. Safaricom promotes wireless internet and a tropical looking van markets Bavaria. Other Dutch brands that can be found are Heineken and Shell. Nairobi is covered in gas stations, because “people” are thirsty here. Where the Masai used to walk surrounded by the smells of grass, it now mostly smells of gasoline. There are too many cars and too little roads. But thousands of Chinese build a new infrastructure with high speed. Tomorrow morning we start on a brand new highway towards North Kenya. The first hundred kilometres of the ‘Trans-East-African-Highway’ (which is bigger in words than in deeds) consists of tarmac, followed by sand and lots of dust. We leave the commercial crossroad of East Africa and travel to the Samburu, which is just like the Masai a semi-nomadic herds people. In their territory no iPad, billboards, fast-food or swimming pool showrooms. The colours in the scenery will be the clothes of the Samburu shepherds instead of billboards. Just like the Masai on the hills of what is now Nairobi, they are looking for a patch of green. Next week we will search with them. Diederik Veerman

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