By JOE OMBUOR
The mighty River Tana with its turbid water swirling its way to the sea is ostensibly one of the tourist attractions that welcomes a visitor to Garissa after a backbreaking and thirsty drive across water starved Mwingi, Nguni, Ukasi and Bangale terrain on a tired tarmac road dominated by potholes.
Before crossing the Tana, attractions include herds of camels that are the most prized livestock in northern Kenya, valued for their milk and resilience to the harsh climatic conditions. Giraffe, zebra and dik dik that reputedly are the smallest animals in the antelope family also decorate the arid landscape.
Madogo, Mororo and Bangale trading centres that administratively are part of Coast Province command entry into Garissa with a blend of Coastal and Somali hospitality imbibed free of charge at hotels and restaurants whenever visitors stop over for drinks or meals. Hotels in Bangale and Mororo are particularly popular for their succulent nyama choma (roast meat) done in traditional Somali style and the Coastal traditional brew, mnazi.
No sooner does one cross the heavily guarded Tana Bridge manned by police wielding gun detecting gadgets than the imposing Nomad Palace Hotel, aptly named for the nomadic local population and the comfort it offers, comes into view.
Nomad is said to be the first hotel in the town to be fitted with Internet and other digital world facilities. Equally posh are Almond and Hibiq hotels, with the former containing a swimming pool for guests wishing to cool their body temperature. Kora View hotel that borrows its name from the Kora game reserve across the river Tana is much smaller but appealing for its cosy service.
Once at the Nomad, the uninspiring surroundings where heat, wind and litter seem to conspire to make life uncomfortable slips to the background, replaced by verdant lawns and trees that provide a buffer against the scorching sun.
True to its logo, the hotel is an oasis of luxury. As the name implies, nomads seeking comfort troop in after selling their livestock, as do guests from down country and overseas attending to various businesses in the region that hosts the world’s largest refugee camp at Dadaab, 100 kilometres away.
“We started with 24 rooms but had to expand to the current 69 due to high demand for executive accommodation from Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) officials transiting to and from Dadaab and other refugee camps,” says chairman Abdi Duale.
He says the hotel that opened its doors to guests in 2009 and other Garissa hotels have been badly affected by the war against Al Shabaab.
“Our bed occupancy hovered around 80 per cent before October 2011 when the Kenya Defence Forces raided Somalia with subsequent retaliatory attacks by the Al Shabaab terror group. “We now teeter at 30 per cent, but our optimism is that peace is creeping into Somalia with prospects of a vibrant future for all.
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