Muthaiga: the antidote for Nairobi city's woes

Visiting Ethiopian golfers at Muthaiga golf club, with them Muthaiga Captain F.F Allen. From left, Semere, Tzehaye, Aelion President of Asmara club, Goiton and Gherencse. March 16, 1966. [File, Standard]

The land craze and speculation being witnessed in Nairobi today did not start yesterday. The grandfather of all speculators was a colonial settler, Sandbach Baker, who secured 5,000 acres to start a dairy farm in what later turned out to be the most sought after address in the capital a century later.

Baker's dairy farm thrived but not as his wife, Marie Vera, wanted. And in 1907, an exclusive residential estate would come up. After some time, the settler's wife became convinced they could make more money from the farm by selling it in smaller pieces. So she went ahead and divided the property and sold the plots to white settlers. However, Mrs Baker inadvertently lost a fortune in that after a survey of the hived off land was carried out, it emerged that she had actually sold 754 acres, and not 717 acres as her records showed. Baker sold each acre at 20 sterling pounds.

One of the buyers was James Archibald Morrison, a retired captain of the British Army. Upon realising the potential of the land, Morrison bought out all the other plot owners and started establishing a real estate.

The name Muthaiga was given to the estate by Henderon Ward, one of the plot owners. This was after a shrub by that name started growing on his property. Muthaiga was later recognised as part of Nairobi Municipality in 1928. Before this, 14 years earlier, Muthaiga Club was established with a raft of rules some of which begrudgingly allowed women into the premises at certain hours. However, these rules locked out Asians and Africans out of the club except they were coming in as workers or repairmen.

Both the estate and the club have survived two world wars, the great plague and the killer depression as well as the transition from white exclusivity. Even then, its gates are still firmly shut to the ordinary folk.

The neighbourhood still reserves its allure as one of the most exclusive estates in Kenya where the doves croon all day, weaver birds chirp happily at sun set while bees fuse over countless expansive flower gardens. Unlike other suburban areas such as Lavington and Kileleshwa, Muthaiga’s skyline remains untouched by concrete blocks of apartments, 114 years later.

Muthaiga is loved by the super-rich, who want to keep away from the madness and chaos of Nairobi city, including clogged noisy roads and highly polluted water and air.  

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