At 74, German national, Horst Beelitz has done his fair share of travelling. Of all places he has been to, however, none beats the beauty and allure of Kenya, he says.
He first set foot in the country in 1986 and has since returned every year, marking a rare 30-year feat that he is keen to extend for as long as his health allows.
Mr Beelitz says besides the beauty of the land marked by beautiful mountains, expansive savanna grasslands and rivers, the welcoming nature of Kenyans and their culture have convinced him to make the country his second home away from his Cuxhaven hometown in Northern Germany.
His love for the country has earned him a local moniker, Kamau, which was given to him by a long-time friend during one of his many soul-searching trips to the Kenyan Coast.
Until last year, Mr Beelitz, whose stays last up to three months at a time, would be accompanied by his late wife Sigrid.
“I am at home and feel at peace here,’’ he told The Standard on Sunday as he led other guests in the official Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the Severin Sea Lodge, Mombasa, his hotel of choice for the last 30 years.
“He is the most popular guest among our many patrons. Kamau never misses an opportunity to mingle freely with the hotel staff and has made it a tradition to visit them at their work stations,’’ said Joseph Ndunda, operations manager at the idylic Severin Sea Lodge.
Mr Beelitz said he first came to know about Mombasa trough a promotional brochure printed by leading tour operator TUI International and decided to sample what the coastal town had to offer, a decision he says he has never regretted.
“After my flight from Germany, I found Mombasa quite an amazing port city full of life where people chatted away freely. At the hotel (Severin), the staff were friendly and accommodating,’’ he said.
Prior to the demise of his loving wife, the pair would always be booked to room number 174, a tradition he has broken this year as he comes to term with her demise.
“Being alone in the room brought sad memories of my late wife and I, therefore, requested to be moved to another room, which the hotel satisfactorily did,’’ said Mr Beelitz.
Besides spending time enjoying the luxurious hotel amenities, he also makes time to explore Mombasa’s nightlife and its sites.
He also once in a while hops into a matatu to Bombolulu to get a haircut from his favourite barber besides sampling local delicacies, some of which the hotel prepares for him on request.
“I have come to like local delicacies such as mbuzi choma, kachumbari and ugali, which I take using my bare hands for which guests give me funny looks,’’ said Mr Beelitz.
Apart from the meat delicacy, which he describes as tender and tasty, he also loves pilau (spiced rice) and githeri (a mixture of maize and beans).
The Cuxhaven native has also over his numerous stays at the Coast mastered the local language, Kiswahili and will not hesitate to show off his prowess at it.
“Leo ni kama mvua itanyesha (it looks like it’s going to rain today,’’ he said in flawless Swahili.
Mr Beelitz is an avid soccer fan and his love for the world’s most popular sporting event saw him visit South Africa during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
His journey down south for the soccer fiesta - the only one to have been staged in Africa - began in Mombasa before driving all the way to Johannersburg to cheer his German team.
The matches were played in 10 stadiums in nine host cities around the country, with the final played at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannersburg.
“We left Mombasa in the company of a friend in a Toyota Land Cruiser for the road trip to South Africa to watch the games,’’ he recalled.
When his favourite team were bundled out of the global soccer bonanza, which was eventually won by Spain, Mr Beelitz and his friend drove back to Mombasa for a short stay before flying out to Germany.
“I have visited several African countries, but Kenya ranks top on my list,’’ he sumed up his opinion of the country.