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Inside Hell’s Kitchen; where no one cooks

COAST
By Nehemiah Okwembah | April 9th 2021
Marafa Hell's Kitchen, a touristic site in Magarini Sub-county, Kilifi County that has been attracting tourists for sight seeing of the magnificent views of the crater that mysteriously formed. [Nehemiah Okwembah, Standard]

In one apocalyptic night, the ground opened up and swallowed up a prodigal family before heavy rains washed away what remained of their property into Madina seasonal lake and Galana River.

So goes the folklore on the formation of Hell’s Kitchen, a gigantic valley, in Magarini that has become a major tourist attraction site in Kilifi.

Historians, environmentalists, and archaeologists throng the place to study or learn about this geological wonder.

For the residents of the remote village of Marafa, it is a sacred site where they pray whenever they are faced with uncertainties.

Scientific write-ups state that the huge valley with sharp stones was formed after a massive sandstone ridge was eroded over time by harsh winds, rains, and floods that often hit the area.

For the locals, the Marafa Hell’s Kitchen was created by the gods as a form of punishment.

The folklore states that a filthy rich but extravagant family once lived in the area.

A visitor enjoys the scenery at Hell's Kitchen in Marafa, Magarini constituency Malindi. [Peter Muiruri, Standard.]

The family’s members bathed in milk and honey while their neighbours languished in extreme poverty. According to this narrative, the gods were furious and decided to open up the ground beneath the rich man’s homestead and swallow the entire village.

This open ground is the famous Hell’s Kitchen.

“The villagers heard the sounds at night and when they woke up the next day, they did not find the family. They had disappeared,” said Mzee Joseph Kahindi who believes the white rocks represent milk the family’s members used to bathe in.

TOURIST ATTRACTION

For the villagers, the Marafa Hell’s Kitchen serves as a reminder against unnecessary waste and extravagance. They visit the area for its sanctity and pray there.

“The red and white rocks represent blood and milk,” said Kahindi who added that the locals call the place Nyari. The site, which is 43 kilometres from Malindi town, is now a major tourist attraction in Kilifi County.

It is managed by a committee of villagers in Marafa. They charge an entrance fee of Sh300 while the local tour guides charge Sh200.

Safari Donald, a tour guide in the area said according to the folklore, heavy rains washed away what remained of the family’s property to Madina seasonal lake and Galana River.

From the outside, the place appears dangerous and one has to follow the guides through the pathways, to enjoy the spectacular views.

The trip down the valley takes approximately one and a half hours.

According to Safari, the caves were formed when the earth sank, and rainwater swept away the loose soil, leaving behind the natural caves.

“On a good day, we get as many as 100 visitors but with the Covid-19 pandemic, things have changed and we get a few visitors from Kilifi, Mombasa and upcountry,” he says.

The tour ends with a cold drink at the Hell’s Kitchen restaurant.

Mary Kabani, the director of Trade and Tourism in Kilifi County said the county government has been marketing the site to both foreigners and locals. 

She added that the county has waived the Sh8000 annual license fee for the community because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The only tax we used to pick from them was the license fee and we market it on the Kilifi County website as a tourism product within our borders,” she said.

“It is run by the community which is a plus for us since they benefit directly without intermediaries.

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