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Nairobi's affluent city of the dead

City News
                                        Burial site                          Photo:Courtesy

 

Nairobi’s Langa’ta neighbourhood has two kinds of Kenyans – those who pay taxes and those who don’t.

 Those who reluctantly give unto Caesar hole up in ‘LA’. Those who will never even borrow cigarettes from each other are stiffs at Lang’ata Cemetery. The place evokes feelings of gloom, doom and a heavy, dark sense of loneliness, isolation and neglect, besides the overcrowding that’s typical of Nairobi’s ‘city of the dead.’

There are many spooky tales here; strange night noises,  beautiful ‘ghost women’ hanging coats of unsuspecting drivers on gravestones after a lift.

Forget those ones and consider the  show of affluence dedicated to those six feet under, but on the  permanent section where burying a loved one costs Sh25,000 for adults and Sh15,000 for children. The Langa’ta Chapel charges Sh2,000 per service before that last trip to the cemetery’s small ‘bungalow’ 

This is probably one of the most expensive graves in Lang’ata ensuring ‘eternal’ affluence. The elegant grave is  a stark reminder that even in death, the rich are determined not to spare any money for the dear departed. 

The fence is done in high-gauge metal grills on a white mosaic brick work. Besides the artistic fence, the perimeter yard is covered in a well-manicured flower bed and paved pathways sprinkled with white marble pebbles that leads to a padlocked gate. All the ‘interior décor’ flows in a circuitous manner towards the multi-layered dark marble gravestone at the center. The equally elegant epitaph is scripted with the words of Luke 12:34: “For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.”

“This epitaph must have cost more than Sh750,000 given the fact that it has almost ten layers of marble inlaid with such skill and art, that it must have been done abroad,” Gacaga Mwania, an epitaph trader in Park Road who did the engravings for former Vice-President George Saitoti’s grave, told The Nairobian. “ The gravestone is framed in white pebbles and the big chunk of in-faced land makes it a very expensive grave.”

 

On one side of the cemetery’s ‘highway’  dividing the ‘dead city’ into two, stands a grave that is more of a park.  

 Besides the white marble gravestone being housed in a fenced-in yard with flowers and young trees, there is an angel statue overlooking two resting seats.  

Guards at the cemetery explained that relatives of the deceased ritualistically visit the grave annually, conduct prayer sessions and bask on the metallic seats, sometimes even having snacks right there.

Just across the Lang’ata Cemetery entrance is perhaps one of the most delicately done graves.

What with a glassed enclosure reinforced with copper coated railings complete with a roof.

 From the look of it, the glass is constantly wiped, as it’s sparkling clean despite the dusty conditions of the ongoing expansion of Lang’ata Road.

 

It is design is reminiscent of a tile roofed house with padlocked door and is estimated to have cost around Sh50,000. The grave ensures that its occupant is at home, literary. Although the interior is covered in vegetation, the metallic ‘tomb’ is padlock as some homeless Nairobians turn graves into  sleeping den at night! Another grave not too far away, had a similar structure plus a padlock with its roofing made of corrugated iron sheets. What The Nairobian could not establish is whether the key to this locked grave was in the custody of Lang’ata Cemetery or the relatives of the deceased.

 

Besides the metallic bars enclosing it, the most amazing feature of this grave is the huge piece of stone implanted on top of one of the iron bars with a cross bored through it. The huge stone has a time-blurred photo ingrained on it.  

 

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