ACHOLA ROSARIO’S VISIT TO MALINDI REVEALS SOME HIDDEN GEMS
(Posted 15th August 2020)
There are many times when I have fantasized about the 1001 Arabian nights and what it would be like to be part of that lifestyle, not specifically a harem, but more like the general Arab culture and other mixes resulting from oriental travelers. Therefore, when I stepped into Neem House, perched perpendicular on a coral rock right on the coast of Malindi to fully catch the benefits of the Kuzi and Kaz-kazi winds, my mind slipped away to veiled ladies in diaphanous attire lounging around the house in one of myriads of beds.
The private 3 story home with 4 large bedrooms a huge living room and dining in the veranda, designed in the African and Arab style that is Swahili, was built in the 1980s by someone who rescued the original doors and window shutters from antique mansions in Lamu. It then lay empty for 10 years until the current owners, who had come looking to buy a home, found it and wished they never saw it. Such is what it is like to fall in love. Although the home was in a bit of a mess, they found a caretaker there called Sammy, who had spent the last 10 years lovingly oiling every bit of the genuine Teak wood in the house to keep it fresh and protected from the salt air. It has been a labor love, but the results are astonishing.
Neem House, surrounded by neem and fig trees, 300 meters from the beach, is one of those houses that fire up the imagination, especially in the way the layout of the rooms is not specifically geometric but moves up and down and sideways, with no glass on the window, just arabesque carved windows with grills, and shutters for the inner bedroom windows which you can open and shut alternately to fully maximize on the winds. There are no mosquitoes here. A quick dip in the 2 meter pool is probably the most strenuous exercise you will do in this place, while you lay in a hammock after your massage contemplating if you really can play volleyball down in the garden in the others, but you decide instead to go lay down in the upper veranda in the master-bed, in the corner flooded with sunlight so you can warm you skin.
The Galana stone floors all come from the Galana river in Malindi and are cooling to the house but warm on the skin. It is very strange. And the colour is a warm mustard, giving the pure white walls and gleaming black traditional “boriti” poles that can go up to 3m and support the ceiling, warmth and depth. Light touches of colour here and there on the otherwise cream soft furnishing, give this place a classic look that does not overwhelm the architecture. This makes it ideal for things AGM meetings, family holidays (pets and kids are allowed but not on the furniture… I jest… only the pets, and some kids), and apparently bachelor(ette) parties. There is staff on-hand to clean up, two very discreet ladies who apparently work like little elves, whisking away dirty things before you even notice it is gone. And there is a chef called Pishi, who is native to Malindi and therefore is an expert at Swahili cooking, Italian dishes, bakes bread and is an old friend of the family, having cooked there as well as run his catering business for 8 years now.
And of course, Sammy is still there, gnarled and giggling in the background, more comfortable in shorts than trousers, eyes twinkling with stories unspoken.
The dream continues at Ndoro Sculpture gardens next door, where Zimbabwean statues come to life in the ambitious undertaking of one lady over the course of 15 years. She has collected so far over 300 of the granite-looking statues, made of a type of hard soapstone that can only be found in Zimbabwe. Thomas Mukarobgwa, a young Zimbabwean steeped in rural knowledge and spirituality, prior to the opening in 1957 of the Rhodes National Gallery in Salisbury, was offered an opportunity to pursue a career in art. Mukarobgwa became the perfect mentor to guide the director of the new gallery into the ways and mores of the Africans in the then Rhodesia. Ever since then the genre of Zimbabwean stone sculpture exploded and has now reached the galleries of Berlin and New York.
The sculptures are exercises in extracting the spirit in the stone and succeeds by elongating and stylizing the subject in an impressionist manner that renders the figure alive with movement and expression. And set within a barely touched garden that has only been cleared to set paths along which to view the hundreds of faces and animals and shapes one cannot even begin to describe, puts it in the context, that this work was created by Children of the Sun.
@ndorosculpturegarden · Art Gallery
Entry is free
Call to book an appointment to view Ndoro Sculpture gardens:
+254 798 461 564
Neem house is available to rent as the owners live in Botswana. Booking must be done way in advance for planning purposes. One night is $500 for the entire house plus staff and minimum stay is 2 days during off-peak and 1 week during the Christmas/New Year period.
Couples can stay for $150 per night in one of the large rooms. There is a supermarket nearby that you can email in advance with your food preferences and they will stock your fridge for you prior to your arrival, so your beer/wine is cold and you don’t have to lift a finger.
To watch The F.O.M.O. Travel show Ep37: Neem House and Ndoro Sculpture Garden
Click on this link: