I’m in the Nairobi suburb of Karen (again), this time at the Karen Blixen Museum, I had initially planned to combine this visit with the trip to the Oloolua nature trail but things did not work out as planned.
Danish author Karen Blixen is best known for penning the book Out of Africa, lived in this house on the outskirts of Nairobi that has now been turned into a museum in her honor. The bungalow-style house was built in 1912 by the Swedish engineer Åke Sjögren and bought by Karen Blixen and her then-husband, Baron Bror von Blixen Fincke in 1917, it became a farm house for their 4500 acre farm, of which 600 acres was used for coffee farming. Their marriage failed after eight years and in 1921 the Baron moved on and left the running of the farm to Karen. Karen lived at the house until her return to Denmark in 1931. The house farm was bought by Remy Marin, who broke the land into 20 acre parcels for development. Subsequent development created the present suburb of Karen.
I was pleasantly surprised when I got there, they offer free guided tours and the guides are very knowledgeable. This was a pleasant change from having to pay the guide.
The house features rooms designed in both the original decor and with props from the 1985 film. Fun fact, the house was not used in the filming of Out of Africa, a movie based on Karen’s memoir by the same name. At the time of filming it was being used by the government as a health facility so filming took place in a house that previously belonged to the widow of Jomo Kenyatta, the first Prime Minister and President of Kenya.
Originally owned by the Danish government, the house was donated to Kenya to celebrate the country’s independence. The government then renovated the house in an attempt to preserve it the way it was when Blixen lived there.
The museum does not allow photography inside the premises but rules are made to be broken, no? Once my guide was gone, I went back to the premises and again my Samsung K Zoom camera phone came in handy and was able to take some quick snaps of the rooms (I happened to be the only one inside, perks of visiting on a weekday). There was a large group of tourists outside so I had to rush while watching over my back and listening for anyone coming into the house.
The dining room; It is here that Karen Blixen twice entertained the Prince of Wales. The table has been set with beautiful cutlery.
The lawn; Karen used to sit here in the evenings as it offers a splendid view of the Ngong Hills
Karen used to entertain guests in the library and in top left corner you can spot two lamps which according to the guide she used to indicate her mood. When she lit the red lamp it meant that she did not want to be disturbed while the green meant she was in a good mood and was willing to entertain.
Karen and her husband used to sleep in separate bedrooms. There is a door linking the bedrooms.
Their bathroom facilities were pretty basic. The toilet consisted of a wooden box over a bucket that the servants used to empty when it got full.
Unfortunately I was not able to get any photos of the kitchen. The kitchen is situated outside the house and is directly opposite the ticketing area – too risky to take photos.
The museum is located in a beautiful and serene envrironment and is a lovely location to hold an outdoor wedding.
You can spot the Ngong Hills in the background. Karen’s lover Denys Finch Hatton was buried at the foot of the hills in accordance to his wishes.
You will also be able to see old equipment that used to be used on the coffee farm
The prices are quite reasonable
Residents: Adults- Kshs 600 ($6) Kids below 16yrs- Kshs 400 ($4)
Non Residents: Adults – Kshs 1,200 ($13) Kids below 16yrs -Kshs 600 ($6)
How to get there:
Karen Blixen Museum is situated 20km from the city centre in the Karen suburb. If using public means, take matatu or bus number 24 heading towards Karen Hardy from the city centre, and alight at Karen Blixen Museum which is near the junction of Bogani Road and Karen Road.
If driving, take Uhuru Highway till Nyayo Stadium, then turn right onto Langata Road and drive past Bomas of Kenya till the junction to Hardy. Turn left onto Langata South Road, then right onto Bogani Road. The museum will be right before the junction between Bogani and Karen Road.
This week I’ll be linking up with;