Passion Points: Style
You have documented the Maasai for years. What were the highlights of this experience for you?
Living and traveling with the Maasai took me from the role of spectator/journalist and allowed me to be part of a natural African world that had been elusive during my years in cities and covering conflicts as a photojournalist. I camped in villages, traveled across thousands of miles of bush and documented intimate ceremonies that occur only once every seven years in Maasai culture. From watching thousands of warriors march into manhood in the Loita Hills, to witnessing a young bride fall in love on her wedding day, to sharing barbeques of roasted goat with old men and camping between two roaring prides of lions north of Serengeti, I feel so lucky to have seen and known that changing world.
Where have your travels taken you in Africa?
I search the markets of Cairo for stone, the heart of Nairobi for gold and organic materials, Ethiopia for silver, amber and old coins, West Africa for textile and pattern, Maasailand, Turkana, and up Isiolo way for design ideas, the shores of lake Turkana for fossils…really we go anywhere and find inspiration everywhere.
What are some of your other favorite safari lodges?
For adventurers passing through Addis Ababa, a night listening to traditional music in the clubs, drinking local beer and eating dollops of stew on njera pancake is a must. The best hotel in Addis is the Sheraton, but for character I recommend the Finfine (Yohannis Street, 514711)—at least for a meal. It’s the oldest hotel in Addis and probably has never been renovated once in its long life but it is full of creaky charm. There’s buffet at lunch that won’t quit. If you make it up to Harar, listen for the hyena charmer at night and go help him feed the animals outside the city walls. In Zanzibar, Emerson & Green (236 Hurumzi Street, 255 54 230171) has old world style and the rooftop setting for dinner is lovely. My favorite boutique hotel beyond Kenya is actually in Luxor and is called Al Moudira. A brilliant Lebanese woman designed, built and hand painted every room. It is a masterpiece.
What are some of your other favorite places in Kenya?
Shompole remains the leader in combining luxury, conservation and community, but there are wonderful tented camps that I recommend in East Africa and also hotels at the coast that are very unique. Serian Camp in the Maasai Mara is fantastic and the best place to stay if you are going on a game safari in the park. In Shela, Peponi’s (80500 Lamu; 254 42 4633421) is a gold standard but there is also a new hotel in Lamu town that has a lovely restaurant where the beer gets served like champagne in mini ice buckets. It’s charming. I went to dinner there with some girlfriends recently and loved it so much we went back the next night. If you want to get away from hotels, the best house to rent in Shela is Dhow House (Lamu; 020 7788 7815). In Naivasha the most beautiful home anywhere in Kenya is Hippo Point (P. O. Box 1852; 254 733 333014) and Anthony just finished a newly designed lodge in Maasailand called Olarro that is very special and promises to do for conservation and communities what Shompole did.
What advice do you have for travelers who are visiting Africa?
My philosophy when traveling has always been to simply let go and submit to the will of the road. Be open-minded, be respectful of other cultures, and don’t be afraid to jump in, experience new worlds, and be changed by those experiences. That, after all, is the purpose of traveling.
Read about her experiences of giving back to her community through the creation of the Shompole Collection.
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