Wajir County

Attractions in Wajir County

6. Fort Wajir

Currently made use of as the main prison, and which it is said no prisoner has ever escaped, Fort Wajir is a prototypical historic landmark of Old Town Wajir.  After reclaiming the NFD (that expansive Somali country formerly ceded to the Italians) the British decided to consolidate their power in northeastern Kenya by keeping a permanent garrison in order to ensure continued control of their territory. In addition to this heavily fortified fort, with elaborate outworks and moats to counter the aggression of the Italians, the British also kept a garrison at Fort Elwak, originally built by the Italians. Both these forts near the border with Somalia were the first line of defense for the British. Fort Wajir, garrisoned by the 3rd and 5th Battalions of Kings African Rifles, was an epicenter of many small wars with the Italians who liked to test the resolve of the British.  In 1940, Fort Wajir was bombed repeatedly but held its walls on every encounter issued. 

Relic Photo of Fort Wajir during WW2. Image Courtesy of AWM
Relic Photo of Fort Wajir during WW2. Image Courtesy of AWM

7. Wajir Museum

In 1940, during the Italian invasions, Wajir Town was momentarily evacuated. Both parties (Italy and Britain) were fervent on owning the land rights of Wajir because of its treasured Orahey Wells which are the only permanent source of water north of the Ewaso Nyiro – at Habaswein, 106 kms south. The British had officially occupied Wajir in 1912 to prevent Boranas and other tribes from being driven away from these wells. “In 1921 the military took over the administration of the district until September 1925, and then reverted to civil administration in 1928, the border being shifted north of Modo Gashe to the line of Ewaso Nyiro and Lake Dera. Until 1917, Wajir was a sub-district of Bulsesa. In 1918, Wajir became a district of its own”. Contained at one of the oldest buildings in Wajir Town, Wajir Museum caches the eccentric history of Wajir County and that of the Somali clans. The Museum was officially open on April 19th, 2011, with an objective to offer a glimpse of the rich cultural, historical and natural heritage of Northern Kenya and its interaction with the world. It houses a gripping display that reflects on the history, traditions, and customs of the Somali clans of Wajir.

8. Wajir War Cemetery

The small Wajir War Cemetery containing only two graves is a pale shadow of the far-reaching history of wars witnessed in Wajir. It contains one of the two graves that was brought in during 1929 from Rhamu, 318 kms further North. The cemetery is attached to a Government station (formerly known as Archer’s Post) set close to the boundary of Italian Somaliland (Somalia). It is open daily.

9. Esspresso Royale

Opened in 2016 as Wajir Town’s utmost coffee house, the energetic and buzzing Esspreso Royale Bistro, patronized by both local and trippers to Wajir Town, is best known for its live roasting and artisan coffee. The modest, design-led rustic bistro also offers a shelter from the sweltering heat and within an ambient and restful spot from where one can learn and experience the Somali’s cultures up-close.  The atmosphere at Esspresso Royale Bistro is friendly and communal, and has become the headliner establishment in the fast-expanding Wajir Town. 

10. Wajir Slaughter House

It is unlikely with anyone travelling to Wajir County to have as an object of the journey a visit to a slaughter house. However, livestock business is big business in Wajir County.  In fact, it is the only business in Wajir County. The economy of Wajir County is centered on pastoralism, organized in herding groups called ‘rers’ with each consisting of between five and twenty households.  The state of art Wajir Slaughter House, commissioned in 2017, is the epicenter of activity in Wajir Town which has an estimated 1 million animals of mainly camels. It may be of interest for travellers to Wajir Slaughter House, ideally those who have the stomach for it, to see the hard line negotiations at the animal market, or, better still, sample some of the camel meat which in Wajir Town is a top-rated delight.

11. Shaletey Caves

Although their exact location is still little-known and a moving target going by available information, the original use of the Shaletey Caves in Wajir South is widely thought as an abode for the clan elders who resided and governed from these caves. During the British Era, the Shaletey Caves were a strategic military disposition for the expeditions, both for British Empire Forces and the Italian Legions based over the border in Somalia. After the warfare and colonial regime subsided, the locals began to explore Shaletey Caves to uncover how these were formerly used by both tenants and have since been listed as historic landmarks. 

12. Groso Griftu Pastoral College

Another interesting attraction near Wajir is the Groso Griftu Pastoral College. To encourage and trade-off new skill with indigenous know-hows, with the aim to enriching both traditional and modern live-stocking, Groso Griftu Pastoral College (GPTC) was established 1968 about 27 kms west of Wajir Town. “Since its inception, GPTC has trained over 27,000 pastoralists and agro-pastoralists on diffrent courses ranging from livestock husbandry, agri-business skills and disease identification” – NFD Dispatch. This is reached via C80 Wajir-Moyale Road for 15 kms then via an all weather road to Griftu Town and Griftu College.

Spatial Location of Grosso Griftu College in Wajir County
Spatial Location of Grosso Griftu College in Wajir County

13. Malabar Hill

At Bute, on the 256 kms northwesterly trending road from Wajir to Moyale, 48 kms from Wajir Town, there’s a spectacular landform that breaks the routine of the plains. I km from Bute Town, there is the unique attraction of Lion Hill also known as the Malabar Hill. The hill itself, reached on a walking trip from Bute, is sacred to the communities living around it and has shaped their beliefs, and, in somes cases, been a possible aid to shape conduct. Even from a distance, the legend of Lion Hill is quite canny, undoubtedly resembling “a lion with a wide open mouth”. This has buff cultural significance for the native communities of Bute. As it goes, mothers of young school going children years-on have spurred good conduct in their children with the threat of throwing them into the gaping mouth of Lion Hill.  Call it myth, but the children at a school at the foot slopes of Malabar Hill are eternally convinced of its olden legend.  Plans are underway to establish Lion Hill as a National Reserve and to construct an enclosure-fence.

Malabar Hill in Wajir County

14. Mansa Guda Formation

These form a series of eroded down sandstone hillocks and distinct ridges in the northeast part of Wajir County, and trend westerly from near El Ben to Moyale. The sandstones are thin in the south, where they disappear under the grey soils, but thicken to the north-east where they become conglomeratic. Mansa Guda is geologically defined as sandstone-conglomerate beds at the base of the Jurassic limestones. Joseph Thompson, on his 1960 expedition of this region, compared the Mansa Guda Formation with the Adigrat Sandstones of Ethiopia. Similar sandstone ridges occur along the 30-metre terrace of the Daua River. Extensive continental erosion over millennia gave rise to the formation of the wide deep valley west to south of Mansa Guda Formation. El Ben is 67 kms north of Wajir.

15. Lorian Swamp

The Ewaso Nyiro River runs for over 450 kms before it finally reaches the lofty bed of reeds nearby Habaswein in the southeast corner of Wajir County, simply known as Lorian Swamp. The 151 km2 Lorian Swamp, which means ‘swamp’ in the native Laigop dialect, was first cited by William A. Chanler and Ludwig Von Hohnel in 1898, who detailed it as “of a great extent filled with high reeds.”  The lengthy Ewaso Nyiro River drainage, which also includes the Lorian Swamp, is a critical life-line in Garissa County. Little is known of the Lorian Swamp due to the hostile terrain and inaccessibility despite being one of the largest wetlands.