Tour Wajir for a feel of WWII, cultural heritage

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The town is rich in historical, natural and cultural heritage.

A first-time traveller to Wajir usually expects to encounter a rugged and rundown town.

Thanks to devolution, Wajir, one of the oldest hamlets in northern Kenya, is expanding rapidly into a model desert town.

Wajir Town, the home of northern Kenya’s first museum, was established by the British in 1912 as their colonial headquarters.

Because of that, the town is rich in historical, natural and cultural heritage, most of it preserved by the museum whose exhibition theme is “A Window to Northern Kenya”.

Wajir Museum was officially opened in April 2011, a year to the town’s centennial anniversary.

The museum has documented and preserved Wajir’s historical sites and monuments, including Wagalla massacre site, Yahut dam, Shaletey wells, old buildings, Italian war bunkers and Orahey wells.

The town’s oldest buildings, including the one that houses the museum, were constructed by Italian prisoners of war.

The monuments also house the county’s paediatric centre, emergency response unit, deputy county commissioner’s offices, the police station and the meteorological department.

The wells are deeply entrenched in the town’s history because that is where pastoralists used to converge.

“Wajir” is a Borana word roughly translated to “coming together”.

A LEARNING EXPERIENCE
Different clans and communities used to congregate in areas around Wajir Town to water and graze their animals.

Even today, almost every homestead in Wajir Town has a well due to the high water table.

Orahey wells, the oldest in the region, are a short distance from the town centre but are no longer in use. Elders say they were responsible for the growth of the town.

The town is also dotted with World War II bunkers connected by underground tunnels.

The Italian army used the bunkers as it sought to prevent the area from falling into the hands of the British and Commonwealth forces in the 1940s.

Trenches and bunkers can be seen from Orahey wells and the health department offices.

One can learn the history and traditions of northern Kenyan communities at the museum.

Besides its historical heritage, Wajir is a town full of wildlife. Giraffes, ostriches, gazelles, birds and other animals roam freely in the outskirts.

 

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