Some 390km east of Nairobi, on the route to Somalia, GARISSA is the capital of North Eastern Province, sprawling out widely across the plains, east of the bridge across the Tana River. It’s the furthest east you can safely go towards Somalia without an armed escort: indeed, with its access road checkpoints and busy military presence it’s long been considered the safest town in Kenya, and, despite gun and grenade attacks on churches in 2012, attributed to Al-Shabaab, it remains a relatively laidback town, with next to no hustle.
While at times the well-surfaced streets, offices and NGO presence make it feel a little like the offspring of Nairobi and Mombasa, a visit to the teeming market will remind you that you’re in a largely Somali town – and reckoned to be Kenya’s hottest (the thermometer rarely leaves the 32–37°C range during the day). Apart from the lively central market, which has some particularly nice merchants’ courtyards on the eastern side, there are few other attractions, though the huge Wednesday livestock market is one. Still, several surprisingly good hotels, and the other services here, make it a very likely stopover if you’re travelling in the region.