The small town of KITUI is a busy trading centre, its streets lined with arcaded shops, although it has no sights. Like Machakos, 100km to the west on the C97, it has sizeable populations of coastal Swahili and Somali people, descendants of the traders and travellers who criss-crossed Ukambani in the nineteenth century. The town’s mango trees were planted then, and are a reminder of the trading tradition.
Kitui was the home village of Kivoi, the most celebrated Kamba trader, who commanded a large following that included slaves. It was Kivoi who met the German missionary Ludwig Krapf in Mombasa, and who guided him to Kitui in 1849, from where he became the first European to set eyes on Mount Kenya.