MARSABIT is a surprise. It’s hard to prepare yourself, after the flat dust lands, for this fascinating hill oasis – in the desert but not of it. Rising a thousand metres above the surrounding plains, Mount Marsabit, or Saku, as it is known by locals, is permanently green, well watered by the clouds that form and disperse over it in a daily cycle. The high forest is usually mist-covered until late morning, the trees a characteristic tangle of foliage and lianas.

The town is the capital of the largest administrative district in the country, as well as a major meat- and livestock-trading centre, its rough roads either dusty or churned with mud. Small and intimate in feel, the lively cultural mix in the main market area is the biggest buzz: transient Gabbra herdsmen and Boran with their prized short-horn cattle, women in the printed shawls and chiffon wraps of Somali costume rubbing elbows with ochre-daubed Rendille wearing skins, high stacks of beads and wire, and fantastic braided hairstyles. There are government workers here, too, from other parts of Kenya, and a scattering of Ethiopian immigrants (mainly Burji) and refugees. For some Marsabit background, try Mude Dae Mude’s novel The Hills are Falling (1979), now out of print, but you might still find a copy in Nairobi.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Kenya features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

6 reasons to stay in Nairobi before you head off on safari

6 reasons to stay in Nairobi before you head off on safari

Most people coming into Kenya will arrive in Nairobi, but head straight for the country’s vast national parks and beautiful coastline. Stay a little longer in…

23 Aug 2016 • Rough Guides Editors insert_drive_file Article
7 amazing African journeys

7 amazing African journeys

Africa is a continent of wild open savannahs, terracotta sunsets, thousands of vibrant green hills and rugged coastlines. Here, you can be chugging along on …

06 Jul 2016 • Harriet Constable insert_drive_file Article
23 incredible pictures of Kenya

23 incredible pictures of Kenya

Beyond the wildlife, Rough Guides photographer Tim Draper took an intrepid trip through Kenya to visit remote tribes and see stunning landscapes. Here, he share…

04 Apr 2016 • Tim Draper insert_drive_file Article
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month