Long Read: Once Upon a Time in Mandera

Once Upon a Time in Mandera: An abduction in northeastern Kenya 20 July 2009 It had been a very busy day with various activities going on at the same time in different places with people going here and there. It had also been a day when the winds were unusually strong and huge dust storms were sweeping across town. The fine gritty powdery sand stung my eyes, found its way inside my mouth, dusted my hair and eyelashes gray, while the wind whipped my dress and scarf around me. I feared for my camera and I hoped that the ubiquitous dust would not damage its innards. It was Friday, the 17th July, my fifth day in the hot arid desert frontier town of Mandera in northeastern Kenya, having arrived five days earlier on the 8 a.m. humanitarian flight from Nairobi. I had another six days to go. It was also my first time to visit Mandera and I was particularly excited. The anthropologist photographer in me was entranced by the thought of being in a town that was quite unlike other places I had visited before. Less than a kilometer and a half to the east and south lay Somalia and less than four kilometers to the north lay Ethiopia. The town was populated by pastoralist and agro-pastoralist Cushites – the Somalis. After Nairobi’s chilly highlands winter weather, the dry searing desert heat was like an oven blast. I happily junked my planned garb of loose trousers and loose long sleeved… Continue reading

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