For the Kenya month of Bunch of Backpackers we asked Mr. Joost Reintjes, the Netherlands Ambassador to Kenya to answer some questions about traveling in Kenya. Below you can read his tips and recommendations.
This article is part of the BoB report series in which we conduct interviews and report about cultural events and local experiences.
Who is Joost Reintjes?
Mr. Joost Reintjes is the Netherlands Ambassador to Kenya, Somalia and The Seychelles since August 2011. Prior to this function he served as the Netherlands Ambassador to Pakistan and Iraq. He currently lives in Nairobi, Kenya.
Q: Thank you so much for this interview. You’ve been living in Kenya for quite a while now. There are many cultural differences between the Netherlands and Kenya. I’m sure you came across some situations where these cultural differences came forward. What are things that our readers should keep in mind concerning culture and lifestyle during a visit to Kenya?
A: The cultural differences between Kenya and the Netherlands are part of the attraction for travelers and tourists. I suppose they are one of the most important reasons people travel. During a visit to Kenya it is worthwhile exploring these differences and not only spend time on the beach or in the game reserves, although they are the main attractions for tourists. But why not visit a museum, cultural festival or art exhibition in Nairobi, or a university, ngo or company?
“Those who believe that Kenya is a wildlife-only destination should realize it is much, much more than that”
Q: What is the biggest misconception about Kenya?
A: I must say that my (Dutch) countrymen are quite well informed. We believe there are around 4,500 Dutch citizens in Kenya and they are active in all sorts of businesses. I do not believe they have many misconceptions about the country. But linking to the above questions: those who believe that Kenya is a wildlife-only destination should realize it is much, much more than that, as I indicated in my answer to the previous question.
Q: What are your favorite places in Kenya?
A: Nairobi (not everywhere), Watamu, Mt. Kenya, Lake Naivasha and Samburu are some of my favorite places. My most favorite place I shall keep to myself….
Q: Which food shouldn’t be missed during a visit to Kenya?
A: If you are not vegetarian a good nyama choma
Note BoB: Nyama choma is barbecued meat and is a Kenyan favorite. You can usually choose your type of meat such as beef, goat or mutton. Nyama choma is served on a wooden platter with salt, a tomato and onion relish, ugali or fries and a tusker.
Q: So far, what has been the most special moment in your function as the Netherlands Ambassador to Kenya?
A: I cannot single out a specific moment during my stay in Kenya, but the celebration of our national day on the 30th of April last year was certainly a highlight, with the abdication of Queen Beatrix and the investiture of King Willem-Alexander. We celebrated with 1200 Dutch and Kenyan guests. Other important events were the peaceful Kenyan elections in March 2013 and the launch of the Lake Turkana Wind Power project earlier this year.
Q: When you were nineteen years old you hitchhiked from Algiers to Accra. Quite an adventure! What are your tips for future independent travelers to Kenya (and Africa)?
A: Do not hitchhike in Kenya! And of course be sure to read the travel advise of your government. The Dutch advise is found at the travel advice section of the Dutch government website.
Note BoB: The Kenya travel advice of the UK can be found here
Thank you for this interview for BoB’s Kenya month!