Welcome To Watamu Beach, Kenya.
I recently visited the coast of Kenya, and through the advice of my travel companion, we migrated off the usual route of staying in Mombasa and ended up in Watamu, a coastal town about one hour north, on the way to Malindi.
I heard about the Italian influence in Malindi through a friend at work, though I didn’t realize the overflow into neighboring towns.
They say that if you are a first time visitor to Malindi, you would be forgiven for thinking you are in some part of Italy!
Reading up, it was the late 1980s when the Italians discovered Malindi, as the Germans were leaving the area, and became the dominant foreign influence.
So I arrived to the beach on my first day in Watamu and was bombarded by local Kenyans kindly, yet intrudingly shouting, “Ciao Bella” and many other phrases in Italian I did not understand! Italian signs are everywhere, for massages, gelato, and pizza.
And kid you not, the locals speak fluent Italian!
It really was unbelievable and for a second it just didn’t seem right. Like when I hear my Western friends in Kenya speaking Swahili, it also for a second is a bit strange sounding…but hey I am all for cultural boundaries being crossed:)
So although my first trip to the Indian Ocean was quite beautiful in the sense that the sand was pure white (the whitest I have ever seen actually), the water warm enough that I could swim freely, and the atmosphere quite relaxing after not leaving Nairobi for quite sometime, the funniest part of this adventure was observing the interactions between the local Kenyans speaking Italian, and the straight off the boat Italian tourists just eating it all up!
Hope you enjoy this cultural, or lack of cultural journey:)