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msafi ri 16 T he election of an African- American as America's next president is big news worldwide, but nowhere more so than in the tiny community of Kogelo in Western Kenya, where Barack Obama's father was born, and where hopes of a tourism ' boom' ride as high as the new man himself. Before the arrival of ' Obama Fever', Western Kenya lay well off the beaten tourism track, despite the fact that it offers such ecological treasures as Ruma and of Kit Mikaye, which according to Luo legend represent a heart- breaker turned to stone; and Thimlich Ohinga, an Iron Age settlement which is often compared to the ancient stone city of Great Zimbabwe. These days, however, it's Kogelo, or ' Obama City', that's rocking the Kenyan tourism industry. Tourist- class hotels are shooting up, dirt roads are being re- surfaced, ' Senator' beer is the preferred drink, and the local Luo community is blinking in the glare of avid global attention and hundreds of new streetlights. Obama's victory has come at exactly the right moment for Kenyan tourism, which took a hard hit in January 2008 thanks to the violence sparked by its own presidential election. Tourist numbers have, however, made a steady comeback, while the Kenya Tourist Board has been busily placing the national eggs in more than one basket by promoting the ' new' tourism circuits of Western Kenya. In this respect, ' Obama City' could not be better placed. It lies just 35 kilometres from Kisumu, where there are an airport, tourist- class hotels and a museum which, as luck would have it, focuses on the Luo culture in which Obama's own roots lie. And, while Kogelo itself is not yet tourism- savvy, Kenya's agents are already offering variations on the theme of the ' Obama Roots Tour', which ' centres on the area' of Obama Senior's birth while capitalising IN THIS ISSUE FEB- MAR 2009 HABARIINSPIRATION on the undoubted draw of Western Kenya's largely undiscovered national parks and reserves. Meanwhile, at the November 2008 World Travel Mart in London, the Kenyan exhibitors were delighted to note that the Kenya Tourist Board was quick to feature a portrait of the President- Elect, centre- stage on the stand. ' It really worked!' said Tomas Lund Sorensen, MD of African Horizon Travel, ' we all wore Obama badges, and there was a lot of interest'. Meanwhile, in downtown Nairobi, there's a booming tourist trade in Obama kangas, the cotton wraps traditionally worn by Kenyan women, and the closest thing the country has to a national costume. Obama's grandfather would have been confounded: local legend has it that he was the fi rst Luo to discard traditional Kenyan dress… and wear a western- styled suit. ? FLY KQ TO KISUMU 11 TIMES A WEEK 20 OPINION Julianna Mwihaki on Nairobi 22 WISHLIST Where will KQ take you next? 24 TOUCHDOWN 10 things you should know about Guangzhou 26 INTERVIEW Telkom's Angela N'ganga- Mumo 28 BEST BUYS Five top travel gadgets 30 A LIFE IN AFRICA Alice Owen, Born Free Foundation 32 STREETWISE The low- down on Nairobi 34 WHAT'S ON Events in KQ destinations 36 REVIEW The latest books and CDs 40 FOOD AND DRINK Afternoon tea in London 42 SPORTING HEROES Fanie van der Merwe 45 HEALTH Our guide to acupuncture 46 NEWS More settled times and the high profi le good news of Obama's election have both boosted tourism in Kenya WORDS AND MAIN PICTURE: JANE BARSBY 24 52 Kenya After troubled times, Kenya is delighted to see an upturn in tourist numbers RETURN TO Saiwa National Parks and the Kakemega National Forest Reserve; also such cultural gems as the balancing stones THOKOZANI MASANGO