It wasn’t until I went back with the children that I noticed the dinosaur; a great monolith but partly hidden by a young tree, evil red eyes, a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The three girls danced about between its moulded metal legs; ‘he’s looking at me!’ they shrieked before running on. They then twirled and tripped up the steps beneath the shade of the giant archway of the recently renovated Nairobi National Museum and past the twelve foot high recycled glass and wrought iron sculpture. ‘Please can we go in now? Please?’ said two, but my youngest daughter had begun to cry about a blister on her foot and was already begging to be carried. I sighed. The harsh sun was at its highest point. We squinted at one another. ‘Lunch first’ Grandpa announced sensibly so we filed into the Savanna Cafe and found a table on the terrace. Granny enquired about the availability of a plaster at the reception desk but without any luck.
One hour later, fed and watered, we waited in agonised anticipation inside a hot, sun filled room for Grandpa to organise the tickets. The lady behind the desk smiled but took much too long to work out how many residents and non residents were in the party.
‘One non resident,’ ‘No, two’ ‘And two resident children?’ ‘No, three.’
To distract the girls, I pointed out the glass mural set into the wall illuminated by bright sunshine behind. It depicted a baobab tree with rivers, snakes, impala and buffalo around its base. There was a place to sit down underneath. We glimpsed a life size elephant, zebra and giraffe through closed, tinted glass doors inside the cool of the museum.
‘Lets just go in’ I said vaguely exasperated. The main hall did not disappoint. ‘He’s looking at me!’ The eldest said for the second time, this time referring to the buffalo scowling from behind the heavy fringe of his horns. The stuffed cheetah looked melancholy and noticeably afflicted by mange. My middle daughter leapt on a weighing scale that lit up and announced ‘20kgs’. Soon we were all jumping on and off, even Granny. I was momentarily delighted to find I had lost weight but then discovered that the scale was only accurate to the nearest ten. ‘We should have these scales in the gym!’
There were the African animals first, next a room devoted to the evolution of mankind with life size models of ape like men and women, paintings depicting Stone Age life and fossils that you were allowed to hold.
We climbed a spiral staircase housed in a 1930s style round tower with a tall window. Upstairs on the balcony we learned of various Kenyan tribes, the girls banged away on the xylophone. My favourite item on display was the football made of plastic bags bunched together and bound with string, marked; ‘Child’s toy. Football. Contemporary’. You see boys playing with these on the street sometimes.
The absence of any reference to the colonial era spoke volumes.