Considered one of the top 5 activities when exploring Nairobi in Kenya, the Karen Blixen Museum takes visitors back in time in the history of Kenya, on which Karen Blixen's memoir "Out of Africa" was based.
Located 30 kilometres from Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, the Karen Blixen Museum is situated on a farm at the base of the Ngong Hills. The museum takes its name from its Danish owner Karen Blixen and stands as a marvellous reflection of what Kenya was like many years ago.
Karen Blixen, who married Baron Bror van Blixen Fincke, first gained international attention in 1985 when the Oscar winning movie 'Out of Africa', starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep was released. The film, 'Out of Africa'
is based on Karen's autobiography with the same title and tells the story of a Danish baroness who owns a plantation in 20th century colonial Kenya and centres around her passionate love affair with a free-spirited big-game hunter, Denys Finch Hatton.
Karen and her husband purchased the house and the surrounding 4500 acre farm in 1917 and used 600 acres of it for coffee farming. The coffee farm did not do well, suffering several disasters including a fire and continuous bad harvests. In 1921, after the end of their marriage, the Baron left the area and Karen remained to run the farm as a single woman on a financially troubled farm. After the death of her lover and a failed farm, Karen returned to Denmark in 1931, where she became a successful author.
The farm and house was bought by Remy Marin, who subdivided the land into 20 acre parcels for development. Subsequent development has created the present day suburb of Karen. The house was sporadically occupied until purchased in 1964 by the Danish government and given to the Kenyan government as an independence gift in 1964.
The Kenyan government set up a college of nutrition and the house was used as the principal's house. In 1985 the shooting of the movie “Out of Africa” began; the Museums of Kenya acquired the house and the museum was opened in 1986.
The museum is open daily between 09h30 and 18h00 including weekends and public holidays, guided tours are offered continuously. During the tour of the typical period house, visitors will be able to gain a greater understanding of European settlements and cultivation in the early 1900s in East Africa.
A tour of the house can be an intimate experience, in one corner is a lantern that Karen used to hang on her veranda to let her lover, English hunter Denys Finch Hatton, know that she was home. There are still some of Finch Hatton’s monogrammed books lining the shelves.
The museum transports one back in time and it seems to belong to a distant past surrounded by the beautiful and tranquil garden, indigenous forest and with the view of the Ngong Hills in the distance. There is also a shop at the museum which sells posters and postcards, the movie 'Out of Africa' and various other Kenyan souvenirs.
Karen Blixen wrote “I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills”.
Near the Karen Blixen museum, located in the beautiful setting of the gardens is the Tamambo Karen Blixen Coffee Garden. It is the site of the original farmhouse of the Blixen’s farm. The restaurant is open from 06h00 am until 22h00 pm daily. The restaurant is situated in the midst of the largest and oldest formal gardens in Kenya, they include large Jacaranda and bottle brush trees and over 200 species of blooming flower varieties.