European Woman Karen Estate Was Named After

  • Security personnel guard the gate at Raila Odinga's Karen home in Nairobi on January 30, 2017. File
  • It is an undisputed fact that Karen is the home for the high and mighty. Hidden in the shelter of a pleasant forested area, Karen embodies comfort, luxury and serenity.

    Some residents will testify to the morning bliss, where they wake up to the vast bird life chirping away signalling a new day.

    Notable names like Deputy President William Ruto and African Union envoy Raila Odinga reside in the posh estate. However, only a few are familiar with the intriguing story of how it sprouted into life.

    According to reports by History Kenya and the National Museums of Kenya, the posh estate was named after Karen Blixen, a white settler who later became an author.

    President Uhuru and William Ruto at the latter's Karen house in November 2018.
    President Uhuru and William Ruto at the latter's Karen house in November 2018. The suburb was named after Danish Author Karen Blixen.

    Karen alias Isak Dinesen was born at Rungstedlund in Denmark on April 17, 1885, as the second child of Wilhelm and Ingeborg Dinesen’s five children. 

    She then travelled to Africa in 1914 to marry her half-cousin and carry out dairy farming in the then British Colony of Kenya. Her husband, however, changed his mind and decided to farm coffee. 

    In 1930, the coffee farming suffered a major setback after a swarm of locusts invaded the country feasting on every inch of green life.

    The report by History Kenya further quoted Nicholas Best's book, 'The Happy Valley - The Story Of The English In Kenya, which stated that the disaster turned around the lives of white settlers as some committed or attempted suicide, and other wallowed away into a stupor. 

    Karen ended up divorcing her husband and was left to manage the embattled farm, all by herself. She later fell in love with an English man, Denis Finch Hatton.

    Her stay in Kenya was shortlived by the death of Finch in the Tsavo area coupled with poor coffee production. 

    Another White settler by the name Remy Marin then bought the land, broke the land into 20-acre parcels for development, which created the posh Karen estate. Meanwhile while in Denmark, Karen resorted to being an author, writing the autobiography Out of Africa. She died on her family estate, Rungsted, in 1962 at the age of 77.

    She, however, left a rich history in Kenya with the Karen Blixen Museum which was built in 1912 during her stay by Swedish Engineer Ake Sjogren. The museum was given to the Kenyan government as an independence gift by the Danish government.

    Karen Blixen Museum which was on a parcel of land owned by Danish Author Karen and her Swedish Husband, Baron Bror von Blixen Fincke in the 20 th century
    Karen Blixen Museum which was on a parcel of land owned by Danish Author Karen and her Swedish Husband, Baron Bror von Blixen Fincke in the 20th century.