Why there are no drunks or prostitutes at Nakuru motel
NAKURU, KENYA: As I entered Muriu Guest house in Nakuru town, accompanied by my male colleague, all the workers stared in our direction.
I was not surprised by their glares as I knew what was going on in their minds. For unlike most guesthouses that serve as hideouts for couples out to indulge in illicit affairs as long as they can afford the accommodation fees, Muriu is no place for mpango wa kando (‘side arrangement’). And the warning to unmarried lovebirds, prostitutes and their lust-driven clients is explicitly written on the wall: “Hapa hakuna nyumba ya kufanyia mapenzi. Walalao wawe ni bibi na bwana. Na wawe na kibali cha harusi la sivyo, majina yaambatane kwenye kitambulisho cha kitaifa.” For the Kiswahili-‘challenged’ visitors to Nakuru – a town slowly gaining the dubious distinction of being “sin city” – who might be tempted to visit Muriu with ‘ulterior’ motives, the message means: “There is no room for illicit sex here. Only husbands and their wives are allowed to spend the night here. They should show proof of their marriage with a marriage certificate or national identification cards with matching names.” And that’s not all. The guest house is a no-go zone for drunks; even those with marriage certificates! “Ulevi au vitu vya ulevi havitakikani. Amani na utulivu lazima uimarishwe” (Drinking or related activities are not permitted. Peace and tranquility must prevail), the notice further reads. Clients are vetted before being given accommodation and those who don’t meet the high standards are sent away. But most customers with ‘ill intentions’ don’t even get to the vetting point at the reception area, as messages and pictures displayed at the entrance are enough to send them away. One picture shows a man dressed in a black suit waving goodbye to a woman dressed in a red mini-dress as he enters the facility. The woman is sneering at the man (her illicit lover), who is not allowed into the premises with her because of the strict rule prohibiting prostitution in the building. “Pliz hakuna nyumba ya kufanya mapenzi (Please, there is no room for sex),” reads a message between the pictures. Muriu Guest House is owned by Jeremiah Kibe Muriu, a teetotaler. Ironically Muriu means “drunkard” in Kikuyu. So why would a man named Muriu, with a guest house going by the same name, hate alcohol with such a passion?
We got the answer to this question without even asking. When we arrived at the guest house, we found the 74-year-old proprietor discussing spiritual matters with Rachael Wangui, the customer care officer. Muriu is a Christian; a staunch one who abhors immorality.
Incredibly, by merely looking at the two of us entering the guest house, he had already concluded that we were not married, and perhaps up to some mischief. “When you came in, I observed your movements and knew you could not secure accommodation in my facility. According to African culture, women walk behind men,” he says.
Muriu says he came up with the strict rules to ensure that morality was upheld in the community. He reveals that he grew up in a humble Christian family and that played a role in the way he wanted to establish his business. He wanted to put his faith into action and change society morally. He explains that permitting immorality would affect his Christian beliefs. “If a drunken person is accommodated here, he will affect my beliefs. I am, therefore, promoting good morals through actions.” Chased away He adds: “I am not only into making profits but also ensuring that good family values are preserved.
There is a well displayed notice of the rules and those who are not able to abide by them are chased away.” But what happens to couples without marriage certificates or ID cards with a shared name? For those married under customary law, a joint bank account is used for verification or in the absence of that, children are used as proof of marriage. “Children are a symbol of the union between couples,” he expounds. Bachelors and single women seeking accommodation at the guest house are not permitted to sleep in the same room or on the same floor.
Interestingly, the names of the rooms are derived from the Bible. They include Damascus, Judea, Turo, Jopa, Lebanon, Jordan, Bethlehem, Roma, Nazareth, Shalom and Filodefia. The dress code is also strict. Women are not allowed to wear ‘tumbo-cuts’ and mini-skirts. Muriu says such dressing promotes prostitution and also irritates other clients.