44 – Mnarani Club, the naked truth

The family used to make day trips north to Malindi or Kilifi, which are 60 miles and 30 miles respectively from Mombasa.

Mnarani was our favourite; it was located on the south side of Kilifi Creek. Today it is a luxury hotel and resort, but back then it was a much simpler place where expats relaxed.

To get there was an adventure in itself. After going over Nyali bridge and heading north, we would come upon another crossing which I used to call the singing ferry. A rope was strung across the river and men would hold on to it while walking from one end of the ferry to the other. They sang as they pulled, and we would tip them afterwards even though we knew the song had derogatory comments about us.

Local skirted girl - kongwa2london.comWe passed a few villages before reaching Kilifi where the local women wore nothing but a short grass skirt, preceding anything fashioned by Mary Quant (a designer credited for the mini skirt).

The Mnarani Club had a bar, pool and via steep steps, a beach. There was a giant rubber ring in the pool courtesy of the inner tube of a lorry tyre. My mother, who could not swim, would lie on it and sunbathe.

Mum at Mnarani - kongwa2london.comTo our surprise, mum chose to water-ski in Kilifi Creek, she made it to the middle before falling off. To my dismay, everyone on the shore was laughing, I was the only one concerned enough to dive in after her. Lucky for both of us, the boat turned around and came to the rescue.

Big sister before going water skiing - kongwa2london.comNext to try to water-ski was my sister, this generated even more interest (especially from the boys) as the rush of water started to pull her bikini bottom down.

I was walking along the beach and came across a European woman sunbathing topless, in those days it was unheard of. I talked to her for a while before returning to the club where I related my encounter.

The adults informed me that the woman’s name was Christine Keeler, the name meant nothing to me until many years later. Miss Keeler was involved in the John Profumo sex and spy scandal (the British Secretary of State for War) and to this day I don’t know if someone was having a joke or I had really met her.


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