By the time our flight landed in Nairobi and we got our visas and cleared customs it was night out, so there wasn't going to be much shooting going on. Our driver and good friend Mocha picked us up from the airport and took us back to the Jai residence, the same location the wedding would be at the following day. After a few hours of meeting everyone and Shelby catching up with everyone we headed to the rental apartment that we would call home for the next few days.
I really wasn't sure what our accommodations would be like in Kenya. I had seen pictures of the apartment online, but I've been fooled in the past by other hotels and condos. I was pleasantly surprised when we walked into a spacious and modern 4 bedroom 4 bath apartment that actually matched the photos I saw.
This 4 bedroom flat wasn't all for just me and Shelby though, we shared it with another couple from Amsterdam that had flown in for the wedding, Olivia and Jort. They were extremely awesome flat mates and became our travel and tour buddies while we were in Nairobi. And we all shared Ox testicles together, more on that a little later.
The next morning I woke up and took a quick tour of our apartment building and got my first look of Kenya in the day light. Coming from Dubai to Nairobi was like landing on a different planet. Where Dubai thrives in excess and money is an after thought, Nairobi is the complete opposite.
People are walking around everywhere during all hours of the day, and Matatus (pronounced Ma-ta-toos) zoom up and down the road completely packed like circus clown cars. Driving over here is complete anarchy, road signs and even traffic cops seem to be merely suggestions and not the law. For once in my life I was glad I was never behind the wheel.
Every residence or public commercial building is surrounded by a 12 -15 foot wall with razor or electric wire running along the top. A thick steel or iron gate stand at the entrance/exit to these properties accompanied by a guard or two. When you visit a mall or shopping center you are frisked with a metal wand before entering, and instead of Paul Blart standing guard inside, it's the Kenyan Army equipped with AK-47s and FALs.
After messing around in the apartment all morning, it was time to head to the wedding. Mocha picked us up and we returned to the Jai residence to see the very end of Ravi's (the groom) arrival. Once the groom's side had arrived and finished filtering in, the bride's side had a Swahili band welcome them all to the wedding with song and dance. It was a moment of universal bonding and an incredibly fun way to kick off the evenings festivities.
Before we proceed, a little disclosure; I wasn't the main photographer at this wedding. Nope, I was the cheap American labor that was there to enjoy myself and experience something incredible. This isn't my normal wedding style photography, and as the East African spirits began to enter my body, their sweet nectar soon turned my D800 into a very expensive point and shoot camera. It had been a while since I was able to sit back and enjoy a wedding, I'm just glad it was one that was completely EPIC! And that might be an understatement.
Before long we all took our seats and Ravi made his way down the aisle escorted by his sister. Shortly after they were seated, screams, shouts and yipping were heard coming from the main house. A few seconds after they began, one by one, four Massai Warriors emerged from the back door chanting and shouting in their native tongue, Maa.
I've shot a lot of weddings in my photography career, but I have never had anything at a wedding make every single hair on my body stand straight up like it did when the Warriors emerged from the house and then escorted Phera down the aisle. For the first time this trip I was hit with a massive wave of emotion as I leaned into Shelby and said, "Holy shit! Holy shit! That is badass!" (hopefully it isn't audible on the video she was shooting). By far the most amazing and fitting entry for a bride that I have ever seen. Ever.
The rest of the ceremony played out as planned, speeches were made, rings exchanged, and of course the kiss. It was a perfectly beautiful ceremony.
The evening was absolutely awesome, and I feel fortunate to have been able to witness something that beautiful and amazing.
After a night of drinking, dancing and celebrating, we returned to our apartment to catch a few hours of sleep before the wedding reception and lunch the next day. Yes, the wedding was two days long..... for us. Technically it was three days long, but we missed the first day which was a traditional prayer ceremony and dinner due to our time in Dubai.
The reception and lunch took place at the Karen Blixen House/Musuem. For those that aren't aware who Karen Blixen was, the movie Out of Africa is about her life in Kenya. She's was and still is considered a national treasure to the people of Kenya. Her Wikipedia page can provide you with more information about her life and writings.
The grounds were breath taking, and just the thought of how much history was surrounding us was mind boggling. So in order to help sink it in a little easier we did what we do best, we had drinks. Tuskers and Dawas.
Dawa is Swahili for medicine, and it's said to be potent enough to cure what ever ails you. It's made up of vodka, lime, brown sugar and honey. It originated in a restaurant in Nairobi called Carnivore, more on that tomorrow.
But right now I have a reception to show you:
As the day winded down, we returned to the apartment to change and hit up the mall. As we were walking through I found these three boxes from my childhood and nearly bought everyone they had! But the mail system in Kenya is corrupt and they would probably never make it back to the States.
These two days were the reason Shelby and I came to Kenya. Spending time with a fantastic family and seeing a once in a life time wedding ceremony was amazing. The odd thing was that our trip to Africa was just getting started and my mind was already on overload. Little did I know what was to come and what I would see over the next couple of days on the safari.
But before we headed out to the safari, we had one day of fun and exploration in Nairobi that we spent at the Elephant Orphanage and Animal Sanctuary.
Tomorrow Part 4: The Elephant Orphanage and Animal Sanctuary