In Summary
  • Galton-Fenzi would make trips to other parts of the country, establishing courses that would become the accepted routes for motor vehicle transport.
  • In 1958, the Royal East Africa Automobile Association erected the monument in his honour.

On a chilly Tuesday morning, the Nation meets Sharon Okoth, 23, a journalist, on Nairobi’s Kenyatta Avenue.

We ask her where her village is. She mentions a village in Migori County.

But does she know the distance from the city to her village? She casually answers, "420 kilometres". To her, this is a no-brainer. After all, she has travelled the route countless times.

However, Ms Okoth does not factor the approximate 17km from Utawala, where she lives, to the city centre. “I just know that my home is that far, nothing more,” she says confidently.

While she is right, Ms Okoth is not sure where this distance is measured from. “Is it from Machakos Country Bus terminus?” she throws the question back to me, grinning.

FOCAL POINT

If you asked many Kenyans the distance from the city to their village, they might fumble a little, but ultimately get the answer right.

Asking them where this distance is measured from is a different question altogether.

Ms Okoth, like millions of Kenyans, is oblivious of the existence of a focal point and geographical beacon in the city from which distances to other parts of the country are determined.

Sitting at the intersection of Koinange Street and Kenyatta Avenue, a stone’s throw away from Cardinal Otunga Plaza, the Galton-Fenzi Memorial monument is one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city.

Surrounded by a steel fence, the 12ft by 4ft monument features a concrete globe on top, marked Northerly, Southerly, Easterly and Westerly.

FOUNDER

Yet, for most Kenyans walking or driving past this critical item, the Galton-Fenzi Memorial passes for just one of the hundreds of monuments found in Nairobi.

Few stop to study it. Yet, this 80-year-old monument is important in the country’s history, particularly the establishment of road routes to other parts of the country from the city.

It is from this stone, nicknamed “Nairobi Milliary Stone”, that distances from Nairobi to the rest of Kenya are measured in miles. There are also possible coordinates to the various destinations.

Engraved on the stone are distances to local towns and cities, including Nakuru, Kisumu, Eldoret and Mombasa. The distances to Kampala, Juba, Khartoum and Dar es Salaam are also listed.

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