A Japanese Tale of Crooks and Crows

11 September 2014 | Inside Angama |

In my first story for this blog I promised you a sequel to the journey of finding a new name for our lovely lodge that is currently being built right on the edge of the Rift Valley high above Kenya’s Maasai Mara.

I must own up that this beautiful 700 acre property with nearly 1.5km of escarpment frontage already had a handsome name: Ol Kurruk. Many Kenyans are somewhat astounded that we had the nerve to chuck this, and find a new name, but we really had no option and I will explain why. The reason is very simple: in Maa, the language of the Maasai who call this corner of Kenya home, Ol Kurruk sounds lovely, especially if you put the emphasis on the end as in Ol-Kuur-RUK. Its a happy sound … until you ask, which all our guests inevitably will, ‘what is its meaning in English?’ ‘Pied Crow’ is the short answer. Not ‘endless horizons’ or ‘loveliest place in all the world’ – just pied crow. Not good as a brand for a luxury lodge, I am sure you will agree. Imagine the logo? I have nothing personal against crows, but no.

A short history on Ol Kurruk: there was a lodge here that burnt to the ground in 1997 (theories abound as to why but I am not sure it really matters). For seventeen long years the site remained abandoned and undeveloped, and for fifteen of those years Steve Fitzgerald nagged, cajoled, begged and badgered the owners for the lease on Ol Kurruk. We go way back with the Maasai family that own this property, as they are deeply involved in the ownership of &Beyond’s Kichwa Tembo, which by the way, has just undergone a magnificent rebuild (check it here). Anyway fast-forward to April 2013 when the phone rang; Steve flew to Nairobi, returned with a 30-year lease and that was just the beginning.

Olkurruk sign at Angama Mara

It’s fascinating walking around the ruins of Ol Kurruk Lodge – shrubs using loos as plant holders, room signs to nowhere and the only remaining guests – rock hyraxes – staring balefully at us as we measure, argue, bash in pegs and generally cause them undue irritation. If any readers have Ol Kurruk stories or photographs please share them – we would love to learn more about the history of the site.

So moving swiftly on to the final chapter of the re-naming tale. Why Japanese and who is the crook? I will deal with the latter first – it’s corny but inevitable. Ol’ Kruuk? Steve didn’t want to be tarnished with that brush, thanks very much. And Japanese? To our amazement and delight Wikipedia tells us that ‘angama’ is a style of dancing performed in many communities of Japan’s Yaeyama Islands during the Bon Festival’. Who would have thought? Maybe the dance movements reflect a sense of hanging in mid air? Never underestimate the power of the global village.

FILED UNDER: Inside Angama

AUTHOR: Nicky Fitzgerald

After more than 30 years in hospitality, starting with a small hotel at the foot of Africa and followed by a further couple of Cape hotels, most notably The Bay, and sixty plus safari lodges across Africa and India, Nicky has served more meals, puffed more cushions, filled more beds, trained more staff and opened more properties than she cares to remember. Nicky retired as Angama's CEO in July of 2022 and remains an advisor and delightfully opinionated member of the Board.

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