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What’s in a Name?

Nicky Fitzgerald tells the story behind the name of our lovely lodge, Angama Mara

An awful lot, actually.

In that balcony scene Shakespeare’s Juliet argues that the name of something is totally irrelevant; only what things ‘are’ really counts for anything. Well, I beg to differ. If William, or Juliet for that matter, only knew the importance of naming a new safari lodge, this famous quote would surely have been ‘There’s everything in a name’.

Having played the naming game for more times than I care to remember – the last round having left me somewhat battered and bruised – the scariest task that has faced me on this journey has been to find a name for our new lodge. For our first hotel (a hundred years ago) it was simple: the place was called Arniston and so was the hotel. And domains were realms of the past ruled by powerful regents. As the years rolled by we named and re-christened over 30 new lodges, some with silent X’s, others with hidden H’s and one with so many N’s, G’s, O’s and R’s it made our guests’ eyes spin.

If finding a new name was one challenge, try finding in 2014 a domain that has yet to be registered. Even pinkpolkadotsafarilodge.com is taken. Oh yes, I had a well prepared list of what the name had to encompass: pronounceable in all languages on earth; simple to write phonetically; memorable so our lovely guests could brag about where they had been; easily recognisable; reflect a sense of place; respectful of our community neighbours (no Maori word for ‘most beautiful place on Earth’ – anyway it was taken. In Guatemala); romantic (Steve’s addition, needless to say) and did I mention the dotcom had to be available, at no cost of course?

As we stood on the edge of the world looking down over the Mara Triangle 300m below, we fearlessly embraced the naming game. This would be easy – just look at those views that go on forever. I won’t bore you but it was anything but. Every suitable and pronounceable name in Swahili and Maa was taken. Here we go again, I thought. I am way too old for this. With just the last smidgen of enthusiasm I could muster, I bought, for the princely sum of $25, a Swahili/English dictionary at JKIA. I had fours hours ahead of me with nothing better to do than to read this book from A to Z. And guess what – there it was in the A’s. Way too easy, there must be something better and I diligently read all the way to Z (zuri kito - beautiful gem. Quite nice come to think of it). It was a really boring task made especially so because the perfect answer was found after only ten minutes of dictionary reading.

From the dreamy Swahili word for sky ‘anga’ comes angama – hanging or suspended in mid air. And everything here high up above Kenya’s lovely Mara Triangle on the edge of the Great Rift Valley seems caught in the balance; the clouds, the hot air balloons, the birds of prey and even the buildings hang suspended somewhere between heaven and earth.

We love our new name Angama Mara and although relatively unknown to Swahili speakers (would you like to see the dictionary? I ask) it feels just right in every possible way. And how perfectly does it partner with Mara?

In my next post I will tell you why we had to find a new name for this beautiful corner of Kenya – its a story of crooks and crows.

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About: 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. Her driving force is ‘will our guests love this?’ She has come full circle and is happily puffing, cooking, training and filling to her heart’s content high up on the edge of Kenya’s Great Rift Valley at Angama Mara.

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