Aidan Hartley rss

Aiden Hartley is the Spectator’s Wild Life columnist.

House work

25 January 2007

Laikipia Our farmhouse is at the finishing stage and Wachira, the electrician from Large Power and Control, is advising me on aesthetics. ‘A spotlight in the garden is a beauteous… Read more

Horribly close to a holy war

24 January 2007

Kiunga, on the Kenya–Somali border  He was a quiet American, and an oddity in Kiunga. For 20 hours I had rammed the Range Rover through tsetse fly-infested jungles teeming with… Read more

Inside story

13 December 2006

Kibera Court No. 2 Normally, I would bribe a traffic policeman, but very occasionally it feels good to hit back against the system. ‘Go ahead. Book me,’ I said. The… Read more

Kenya’s trials

24 May 2006

Nairobi Tom Cholmondeley has done it again. The scion of Kenya’s Delameres has shot dead another black African trespasser on his Rift Valley farm. This is his second in a… Read more

Hope in hell

18 February 2006

Nairobi The finest view of what Kenya’s corrupt political leaders have done to this beautiful nation may be observed from the summit of Africa’s largest rubbish dump, Nairobi’s Dandora dumpsite.… Read more

Ode to a leaf

21 January 2006

Laikipia According to an imminent Home Office decree, I am on drugs, I cultivate drugs and I intend to push drugs. I thought Blair’s government was moving to decriminalise narcotics… Read more

Terror in Mogadishu

8 October 2005

On a recent drive in downtown Mogadishu with ten heavily armed bodyguards, I passed the site of the old US embassy, and observed a melancholy scene that Britain and the… Read more

How African leaders spend our money

25 June 2005

Bob Geldof has urged us not to dwell on ‘the corruption thing’ — but, says Aidan Hartley, corrupt African leaders are using Western aid to buy fleets of Mercedes Benz… Read more

Don’t Worrie Be Happy

2 April 2005

Swat, Pakistan The Swat valley’s apple orchards are in blossom even as the snow still lies thick on the mountains. It’s been the harshest winter in memory. I came here… Read more

The borrowers

18 December 2004

Laikipia When I saw the Chief in his Land Cruiser filled with hangers-on bouncing towards me through the bush I knew he was after his Christmas fatted lamb. It is… Read more

Not my game

23 October 2004

After work the farm labourers like to head for the football pitch. They go barefoot, or in their Bata takkies, and they play rough. The first ball I gave them… Read more

Kenya’s hopes and horrors

9 October 2004
The In-Between World of Vikram Lall M. G. Vassanji

Canongate, pp.439, 14.99

Atheists were rare before the mid-18th century. The 200 years from then to the mid 20th century were their moment, especially among intellectuals. Much opinion imagines their success will continue.… Read more

Cargo cult

28 August 2004

Laikipia I watched tribal warriors invade private farms on Kenya’s Laikipia plateau this week, driving vast herds of cattle before them. The phalanxes of il moran looked magnificent in their… Read more

Lenten sacrifices

27 March 2004

Laikipia I don’t usually observe Lent, but this year it crept up on me. The penances just happened. I’m not even a good Christian. But, let me tell you, this… Read more

Distance learning

24 January 2004

Chalbi desert I am in Kenya’s Chalbi desert, where temperatures soar to 140 degrees. Out here east of Koobi Fora, the Cradle of Mankind, black volcanic rocks tumble down to… Read more

Plum pudding on the beach

13 December 2003

Laikipia My favourite Christmases are in Nairobi. This is how it goes. We gather in the suburbs, at my sister and brother-in-law’s hotel, which they close for the holiday. It… Read more

The age of innocent adventure

29 November 2003
The Gates of Africa: Death, Discovery and the Search for Timbuktu Anthony Sattin

HarperCollins, pp.382, 25

Between antiquity and the 18th century, aside from a couple of Portuguese priests in Abyssinia, we have no record of Europeans venturing into the heart of Africa; incredible but true.… Read more


13 September 2003

When I return to Kenya, this is the true story I’m going to tell my muckers over a round of welcome home Tuskers. In London, in the fair postcode of… Read more

Trust me, I’m a doctor

23 August 2003

Laikipia My mother’s house on Kenya’s coast in August is my favourite place to decompress. After a month in London and Edinburgh, it was such a relief to kick off… Read more

How to kill a burglar

9 August 2003

Nairobi One evening in the Kenyan capital late last year, my friend Sean Culligan endured an experience that, in several instructive ways, can be compared and contrasted with that of… Read more

More than heaven

19 July 2003

Mount Kenya, at altitude Among my many defects is the inability ever to be satisfied. We have two children and I want more. I have 29 cattle and I want… Read more

Home thoughts

21 June 2003

Laikipia Claire came face to face with a leopard last night. She was walking between our office, a thatched mud hut at the bottom of the garden, and the house.… Read more

Lessons from Toby

24 May 2003

Malindi After five years in the writing, my book The Zanzibar Chest is coming out in July. Based on the advice of my friend Toby Young, whose New York memoir… Read more

Missing out

26 April 2003

Laikipia Living in the Kenyan highlands during this war in Iraq I’ve felt like those Japanese soldiers who thought they were still supposed to be fighting when they were plucked… Read more

An end to a way of life?

18 January 2003

In our bad old days there used to be the joke of the Nigerian and Kenyan ministers. The Kenyan visits Abuja, is impressed by the wealth of his counterpart and… Read more