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Slumming It in Kenya

Photographer: Dai Kurokawa

 

While tens of thousands of foreign tourists predictably flock to safari parks and the endless sandy beaches of Kenya during the peak summer tourist season, others with a penchant for more unorthodox attractions and activities opt for so-called ‘slum tourism’. For just 25 US dollars (or 2,500 Kenya shillings) per person, tourists are steered by local tour companies in the direction of one of the largest and most dangerous slums in Africa – the Kibera slum in Nairobi.

 

Sometimes referred to as ‘poverty tourism’ by western tourists, the tour operators claim that these tours help raise awareness to the issue of poverty and bring much needed extra income to the slum dwellers who live on less than a couple of dollars a day. However the residents of the slums see it entirely different, arguing they do not benefit anything from it and that tourists come only to see and take photographs of their plight. But some tourists see it from another perspective.

 

‘We are blessed to be here’ says 29-year-old tourist Bahare Bahrampoor, a public health worker from Denmark who is visiting the Kibera slum with her friend Laure Willemen from Belgium. ‘We are amazed to see how people help and support each other to tackle their everyday problems’, says Bahrampoor. ‘We had a discussion before we came here, on how we should behave and whether we should take pictures in the slum. Because if I was poor and someone takes pictures of me, I would not feel good. We convinced ourselves to come because we are not here just to see the poverty but also to see how people help each other with various projects and also because our money go to those projects as well’. Being asked how they would respond to the criticism of the tour being a ‘poverty voyeurism’, Willemen said ‘it is a very serious criticism and we should continue to take it seriously’.