Some many years ago I found myself standing in the middle of one of the most inhospitable places on earth – the Chalbi desert, in northern Kenya. Eremologists, the guys who study deserts, regard it as the only true desert in Kenya.
It is also the hottest place in the country. I recall then my inability to make a single phone call here and the accompanying feeling of sheer fear and disillusionment that comes with that realisation.
A friend I later narrated my experience to, told me I had suffered momentary Nomophobia – the fear of losing cell phone reception! He tickled my curiosity to explore what more bizarre and strange phobias existed out there. What I came across was quite interesting. Read on and discover with me.
This is the fear of wild animals. It is a condition that affects travellers who were raised in a secluded urban setting where no contact with any kind of wild animal – even in a zoo – was possible. When they come across such animals for the first time, usually during a game drive, it triggers a sense of fear called agrizoophobia. Not a good thing when your aim is to catch a glimpse of the BIG FIVE of Africa.
This is the fear of extreme cold. Woe unto you tour guide if you are leading a mountain climbing expedition to Mount Kenya and one of your team members is cryophobic. If you have not done some basic first aid training on how to deal with such people, then I cannot imagine your nightmare.
But do I hear you say they should be aware of their condition so why make such a trip? Well, humans are strange. How many times have you hidden a limiting condition in pursuit of adventure and greater conquests of life? So just be honest to your guide before setting-off to a cold place so they are aware.
For those who are used to fast and efficient service delivery then slow customer service would quickly trigger this condition doctors define as the fear of long waits. I wonder what a Macrophobe would do at some of our border points where the waits to be processed by immigration can sometimes be excruciatingly long.
Many who travel to Africa are usually driven by the desire to come and enjoy our richly warm, sunny tropical climate. The thought of basking for hours on end under the African sun is a temptation many cannot resist.
Yet in this same world of sunshine lovers, there are those who would do whatever it takes to keep away from the effects of this celestial body. These are the heliophobes who have the fear of the sun. They would rather stay indoors than go out. Nature walks or trails and game drives in our famous national parks would be a no no for them.
Limnophobia is the fear of lakes. Limnophobes would therefore never fancy a trip to the world-famous Lake Victoria. They would most certainly not be headed to Lake Turkana either, where everyone is planning to be this coming November 3rd to catch the total solar eclipse phenomenon. They just have a certain fear of such water bodies. Have you ever come across a limnophobe?
Yes you guessed it! This is the fear of escalators. It means you will not be going shopping around Yaya Centre and you will not be seen around Westgate either. These ultra-modern shopping malls in Kenya have escalators that facilitate moving up and down the various levels of these malls. An escalaphobe would rather scale the stairs in such a building than come anywhere near an escalator.
One thing we have a passion for at Kenya Geographic is the love and respect for ancient architecture and monuments now long gone – that sort of thing. In other words, places like the ruins of Gedi at the Kenya Coast, have a special place in our hearts.
We constantly advocate for their restoration and preservation because they tickle our imagination at how these kingdoms and empires lived. On that note, we can safely conclude that we have no fear of old buildings and ruins – which is what Atephobia is all about.
Atephobes do not want to be anywhere near such places. So if your tour package includes places like Fort Jesus and the old ruins of Shaka, then you might have to leave an atephobe behind.
This one is interesting because a majority of Kenyans would fall under this category. Whether it is the fear of crossing the street (Agyrophobia) or the fear of being run-over by the crazy matatus and more recently, the lunatics-driven Proboxes, Kenyans fear crossing the street – zebra crossing notwithstanding. Are we agyrophobic or matatu/proboxphobic? You be the judge of that.
As they say – one man’s loss is another man’s gain. If you do not fancy travelling by road, which makes you a hodophobe, then you would certainly prefer air or sea travel – unless you also have a fear of water and heights.
The road transport services we have in Kenya will never see a dime from you while the airlines may be laughing all the way to the bank when they see you. Hodophobic travellers never feel secure travelling by road and would just be uncomfortable in a tourist van heading to the Maasai Mara.
Most of these phobias, except matatuphobia and proboxphobia which we have just made up (patent pending), are only treatable through counselling. They are, of course, not life-threatening. They only deny you indulgence in a few luxuries of life but if worked on, people have been known to come out of them.
You may have heard that certain people choose certain careers so they can conquer the fears that come with the career they have chosen. Most pilots have confessed they went into aviation to overcome their fear of flying.
So conquer your fear by doing the very thing that scares you! No wonder there is a Swahili proverb; ‘dawa ya moto ni moto’. In other words, the remedy for fire is fire!