It is hard to imagine, when you visit the little, dusty town of Maktau today, that it was once the location of Africa’s first military railway station and the base of over 20,000 empire troops.
Back in 1916, Maktau station played a major role in the First World War, serving as a terminal for offloading Commonwealth troops who engaged the Germans in Tanganyika between 1915 and 1918.
Yet the dusty trails of what remains of this famous military railway station are still visible even today. It is actually one of the attractions in the town. In Maktau, you will also see what most regard to be the first airfield in East Africa.
Here also lies a cemetery in honour of fallen troops from India. Interestingly, the well-kept cemetery, unlike most other war cemeteries around Kenya, does not have individual headstones. In their stead, a stone monument in the middle with inscriptions in Arabic and some Indian languages in honour of those buried stands.
At Picket Hill, which is above Maktau, you can see the remains of dry stone wall fortifications at the hilltop that was erected during the war. From this vantage point, it is possible to get clear views of the magnificent Tsavo Serengeti Plains to the west and Mount Kilimanjaro.
You can drive close to the top of the hill and then take a short walk to reach the fortified observation post. If you are a war memorial enthusiast, then Makau will certainly interest you – even if it is only for the bragging rights to say that you set foot on one of the locations of the world’s most historical and costly war ever fought.
The site recently became a gazetted National Monument so perhaps now some restoration will start to take place to halt its further disintegration. Salaita Hills, the location of yet another war memorial, is not too far.