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Karen Blixen Museum

Karen Blixen Museum in Kenya

Ever wondered how the Karen estate in Nairobi came about? Well, this article will shed light on the historical developments that led to the existence of one of the finest suburbs in Eastern Africa. The Karen Blixen Museum has got to be one of the richest source of historical findings in Kenya.


Karen Blixen Museum is a national museum in Kenya located six miles from Nairobi city, near Ngong Hills. The fancy bungalow was built in 1912 by a wealthy and renown engineer from Sweden, Ake Sjogren. He was also the Swedish consul to Kenya at the time. The vintage bungalow was occupied by the bestselling author Karen Blixen and her spouse Baron Bror Von Blixen-Finecke. Not only was the bungalow an architectural marvel but also a central point in the Blixen estate.

Family history

Ake Sjogren owned 6000 acres of land at the base of Ngong Hills. As a wealthy man, Ake put up a phenomenal bungalow in the middle of his estate. It became his primary residence at the farm. Notable visitors from abroad and within the region loved to tour his house. Mojen Frijs, a Danish count, visited the bungalow during his East-African tour. Count Frijs was a relative to Baron Blixen. Upon receiving intelligence from Count Frijs about the ample farmland in British East Africa, Baron Blixen moved to Kenya and purchased the coveted estate between 1913 and 1916. Before the complete acquisition of the estate, Karen Blixen stayed in Mbagathi where she had another house. Her Mbagathi farmhouse was part of the filming spot for the movie, Out of Africa.

In 1917, Karen and her husband acquired ownership of the estate and stayed in the bungalow. Baron Blixen-Finecke stayed in Kenya for eight years, after which he divorced Karen. Karen Blixen took over farm operations until 1931 when she opted to move back to her home country in Denmark.

Karen Blixen

Baroness Karen Blixen was born in 1885 at Rungstedland in Denmark. Her parents were Ingeborg Westenholz and Wilhelm Dinesen. Karen moved to British East Africa in 1914 with her Swedish spouse, Baron Blixen. He was also her half-cousin. Having the financial backing of her uncle, Aage Westenholz, the couple began dairy farming in the estate. After a while, Baron Blixen shifted his focus from dairy farming to coffee farming. The venture did not last long due to numerous factory fires and dismal coffee harvests. In 1921, the couple divorced and Baron Blixen relocated to Sweden. Karen then got into a romantic relationship with Denis Finch Hatton, an Englishman living in Kenya. Hatton’s death in 1930 at the Tsavo plus the farm’s troubles led Karen to leave Kenya. She wrapped up her farming business in 1931 and moved back home in Denmark to pursue her writing career. She indulged herself fully in writing books based on her experience in Africa. She used the pen name, Isak Dinesen. Her bestselling book, Out of Africa, is the most famous literary piece she ever wrote. Her other literary works include Babette Feat, Seven Gothic Tales and Shadows of the Grass.

Karen Blixen passed on in 1962, aged 77, at her home in Rungstedland. Her home lay in a 40-acre estate that was converted into a bird sanctuary as per her will.

Karen Blixen Museum in Kenya

The Karen Blixen Museum in Kenya came into the limelight after the shooting of a movie based on Karen’s autobiography, Out of Africa. In the movie, Karen gave insight into her stay in Africa. It featured her love for “the house in the woods.” She called the house Mbogani. The filming was carried out in 1985. The publicity it brought to the bungalow drove the government of Kenya to secure it as a national museum in 1986. Before attaining its status as a national museum, the bungalow had exchanged several hands. In 1964, the Danish government had released the estate as a gift to the Kenyan government after independence. A college of nutrition was then established with the bungalow being the principal’s quarters. A large chunk of the estate was sold to Remy Marin who later subdivided the estate into 20-acre plots. The plots were sold and developed into homes that now grace the posh Karen suburbs.

National heritage

Karen Blixen was a significant player in the history of Kenya and Denmark. The Karen Blixen Museum in Kenya serves as a critical hub for Kenya’s history under the British rule. Her contributions to agriculture and literature left a permanent mark in the lives of both Kenyans and her Danish people. The movie based on her autobiography won an Oscar Award. This made Kenya famous. Tourists come to visit the Karen Blixen Museum in Nairobi Kenyan to learn the history behind Karen’s inspiration as a writer.

In Denmark, Karen’s estate was converted to a bird sanctuary and her house made a museum. The house still contains her prized furniture, African portraits and author paintings.

A visit to the Karen Blixen Museum in Kenya

Zunguka Africa Safaris makes day trips to the Karen Blixen Museum. At the museum, guided tours in the estate begin at 0900 hours and end at 1800 hours. You can buy souvenirs, movies, Karen’s books, handicrafts, and postcards at the estate. Moreover, you are advised to assess the ground’s suitability for your corporate or family function. The lush green grounds are famous for intimate and corporate events. Check our travel plans and book with Zunguka Africa Safaris.

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