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Not to be confused with Marsabit County.
The Marsabit-Moyale road.
The Marsabit-Moyale road.
Marsabit is located in Kenya
Location in Kenya.
Coordinates: 2°20′00″N 37°59′00″E / 2.33333°N 37.98333°E / 2.33333; 37.98333Coordinates: 2°20′00″N 37°59′00″E / 2.33333°N 37.98333°E / 2.33333; 37.98333
Country  Kenya
County Marsabit County
Time zone EAT (UTC+3)

Marsabit is a town in the northern Marsabit County in Kenya. It is situated in the Eastern Province and is almost surrounded by the Marsabit National Park and Marsabit National Reserve. The town is located 170 km east of the center of the East African Rift, at 37°58' E, 2°19' N (37.97°E, 2.32 N). It serves as the capital of Marsabit County, and lies southeast of the Chalbi Desert in a forested area known for its volcanoes and crater lakes and others.


The town of Marsabit is an outpost of urban civilization in the vast desert of northern Kenya. The town is situated on an isolated extinct volcano, Mount Marsabit, which rises almost a kilometer above the desert. The hills here are heavily forested, in contrast to the desert beyond, with their own "insular" eco-system. The town currently has a population of about 5,000.

Marsabit is located southeast of the Chalbi Desert.

The town is mainly inhabited by the Cushitic-speaking Borana, Burji, Gabbra and Rendille. There are also some Nilotic Turkana and Bantu Ameru residents. Additionally, there are a few Somali traders.

Marsabit has an airstrip and a mountain peak (Mount Marsabit), with "singing" wells just outside the town. Elephants can also often be seen in the local wildlife refuge that surrounds the town, occasionally breaking down fences and causing damage to local farmers crop beds.

The name is possibly from the Amharic word 'Marsa bet' (Meaning Marsa's home/house) and is believed to have been named after a farmer named 'Marsa' (ethnically Burji) who was brought to Marsabit from Mega (in Ethiopia) by the Consul to assist in consolidation of farming and permanent settlement on the slopes of Mount Marsabit.

Culture and religion[edit]

Stone pit right outside the far out town of Marsabit.

Besides the aforementioned ethnic groups, there are other people from other parts of Kenya who are there working mostly for the government and business. Muslims, Christians and adherents of traditional religions all inhabit the town.

Marsabit is the announced location for a conference between Borana and Gabra elders scheduled for 2–6 June 2009. Discussions to resolve existing conflicts between the two groups have been underway for several years now, and agreements are expected to be sealed at the event at this conference in the presence of traditional leaders.[1]


Aerial view of area on the outskirts of Marsabit.

Marsabit is approximately 550 kilometers or a day drive from Nairobi via the towns of Isiolo and Archers Post. Accessing the town was previously a challenge as you had to either hang on top of the trucks or hike lifts in government vehicles. Currently, there is are multiple bus services which plies the Isiolo - Marsabit route on a daily basis. It leaves Isiolo for Marsabit at 8pm, arriving between 3 - 5am and leaves Marsabit at 8am arriving in Isiolo between 3 - 7pm. In addition to this, there are other buses which ply the Nairobi - Moyale route, through Marsabit.

The road is very good tarmac all the way to Merille, about 150 km from Isiolo, on your way to Marsabit, then about 120 km of murrum road. This road is characterized by corrugations and bad sections that is only tackled well by a 4 by 4 vehicle, and takes about 4 hours.

There are two airstrips servicing charter aircraft one close to town about 10 minutes Drive towards Moyale (Marsabit Airstrip) and the second about 30 minutes away towards Chalbi. (Segel Airstrip) The Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) flight is the only regular flight to Marsabit on Tuesdays and Fridays.


Camels watering in Marsabit.

Marsabit town is a trading and commercial center, with three petrol stations, three commercial banks, post office, shops, restaurants, lodges and even a dry cleaner. The town facilitates the supply and movement of goods and services between Moyale (goods from Ethiopia) and Isiolo (goods from Nairobi). Agriculture also plays a role, as many grow millet and maize to be consumed locally and nomadic people supply beef by selling their cows.

Lake Paradise (which attracts game animals such as elephants and buffalo), and Bongole Crater located in the heart of the forest are both local attractions for tourists. The town and surrounding area are of rich cultural interest to anthropologists and other researchers.

Solar eclipse of November 3, 2013[edit]

Marsabit was listed as one of the locations that would experience a total solar eclipse on November 3, 2013. The total solar eclipse would have lasted a maximum of 1 minute and 39 seconds. About 1,000 tourists flocked to Sibiloi national park to get a glimpse of the rare occurrence.[2]


  1. ^ "Borana and Gabra peace meeting in Dukana", Pastoralists Communication Initiative website (accessed 5 May 2009)
  2. ^ Chao, Sandra (November 1, 2013). "Numbers rise as tourists flock Marsabit for eclipse Sunday". Daily Nation. Retrieved 3 November 2013.