Why Kenya is my second home – Julius Delahaije

Wednesday, September 18th, 2019 00:00 |
Julius Delahaije and his nine-month-old daughter Zara Mapenzi enjoy the wild. And left, Delahaije with his guard dogs. Photo/PD/HARRIET JAMES

Fifteen years ago, Julius Delahaije, came to Kenya for the first time on holiday. He toured Diani, Mombasa and did some game drives in the Mara. “I was impressed.

I only knew Kenya as a tourist destination for wildlife, and then later on came to love the coastline. I loved the country, and I would have wanted to stay, but I couldn’t because of work-related reasons,” he recalls. 

His prayer was answered in 2016. Julius was appointed chairman and chief executive officer, SGA, a Nairobi-based security firm.

He had also separated with his wife and gotten a new love, Myrana Van Der Veen, a designer and photographer, whom they relocated with.

The couple have now fallen in love with Kenya and it’s people so much they have given their nine-month-old daughter a Swahili name, Mapenzi Zara.

“The name is meant to remind her she was born in Kenya,” Julius says.

New life

When searching for a house online, their love for nature made them settle at an estate near Karura Forest. However, one thing they were not used to is heavy traffic. 

“I kept asking myself if I would make to any place on time? In the morning, it takes me 45 minutes to get to work at our offices based at Mombasa Road. However, in the evening, it sometimes take two hours to get home,” says Julius.

Having heard about insecurity in Kenya, he was bothered. “In Holland, I could ride my bicycle anywhere, any time without having to worry.

Here, I was scared as I didn’t know which routes and time were safe for me to do so,” he says.

While his duty as the head of the security firm guaranteed security and transport, he was worried about his wife’s. He had to organise transport for her and ensure security was intact.

In addition, they had to research on the safe and unsafe areas in Nairobi. “I can now proudly say we are wenyeji and well conversant with the safe and unsafe areas. But we take precautions from time to time,” he adds.

The couple also faced a culture shock. For instance, while people drive on the right in Holland, here in Kenya, people drive on the left lane.

It was easy for Julius to adapt to this, but not the behaviour of matatus on the road. “The aggressiveness on the road is on another level.

The chaotic matatus, the indiscipline, name it… I had to go with the flow because if you are scared of it, you won’t go anywhere,” he narrates. 

Another thing was the perception that being white meant they were rich. “We adapted to this by acting low profile when going to Toi or Gikomba markets where we normally go to buy our stuff. We just wear jeans and T-shirt to dress down,” he says.

Good relationship

His wife, who is originally Dutch, but was born in Indonesia blended easily. She is passionate about travelling and the two enjoy doing this in their free time where they visit art galleries and places where arts and crafts are sold. “We go to the place where people make the crafts.

One of our favourite places is Wamunyu near Machakos where they make great crafts.

We have a good relationship with the locals and the fact that I am a photographer and designer, I give them consignments to make,” says Myrana. 

It has been a great experience for the couple as they say Kenyans are hospitable people. “During our free time, Julius and I go for game drives in various national parks and ranches across the country.

Living next to Karura forest, we take morning and evening walks with our three guard dogs,” recalls Myrana. 

The couple also makes trips to conservancies and game parks in their free time. They have learnt one or two Kiswahili words, but are planning to take a course to perfect the language. 

Prior to joining the security company, Julius was the chief executive and co-owner of Linxtelecom and Linxdatacentre, which offered expertise in ICT security data centre solutions in Eastern and Central Europe as well as Russia.

While working as the manager at Philips International, his assignments took him to the US, Europe and also South Africa.

“I have a great interest in software development, cybersecurity and other IT matters. The synergy between computers and communication devices has always intrigued me.

My previous experience was emerging markets from central Europe, but now I realise that Kenya is changing from developing to emerging,” he says.


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