From the top of its 3962 meters of altitude, Kilimanjaro is of the type to take the men from high. Especially when you know that this sacred mountain hides many powers and legends worthy of the greatest marabouts.
1. The summit would hide an elephant cemetery
According to the Chagga people who have lived on the slopes of Kilimanjaro for centuries, elephants who feel their last hour approaching, would climb to the top of the highest mountain in Africa to throw themselves into a deep crater where the bones of their ancestors lie. Legend explains that they thus ensure that their tusks escape poachers, resting in peace for eternity. And if by chance you come across this cemetery of elephants, avoid leaving with a souvenir. You risk losing your sight and getting stuck at the bottom of the crater. The Chaggas say so!
2. Kilimanjaro would house the source of the Nile
If the first written traces mentioning Kilimanjaro date back to 50 AD in “Journey to East Africa” by the Greek merchant and explorer Diogenes, it was not until 1840 that an expedition led by a German evangelist officially brought this summit into the western culture. Obviously, its discovery raised its share of controversies in particular around the presence of snow on its sides which incited a few years later, two expeditionaries to explain that snow + heat = water = source of the Nile… A beautiful bullshit which nevertheless fed for a long time counter discussions (academic).
3. The strange longevity of its inhabitants
The weight of the years here seems to weigh less on the health of the inhabitants. It is not uncommon to come across guides over 70 years old alongside tourists on the paths leading to the summit. Some evoke the legend that the sacred mountain is actually a plot of eternity, while others prefer to bet on clean air and healthy food. It does not matter, here more than elsewhere, lives sometimes drag on beyond 100 years.
4. The legend of the chagga guide who accompanied the first mountaineer to reach the summit… alone
When in 1889, the German Hans Meyer climbed Kilimanjaro, he said that his local guides had preferred to stay below, leaving him alone to reach the summit of this African Everest. History needing heroes, she hastened to engrave this solitary exploit in stone. However, unlike his surname, Meyer was only so thanks to a certain Yohana Lauwo, a Chagga farmer who accompanied him well to the top. When in 1989, a century later, one of the descendants of the German mountaineer came across a photo of the latter in the lobby of a hotel near Kilimanjaro, he discovered his true story and was even able to meet one of his ancestors. then aged… 120 years. Hans Meyer’s family decided to pay him some money and above all to build him a house in his village. He lived there until his death, 7 years later!
5. The mystery around the origin of Kilimanjaro’s name
There are almost as many hypotheses as ancient dialects of the tribes living or having lived in the surroundings. Some experts will tell you that the name Kilimanjaro comes from “Kilimanjaro” which in Swahili means “small mountain”, and from “njaro” which designates the “demon of the cold”, or even a simple “source of water”. Unless it is necessary to look for the side of the expression “njaro” which evokes the “caravans” in reference to the convoys of slaves which formerly passed in the vicinity?
6. A mountain inhabited by Djinns
Legend has it that a king once sent his subjects to climb Kilimanjaro and that all died, killed by jinns, a sort of demon according to local beliefs. How do we know? Thanks to a survivor who, despite his frozen limbs, managed to come back to the “yard” to tell what he and his unfortunate comrades had experienced. The tribes close to Kilimanjaro mention in particular the presence of several jinns (Vula, Bedui and Kilima) who are not very docile and adept at concealment.
7. A giant cow at the top to support the sun… with its tail
The Chaggas still have another theory about the summit of Kilimanjaro, which is actually a giant cow whose miraculous tail supports the sun… And why not, it’s no crazier than a bearded man in sandals who opens the sea by two to save his people!
8. The Queen of England’s gift to her son
Africa’s highest peak hasn’t always been in Tanzania. Until 1886, the border with Kenya cut Kilimanjaro in two. A legend tells that the Queen of England Victoria would then have decided to give the place a gift to her son Guillaume II for his birthday, who has since been entirely part of Tanzania. Today, the horrors of history have pushed the Kenyan border back a hundred kilometers away. Not enough, however, to silence the jealousies of the once dispossessed neighbor. In 2005, the Kenyan Prime Minister created controversy by declaring at an African summit that Kilimanjaro was one of the main attractions to see in his country…
9. The legend of the leopard who lived on top of Kilimanjaro
It was Ernest Hemingway who, shortly after his stay in Tanzania, relayed this story in his novel “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”. A frozen, desiccated leopard carcass is believed to be near the western peak of Kilimanjaro. A photo does exist of the animal trapped in the ice at around 5500 meters above sea level, where there is normally not a cat, let alone a leopard! If no trace remains today of the feline, the place where he lay has since been baptized “Leopard Point”.