Inside Elizabeth L. Gilbert's Safari Tent Bedroom
The adventurous photojournalist has called Africa home for two decades. Though she now has a house of her own, this tent in Kenya furnishes all the comforts of home when she's on safari.
By Barbara King
Photo: Georgina Goodwin
Barbara King: If ever I'm in need of a tent decorator, I'll call on you.
Elizabeth L. Gilbert: There's something about bringing a home with you to the African bush that is very creative and exciting — that contrast with the tough terrain.
Especially if it involves snow-white linens.
Linens are important. They're the only real luxury when you're camping and the most simple thing to carry, although the rugs are easy to pack and my bed folds up like a sandwich. I do have to go out of my way to bring the bulky furnishings like the bedside table and the chair, but that's what makes it special.
Like having your own private boutique-hotel room.
Oh, but I'd much rather be in a tent than in a hotel! The only place better on a balmy night is a mattress on the roof of my safari car. Everyone should camp at least once in life, just to feel the universe and remember why we're here.
But this isn't just about camping, is it?
I set up this way when I'm on long photographic safaris. In October, a museum exhibition of two decades of my work in Africa will travel to Dallas, and a documentary called The Last Safari, about a journey I took across Kenya, will also screen at film festivals.
How is it that you came to live in Nairobi?
My old friend, the photographer Peter Beard, and his wife, Nejma, invited me to visit when I was 22. That summer so many years ago changed my life. I fell in love with Kenya the moment I landed. There were giraffes and lions milling around just beyond the airstrip. I thought, This is where I want to be.
Do animals mill about your tent?
All sorts. I once woke to find a giant elephant right outside the window mesh. A hyena tried to drag away my cooler — it still bears the teeth marks. Mischievous monkeys get into everything from food to face cream.
So you also bring your lotions and potions?
Oh, sure. I bring all kinds of girly things. Masks mostly, perfume, a make-up bag — you never know who you might meet in the bush!
Make the Bed:
Kizingo tent, metal folding bed, wood safari chair: tarpo.com.
Ikat pillow on bed: foundobject.co
Mosquito net: nicamaka.com.
Hanging lantern: nakumatt.co.ke.
Folding table: made by a local artisan.
Woven-fiber mats on floor, antique safari trunks, African stools: Nairobi market.
Floor pillows, bedside lamp: Cairo market.
Shield: gift from Maasai warriors.