The Tanzania Times
Eastern Africa News Network

The Medical Doctor who rode a Zebra as his private Car

Doctor Rosendo Ribeiro was the first private physician in East Africa, having made his first appearance in Nairobi around February 1900.

But what was so striking about him was his means of transport. Dr Ribeiro rode on the back of a real Zebra, albeit a tamed one.

The Doctor was a Goan and quickly became familiar as he rode his tame Zebra about the bazaar which later became Biashara Street or along the station road, the current Moi Avenue.

Those were among the first streets in the days of a very young Nairobi.

He had pitched his base tent where the first Nairobi bakery was to be built.

It was along the Whitehouse road which is now known as Haile Selassie Avenue.

Wearing a Stetson, his beard trimmed neatly, his buttons looking as if they would pop off his waistcoat, the Doctor visited the sick among all communities.

And of course it was before cars came into East Africa, so Dr Ribeiro used a Zebra as his daily commute ride. It is not known why he chose the animal instead of the usual horse, but he picked the stripped ungulate.

He had bought the young Zebra in 1907 and tamed it. He later sold it to Bombay Zoo for 800 Rupees.

Dr Ribeiro became famous in Nairobi for his special and potent malarial cure.

For months he and his assistant, one C. Pinto shared a tent as home and practice.

He cured many settlers of fever with his nameless Grey powders which induced vomiting that produced a lot of green bile from the sick people.

After completing the course, his patients were assured of freedom from fever for many months.

Ribeiro was instrumental in founding the first Goan Institute and many other schools, including Parklands High School, first named Dr. Ribeiro Goan School in his honor when it opened its doors in 1931.

In 2015, it reverted to Dr. Ribeiro Parklands School, a rather great effort to honor a doctor who had done so much for the country.

Dr Ribeiro eventually died on the second day of February 1951 then aged 80.

There are reports that his son later became the chief government pathologist during the post independent Kenya, but he died in a plane accident.

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