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Your Own Private Africa

F.M. Allen tents allow owners to replicate the safari experience in their backyards.

This F.M. Allen tent is known as the River Sleeper. It measures twelve by eighteen feet and costs $16,000.
Alex Walker
By Cathleen McCarthy

Five years ago, when former bond trader Tee Faircloth took over the Kenya-based safari operation of Frank Maurice "Bunny" Allen, his goal was to revive the glory of the early-20th-century African safari. Allen was one of the last of the great hunters of his era to lead parties of gentlemen in search of big game in East Africa.

But Faircloth knew just how to translate the image of those romantic treks for a new generation. He began organizing and outfitting luxury safaris (minus the shooting) all over Africa and selling upscale outdoor apparel, African antiques and campaign furniture from F.M. Allen, his Madison Avenue outpost, providing everything necessary for the modern-day Hemingway. Now stay-at-home adventurers have the chance to replicate the safari experience in their own backyards by purchasing the store's custom-designed tents, which are hand made in Nairobi, not far from the area Karen Blixen made famous in Out of Africa.

Constructed from earth-toned canvases using a technique that evolved over a century (which peaked in the 1920s and '30s during what Faircloth calls "the heyday of the African safari"), the tents start at a cozy eight by twelve feet, though any size can be erected fairly easily. Others, however, are more permanent and challenge the very definition of a tent. For instance, a $25,000 fifteen-by-thirty-foot tent, fully equipped with a wall-enclosed bathroom, can accommodate a small family in exotic comfort, outfitted, perhaps, with Oriental rugs, a zebra-skin throw and a mosquito-netted four-poster.

These more ambitious shelters (which begin at $15,000) can take three to six months to complete. One F.M. Allen client recently had a sleeping tent with an en suite bathroom put up on her property in Southampton, New York, so that she could awaken to the sight of the ocean peeking through her mesh-flap door. 212-737-4374; fmallen.com.

Published on 7/30/2008
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