A place of cool waters, they called this place; Ewaso Nai’beri is the name the local Maasai gave to what we now call Nairobi. It started out as Mile 327, a basic camp for construction workers back in the railway days slowly upgrading to a rustic village, a shanty town capital of all British East Africa and now a big city, one of Africa’s largest as a matter of fact. Nairobi, Kenya’s Capital, is a hive of activities; Here is where people of all tribes, race and origin assemble in search of the good life where hustle and bustle is the order of the day. It is in fact the economical hub for the East and Central African regions. Contrary to Nairobi being a big economical hub, it is also home to the largest slum in Africa and poverty is a major problem here due to unemployment. Population here therefore comes from both ends of the spectrum.
Nairobi is however not all business, Visitors here can get treated to a variety of interesting places to explore being home to museums, historical sites, monuments and a booming night life for those who fancy a little partying. Wildlife lovers can also get to sample a taste of what awaits them in the Kenyan wild before setting off on safari as Nairobi goes in the books as the only city in the world that boasts a natural national park teaming with wildlife right on its doorstep. Here travel enthusiasts can explore the various ecosystems that await them in the wild as well as different species of wildlife including, herds of Zebra, Wildebeest, Buffalo, Giraffe, Rhino, Cheetah, a large number of Lions and many more.
Nairobi being the capital, is the arrival point for many visitors. There are two airports in the city; Jomo Kenyatta International (handles international and domestic flights) and Wilson airport ( handles chartered domestic flights). The main mode of transport around the city is by matatu (mini-bus) and buses. Taxis are also widely accessible and are parked at convenient locations around hotels and tourist areas. Public transport is marked with a yellow line on each side.
Must do in Nairobi
The country’s National Museum and largest in the city, it houses a large collection of artifacts portraying Kenya’s rich heritage through history, nature, culture, and contemporary art. It also includes the full remains of a homo – erectus popularly known as the Turkana boy. Other prominent museums include the Nairobi Gallery, Nairobi Railway Museum, and the Karen Blixen Museum located in the affluent Karen suburb.
The city boasts of it’s very own national game park where lions and buffalo’s roam free! It is located just moments away from the city center and is one of the best Nairobi attractions.
Uhuru Gardens, a national monument and the largest memorial park in Kenya, is also the place where the first Kenyan flag was raised at independence. It is located along Lang’ata road near the Wilson Airport.
Nairobi is home to the largest ice rink in Africa: the Solar Ice Rink at the Panari Hotel’s Sky Centre. The rink, opened in 2005, covers 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2) and can accommodate 200 people. You are bound to have loads of fun here with a group of friends.
Shopping malls in Nairobi include; The Yaya Centre (Hurlingham), Sarit Centre (Westlands), Westgate Shopping Mall (Westlands), ABC Place (Westlands), The Village Market (Gigiri), Junction Shopping Centre (Ngong Road), Prestige Plaza (Ngong Road), Galleria Shopping Mall (Bomas) Crossroads Shopping Centre (Karen), and T-Mall (Langata). Nakumatt, Uchumi, and Tuskys are the largest supermarket chains with modern stores throughout the city.
From a collection of gourmet restaurants offering local and international cuisine, Nairobi has something to offer to every age and pocket. Most common known food establishments include The Carnivore and The Tamarind Restaurants which have outlets in Langata, City Centre, and the Village Market. For those more discerning travellers, one can choose from a wide array of local cuisine, Mediterranean, fast food, Ethiopian, and Arabian. The city’s nightlife is mostly centred along friends and colleagues meeting after work especially on Fridays – commonly known as “Furahiday” (Happy Day), theme nights, events and concerts, and of late a new trend – “herbal bubble” or “Shiisha”. The most popular clubbing spots are centred in upmarket Westlands which has come to be known as “Electric Avenue”, Karen, Langata, Hurlingham, and “uptown” venues in the city centre. Nairobians generally go out every day of the week and most establishments are open till late.
Run by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, this is a sanctuary for the rare Rothschild’s giraffe. Spend some time observing, hand-feeding (and if lucky, get a big wet kiss) as well as capturing close-up photos of the giraffes in case you did not catch sight of them while on safari. One can also enjoy a quiet nature trail through thick bushes and forest. Other animals you are bound to encounter include warthogs, hyenas and sometimes leopard.There is a variety of flora and fauna.
Meet craftsmen of authentic Kenyan artifacts and enjoy the sight of ladies beading and making jewellery at the markets. Held around the city at different venues on different days, bag yourself a set of souvenirs for your friends and families back home including wooden carvings and bead-work; beaded necklaces, batik wall hangings, shoes, soap stone carvings, sisal bags, kikois, textiles and much more. All Maasai Markets items are Kenyan and the range of goods on offer is impressive .You can’t go wrong at the Nairobi Masai Market.
- David Sheldrick Animal Trust – Elephant orphanage
For the conservationists, and those who love elephants, this is a place you don’t want to miss. The elephant orphanage is inside the Nairobi National Park and to see the orphan elephants you must go between 11-12 (daily). Get to sponsor the orphans if you would like and also buy yourselves souvenirs including T-Shirts, Bags, Soap stone carvings and other memorabilia in support of the elephants.
The Bomas of Kenya is a cultural centre at Langata, near the main gate to Nairobi National Park. The talented resident artistes perform traditional dances and songs taken from the country’s various tribal groups, including Arab-influenced Swahili taarab music, Kalenjin warrior dances, Embu drumming and Kikuyu circumcision ceremonies. Each boma (homestead) in this cultural village was built using traditional specifications of myriad Kenyan tribes; through architecture, crafts, music and dance this village serves to preserve Kenyan culture.
Nairobi Safari Walk, funded by the Kenya Wildlife Service is a great way to learn about the animals of Kenya and to view the various natural environments Kenya has to offer. It is located at the headquarters of Nairobi National Park.
This and many more other activities await you in Nairobi.
Five star hotels in Nairobi include the Nairobi Serena, Laico Regency (formerly Grand Regency Hotel), Windsor (Karen), Holiday Inn, Nairobi Safari Club (Lilian Towers), The Stanley Hotel, Safari Park & Casino, InterContinental, Panari Hotel, Hilton, and the Norfolk Hotel. Other newer ones include the Crowne Plaza Hotel Nairobi in Upper Hill area, the Sankara Nairobi in Westlands, Tribe Hotel-Village Market, House of Wayne, The Eastland Hotel, Ole Sereni, and The Boma located along Mombasa Highway. International chains apart from the Hilton, the Intercontinental group, and Serena Hotels are also setting up prime properties in Nairobi city.
Photo credits;Lucas steuber, Mutua Matheka, Click