Nairobi Kenya

Nairobi Skyline

Nairobi National Park situated
on the edges of the City

McMillan Library built in 1931

Kenyatta Tower

In just over a century, the capital city of Kenya has been transformed from an uninhabited highland swamp to its current evolution as a bustling metropolitan city which still recognises its wilderness roots.

The city was first formed when rail workers set up a basic railway camp and a supply depot in 1899 and named it ‘Mile 327’, it like many African regions, was once under British Colonial rule, and much of the architecture of the area reflects this.

The modern name of Nairobi was derived from the Maasai name of Ewaso Nai’beri meaning ‘the place of cold water’.  The city was made the capital of British East India in 1907, only eight years after inception and since the Kenyan independence in 1963, remains the current capital of the new republic.

Nairobi is not like other ‘average’ capital cities which have developed away from its wilderness roots and into technological havens.  The city is covered in foliage and green-space, so much so that it has been nicknamed ‘The Green City in the Sun’. Nairobi very much recognises, and celebrates, its safari heritage with a 117km˛ national park interlocked with the city itself.

The Nairobi National Park is just 20 minutes away from the heart of Nairobi and is home to a large number of zebras, wildebeests, buffalos, giraffe, rhinos, cheetahs, and even lions.  The park is home to more than 400 types of birds and this dry savannah has a status as a protected game reserve.

The reserve is one of the leaders in preserving rhinoceroses in Kenya and has become renowned for re-introducing the species through its many rhino projects.  Currently the rhino population in the park has been estimated at 3100, and the park is one of the few in Kenya where visitors can be certain to see the elusive black rhino.

Due to its rich and varied history, the city is immersed in culture and has a large collection of museums such as the National Museum of Kenya, the Kenya Railway Museum, the National Archives and even a Karen Blixen Museum.  Monuments are scattered around the city that commemorate the region’s independence, such as the Nyayo Monument and the Uhuru Monument.

Nairobi was placed under the limelight in the eighties due to the movie ‘Out of Africa’ that became a western-world hit and even took out seven Academy Awards.  The movie by Sydney Pollack, based on the book written by Karen Blixen about her life living in Kenya, intrigued audiences who had never before encountered this unique setting.

Visitors to Nairobi no longer have to lack for luxuries with a large range of accommodation, and many five-star properties, that can meet the needs of the ficklest traveller.  The shops, restaurants and nightlife in Nairobi don’t fall far from the par in other metropolitan cities either, with swanky new bars and locations opening all the time. Contrasting to this Nairobi has one of the largest slum suburbs in all Africa!

It is city in which you do have to maintain good security. It is no where near as bad as the reputation of Johannesburg, but it's nickname of Nairoberry has some basis with fact. These problems can be got around by booking good accommodation in good locations and using recognised and accountable local service providers who inevitably work with well established travel agents around the world.

The iconic Kenyatta Tower is another one of these monuments to exaggerated self importance that inevitably took much money away from improving the daily life of locals Kenyans, but enhanced, in his mind, Jomo Kenyattas, personal ego. It is there and won't be going away so if the revolving restaurant is operating on the top floor this does provide a wonderful view of Nairobi. Hopefully the coffee is still as good as this author remembers!

For your own out of Africa experience, Nairobi is served mainly by the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.  Located just 15kms out of town, Nairobi is no longer difficult to reach.  Or for a more ‘authentic’ experience the railway system can still reach the city centre from locations such as Mombasa and Kisumu, so travellers can still enter the city the way that the original founders did.

Whatever reason motivates you to visit this 1661-metre highland city location.  Nairobi is a city that offers an experience of some of Kenya’s most unique features, from the savannah wildlife planes to the old-world colonial features that have enhanced the city’s mystique.  Nairobi is a must see for the modern plucky traveller.