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The Kenyan capital, Nairobi, is the regional and commercial centre for all of East Africa. About 3 million people live here. The city was founded in 1899 as a supply depot for the Ugandan railways, which ran to Mombasa and Uganda. It was entirely rebuilt in the early 1900s after an outbreak of plague and a major fire devastated the city.

The streets of Nairobi

The streets of Nairobi are always busy with people and traffic jams occur quite frequently especially in the morning and afternoon. In the background Hilton Hotel stands tall. Photo © Mikkel Grabowski

When most people come to kenya, they arrive in Nairobi – nowadays a sprawling city with modern skyscrapers, supermarkets and huge shopping malls, cinemas, discos and european styled cafes as well as a wide variety of high class hotels and restaurants serving cuisines from all over the world.

Nairobi is a modern big city and the major hub for travelling in Eastern parts of Africa. Above shows Wabera Street in the city centre with some of the newer buildings in the background. Photo © Mikkel Grabowski

Migration from the countryside to the cities is one of the big trends in Africa, and Nairobis Kibera area is one of the largest slums in Africa. Despite the city’s cosmopolitan look, Nairobi has a distinctive African feel to it and it is the only capital in the world with a full scale National Park in the vicinity of the city centre.

central Nairobi

People waiting for the rain to stop in central Nairobi. Photo © Mikkel Grabowski

Nairobi is situated at an altitude of about 1700m. The climate is therefore very comfortable and the city is mostly green and lush – a stark contrast to the lowland regions of the Rift Valley and the Northern Frontier Districts scrub and desert land.

Ticket-collectors looking for customers on the street in Nairobi city centre. Photo © Mikkel Grabowski

During the past 20 years, Nairobi has seen quite a change in many ways. Population has increased dramatically and big modern buildings have been built, giving the city a cosmopolitan feel to it.

A bus in Nairobi

A bus in Nairobi

A growing middle class has evolved in Kenya and by posting more police officers in the streets, the citys nickname as Nairobbery have been fought succesfully, at least in the centre. Smokers are now being referred to confined spaces and the government and city council has made a strong effort to shine things up a bit.

A public bench outside Uhuru Park in Nairobi city centre. Photo © Mikkel Grabowski

The UN, Red Cross and embassies from all around the world is located in the suburbs of Nairobi. Westlands, Kilimani, Lavington, Parklands and Karen are all among the posh areas while South B and Eastleigh mostly are for the less wealthy and with a population of about 3 million people Nairobi also sees most of the problems associated with other big cities in the developing countries.

Many people migrate from the countryside to Nairobi in the hope of getting a job, just to realize that there are not jobs for everyone and ends up in the street. Photo © Mikkel Grabowski

Things to see and do

There are many things to do and see in Nairobi; The National Museum of Nairobi is an interesting place to spend and afternoon as you can study some very interesting exhibits like Joy Adamsons Peoples of Kenya tribal portraits and upstairs there are displays on Kenyan tribal groups and big galleries of stuffed wildlife. Downstairs there are re-creations of rock art and hominid fossils from Lake Turkana region. Volunteer guides offer tours in English, German, French and Spanish.

people photographing Nairobi

A great way to see Nairobi is to enter the Kenyatta International Conference Center and take the escalator to the top floor and then walk up the stairs to the heliport to have a 360 degree view over the city. Photo © Mikkel Grabowski

View over Nairobi

View over Nairobi from Kenyatta National Conference Center

Other attractions in Nairobi is the National Archive, The Parliament House, The Railway Museum, Langata Giraffe Centre and Butterfly Africa. Also Karen Blixens old farm is a popular stop-over when tourists are coming from a safari, before departing on a plane for a relaxing beach-holiday at the coast.

Kenyatta International Conference Center

Young kenyans having a blast being photographed at the top of Kenyatta International Conference Center on a backdrop of Nairobi city. Photo © Mikkel Grabowski

Suburb of Nairobi seen from the air

Suburb of Nairobi seen from the air

The Karen Blixen Museum offers guided tours and there’s a wonderful shop with fine African art, interesting books about Kenya and beautiful jewelry. Also there are a few public art galleries in Nairobi and if you have a few days in the city and is in need of a new tailormade suit, some of the Indian owned shops in Nairobi would be a good place to get one at a competitive prize.

Karen Blixen Museum is a great place to spend an afternoon taking in the reminiscence of the colonial era. The surrounding area is named after the famous danish writer and is simply called Karen – now a suburb of modern Nairobi. Photo © Mikkel Grabowski

Nairobi skyline

Nairobi skyline at dusk. Photo © Mikkel Grabowski

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