Nairobi the capital of Kenya
The streets of Nairobi busy with people and traffic. In the background Hilton Hotel stands tall

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.

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.

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.

Characteristics of Nairobi

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. 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 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.

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.

Young bartender in Nairobi, kenya
Nairobi is famous for it's eclectic nightlife and there are both classy bars, restaurants and discos as well as more simple bars all over town

Things to see and do in Nairobi

Central Nairobi in kenya
Wabera street in central Nairobi - the capital of Kenya

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.

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. 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.

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.