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About city What to see Gallery Where to stay

By its name alone, Nairobi, located at the heart of East Africa amidst Kenya’s green hills and savannas, attracts many adventurers, businessmen, nature lovers, athletes and NGO workers. Everyone comes here with their own agendas – arriving at the airport, tourists can already spot wild giraffes straddling behind the fence; uniquely designed skyscrapers in the city centre reveal its nature as a growing African business centre, while Kibera – one of the continent’s largest shantytowns – is a sombre monument to the social contradictions characteristic of most big cities.

Nairobi is just as varied, colourful and lively as the rest of developing Africa. Founded as late as 1899 as an interstitial city on the way from the Kenyan coastline harbour Mombasa to Uganda, located further inland, Nairobi quickly became a large city. Now, it’s officially home to around 3.5 million people, although unofficially, this number may be twice as large. According to various sources, the four-square-kilometre Kibera alone houses anywhere between 600,000 to 1.2 million people.

Nairobi
Photo taken by wikimedia.org.  Nairobi

The name of the city derives from Enkare Nairobi, which in Massai means “place of cool waters”. During the times of British colonialism, Nairobi soon became the country’s administrative centre and a gate to East Africa. At first, it attracted mostly rich Western hunters who would go to Kenya hoping to enrich their trophy collection with five most elusive African animals: lions, elephants, rhinos, buffalo and leopards. Later, with the advent of national parks and animal protection agencies, this top five of the hunters turned into the Big Five that every tourist in Kenya should see.

Travellers, who come here, however, can see much more than these five spectacular mammals – Kenya boasts a highly varied flora and fauna. Thousands of mammal, bird and other animal species live in different parts of the country. Kenyan culture is also characterised by its large variety of tribes, customs and traditions, which is why few visitors spend much time in the noisy, dusty, pickpocket-laden city.

Nairobi
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Nairobi

On the other hand, white people – called mzungu in Swahili – are no strangers to Nairobi, either. In the shadows of high-rise buildings, among street vendors, passers-by and costumed public servants you’ll also notice multitudes of Western NGO employees and European, American, Indian and Arab representatives who came here for business or to attend some international conference. Many also come here for a more extended period of time.

In Nairobi, various diners that serve mostly fried chicken are becoming more and more popular. If you’re after Somali, Italian or Arab restaurants, however, this multicultural city has much to offer too. We recommend you try some camel and crocodile meat, beef stew, variously-prepared chicken, stewed tilapia with vegetables, fresh avocadoes, passion fruit and orange juice.

Even though internationally Kenya is known for its coffee, finding a good cup of Joe in Nairobi is not going to be easy. During British rule, the locals got so used to drinking tea with milk that real cafés, serving fresh coffee, have only just started to appear.

Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Kenyatta International Conference Centre, Nairobi

Kenya’s capital is one of the largest economic centres in Africa – Nairobi is home to lots of international companies. It also has a well-developed industry, responsible for the city’s fairly decent standard of living. Nairobi has many shopping malls, famous clothing and shoe stores, and luxury hotels. The city centre is neat, green and, perhaps, may even be called cosy.

Then again, it’s also home to a grimy, noisy bus station district, huge traffic jams, homeless people in the city squares, and a sense of insecurity during the evening. Shantytowns that surround Nairobi, and big puddles that form during the rainy season, later to be overtaken by dust, turn the Kenyan capital into a rather undesirable place to live.

Nairobi's largest slum
Photo taken by 123rf.com.  Nairobi's largest slum

All of that notwithstanding, there’s no other place in the world where you can find a national park with giraffes, zebras, antelopes, rhinos, hippos, elephants, predatory cats and many other smaller animals, and so close to the city centre. Nairobi’s park, with its separate reservations and animal shelters, is an excellent alternative to watching the wild African life from up close – even during a short visit to the heart of the continent.

Where to stay

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