Nairobi is Kenya's capital city, it is one of the largest city in East Africa, with a population of over 4.3 million people as of 2019 census. Nairobi Kenya started life as a railways depot in 1899, taking the name from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which translates to "cool water", a reference to the Nairobi River which flows through the city. Today, the city skyline is dominated by modern high rise buildings and is a tourism and trade hub. Nairobi is one of the leading and most influential cities in Africa. It is a cosmopolitan, cultural hub and the beating heart of East Africa.
The city is located in the south-central part of the country, and has an elevation of 1,795 metres (5,889 ft) above sea level. Nairobi is situated between the cities of Kampala and Mombasa, and is approximately 480 km northwest of Mombasa, Kenya’s major port on the Indian Ocean. It lies adjacent to the eastern edge of the rift valley, Ngong hills occupy the western part of the city while Mount Kenya is located to the North of the city. Mount Kilimanjaro lies towards south-east of Nairobi.
Nairobi is placed on high altitude, thus experiences a moderate climate with sunny summers and cool winters. The best time to visit Nairobi is from June to August, when its pretty warm and the rainfall is at its lowest. The period between January to February is also a good time to visit when the average high is around 27°C. The short rainy seasons starts from late October to December and from March to May.
Nairobi , which was a swamp area, originated in the late 1890's and was first a railway camp for the Uganda Railway. The City get its name form the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which means ''cool waters''. The City became capital, which was Mombasa initially, as well as the capital of the British East Africa Protectorate in 1905. In 1900's there was spread of plagues, which led to the town being burnt down and had to be rebuilt. The railroad system helped the town to drastically grow, becoming the second largest city in Kenya after Mombasa.
The administration and tourism business (mostly big game hunting) was also another factor that contributed to its growth. The British, who were one of Kenya's colonizers, set up shops in Nairobi, leading to the creation of big hotels primarily for the British hunters.
Nairobi city has been under the administration of the County Government, up until early this year under the new Executive Order No. 1 , Nairobi Metropolitan services were put under the President. Nairobi County is entirely urban with one local council, Nairobi City Council. The county has 17 constituencies which are Westlands, Langata, Kibra, Roysambu, Kasarani, Ruaraka, Dagoretti South, Dagoretti North, Embakasi South, North,Central, East and West, Madaraka, Kamukunji, Starehe and Mathare.
Nairobi is well served by roads and railways, currently with undergoing major road constructions to update its infrastructure network. Thika Superhighway is one of the complete road projects, it has given the city a much needed face-lift attributed to road's enhancement of global standards. The other just complete projects include; Syokimau Rail Station, the Eastern and Northern Bypasses. The city is also connected to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by the Mombasa Highway, which is the largest airport in Kenya.
Prominent Places of Worship:
Most of Kenyans are typically religious by nature. While religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism do have a presence in Nairobi, Christianity is the most popular among the locals followed by Islam, and indigenous believes. Some of the most famous places of worship in Nairobi include;
- Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Family which is a Catholic Church located around City Square in Nairobi.
- Presbyterian Church of East Africa St. Andrew's Church located along Nyerere road
- Jamia Mosque: The mosque is one of Kenya's most prominent religious structures, and the most important mosque in the country. It was founded and first built by Syed Maulana Abdullah Shah between 1902 and 1906. It is located in Nairobi Central busuness district along Banda street.
- Shree Swaminarayan Gadi Sansthan located along Second Parklands Avenue, Nairobi
- Sri Balaji Temple located along Kabete Lane
- East African Swaminarayan Satsang Temple located along Laxminaryan Road, Nairobi
- Nairobi Buddhist Temple is located in a beautiful suburb of Nairobi called Loresho, just a few miles away from the city center. The center was built by the George Phylnormel Foundation in memory of Mr. George and Mrs. Norma Perera. The premises consist of a residence for monks, a Meditation hall and a traditional Stupa. The center is open every day from 8am to 6.30 pm for public. People of all faiths are welcome to use this peaceful sanctuary for self-reflection and meditation.
Prominent Educational Institutions:
Nairobi is home to many universities and colleges, some of which include;
a) University of Nairobi:
Founded in 1956 as the Royal Technical College of East Africa. It is one of the largest and oldest university in Kenya.
b) Strathmore University:
Established in 1961 as an advanced level UK Sixth Form College offering Science and Arts Subjects. It became an University later in 1966, when it first started admitting accountancy students. In 1993, Strathmore College merged with Kianda College and moved to Ole Sangale Road, Madaraka Estate, Nairobi.
c) Nairobi School:
Nairobi School is a national secondary school in Nairobi, Kenya. It is was established in 1902 by the British settlers, as a European school to serve the families of the I.B.E.A. Company and, a while later, the white settler community. In 1925, Lord Delamere and Sir Edward Grigg, then Governor of Kenya, separated the European Nairobi School into a senior boys' school (Prince of Wales School), a senior girls' school (Kenya High School) and a junior school (Nairobi Primary School). In 1931, a new school was built at the 250-acre (1.0 km2) site at Kabete, the main school buildings being designed by Herbert Baker. The school was then named the Prince of Wales School but, in 1965, following Kenya's independence the school was renamed Nairobi School. The school is popularly referred to as 'Patch'.
d) The Technical University of Kenya:
Formerly Kenya Polytechnic and its the only technical university in the country. It offers highly technical degree courses in three faculties; Engineering and Built Environment, Applied Sciences and Technologies and Social Sciences and Technologies. It was established in 1961 as the Kenya Technical Institute, later in 2013 it was chartered by Former President Mwai Kibaki to become independent institution of higher learning.
Some of the other educational institutions include; The National Museums of Kenya, The National Archives, Kenya National Thearte, The Mcmillan Memorial Library and the Nairobi National Park [ a large reserve for numerous mammals, reptiles and birds, it is also a popular tourist attraction. ]
Hospitality & Hotels:
Nairobi City hosts a wide range of accommodation options to suite every budget. Most of these hotels offer the usual 4 or 5 star amenities such as en-suite, air-conditioned rooms with satellite TV and round the clock service. There are also a wide variety of private houses and apartments within the city centre and also within the outskirts of the city. Some of the luxury hotels in the heart of the city and are affordable option include, Fairmont the Norfolk, Sarova Stanley, Intercontinental Hotel, Nairobi Serena, Hilton and Villa Rosa Kempinski. Other accommodation options in the suburbs of Nairobi include, Hemingway's Nairobi, The Boma Hotel Nairobi and Four Points by Sheraton Nairobi Airport.
Restaurants in Nairobi: Nairobi is only city in the world with a national park on its doorstep. Below is a list of some of the best sightseeing and tourists spots in Nairobi: 1. The Nairobi National Park: 2. The National Museum: 3. Karen Blixen Museum: 4. The Bomas of Kenya: 5. The Giraffe Centre: 6. The Elephant Orphanage: 7. Mamba Village: 8. Kenyatta International Conference Center (K.I.C.C): 9. Nairobi Railway Museum: 10. Kenya National Archives:
Nairobi is home to a vibrant restaurant industry with interesting culinary choices. In Nairobi you can get quality Indian, Chinese, Japanese,Italian,French, Lebanese, Brazilian and of course African cuisine restaurants. Most hotels offer continental and international menus as well. The most well known restaurants include:
a) The Carnivore:
The restaurant is located just 8 kilometers from Nairobi City Center, and is a must visit experience for first-time Kenya visitor ! The restaurant's specialty is meat, with an option of choosing between an all-you-can-eat lunch or dinner in a garden setting. They have a variety of juicy meats roasted over a charcoal fire including Ostrich, Crocodile, Camel and Venison depending on what's available locally, served alongside beef, lamb, pork and chicken. Delicious side dishes which complete this African cuisine includes salads, soups, vegetable dishes and authentic sauces as well as desserts and Kenyan coffee.
The restaurant is located in Westlands, offering fantastic Japanese food at affordable prices.
The Talisman restaurant is located in Karen, a few minutes drive from Karen Shopping centre. The restaurant offers global fusion menus with South Asian influences include herbs and vegetables grown on the site. Classics such as feta and coriander samosas and twice-cooked pork belly perk up the palate no end.
d) Karen Blixen Coffee Garden
e) The Lord Erroll
f) The Harvest Restaurant
What to see in the city
Nairobi National Park was established in 1946, and is world famous for being the only National Park to be found within a capital city in the whole world. Being a mere 8 miles from the city centre, the parks vegetation is primarily savannah and plains and has areas of highland forest, acacia and riverine environments. It hosts over 100 animal species such as the rhino, lions, cheetahs (with an exception of the elephant) and an amazing 500 plus bird species.
The National Museum is located within Nairobi City and is an excellent place to visit while in the city. The museum is famous for the Leakey prehistoric artefacts plus some of Kenya's best preserved tribal artefacts that date back hundreds of years. Other sights within the museum include well preserved birds, butterflies and animals and host of information about the country's rich past and culture.
Karen Blixen Museum, the historic house of the famous danish woman, Karen Blixen, on whom the movie ‘Out of Africa’ was based, is located in the outskirts of the city within serene gardens. The house is ideally located near the Karen Blixen coffee garden, gallery and gift shop which echo themes of the museum.
Bomas of Kenya is located in the outskirts of the city and is an ideal spot for visitors to Kenya and locals alike to visit and savour the very best of the country's rich traditional dances performed by Kenya's many tribal communities. They range from the high jumping Maasai's to the breath taking Giriama and coastal dances.
Giraffe Center is located in Lang'ata, approximately 20 kilometres from the centre of Nairobi. The center was first opened to protect the highly endangered Rothschild’s giraffe, the population of which has declined, reaching a low of 1600 animals in the wild as a result of agricultural practices in their native habitat. The center is also home to several warthogs which freely roam the area along with the giraffes. The main attraction for visitors is the chance of seeing these animals up close and even feeding them ! You can observe, hand-feed or even kiss one of the giraffes from a raised wooden structure, which is quite a memorable experience. The center is open daily from 9am to 5pm and the entry fee is USD 15 per person.
Close to The Giraffe Centre is the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage. The orphanage is a world-leading animal conservation, that works with baby elephants whose parents have died and are rescued from parks and reserves in Kenya, nursing them to health and gradually working to re-introduce them into the wild. The Entry Fee is USD 5 per person [ adult or child] or approximately Ksh 500 per person in Kenya shillings. Visiting timings are 11 am to 12pm daily ( 1 hour).
This is normally the 3rd stop for most tourists after visiting Giraffe center and Elephant Orphanage. This exquisite park is home to Ostriches and Crocodiles, and while you here you'll get the chance to interact directly with crocodiles and even hold a baby, with very knowledgeable employees serving as guides.
This distinctive cylindrical building located at the Central business district of Nairobi was named after Republic's First President, Jomo Kenyatta. It is an internationally acclaimed venue for conferences, meetings, and exhibitions. It dominates the skyline with a 28-story tower overlooking a large amphitheater. It is actually the best place where you can zoom up to the rooftop viewing platform and admire panoramic views over Nairobi, or enjoy a meal at one of the restaurants.
The Railway Museum in Nairobi is dedicated to the county's history of rail networks and its impact on the nation's development. The railway was opened in 1971 by Eat African Railways and Harbours Corporation and is operated by Kenya Railways. Some of the enthralling collections in the Museum are train and ship models, photographs from the original construction of the Uganda Railway, railway magazines, maps and drawings, and a silver service set used on overnight trains to Mombasa. The Museum's collection also includes early diesel locomotives and passenger coaches. One of the display locomotives, 301 (2301) was used in the 1985 movie, Out of Africa.
The National Archives is located at the edge of the central business district in downtown Nairobi along Moi Avenue next to Ambassadeur Hotel. It highlights Kenyan tribal culture as well as the country's art, history, and politics. Among the displayed collection at the archives are historical documents and a collection of photographs. Paintings and artifacts from the collection of Joseph Murumbi, one of Africa's most famous collectors, dominate the exhibits.
Nairobi is only city in the world with a national park on its doorstep. Below is a list of some of the best sightseeing and tourists spots in Nairobi:
1. The Nairobi National Park:
2. The National Museum:
3. Karen Blixen Museum:
4. The Bomas of Kenya:
5. The Giraffe Centre:
6. The Elephant Orphanage:
7. Mamba Village:
8. Kenyatta International Conference Center (K.I.C.C):
9. Nairobi Railway Museum:
10. Kenya National Archives:
Crime in Nairobi:
Like any busy city in Africa, Nairobi has its fair share of criminal activity. Due to the rising crime activity, the city was nicknamed ''Nairobberry'' by the locals and the name persists today. Some of the common violent crime within the city center include muggings, kidnapping, burglaries and armed carjacking. However, tourists don't experience this because they stay at upmarket suburban hotels. What visitors and tourists need to watch out are the petty crimes such as bag-snatching, pick-pocketing, and smash and grab out of vehicles. This can be avoided by using the less crowded streets in the city and avoiding walking around and driving on your own after dark. Nairobi has also experienced terror attacks, some of which are;
- Bombing of the US Embassy on 7th August 1998, killing 224 persons and injuring 4000.
- Grenades attack at a busy bus station and a blur collar bar on 10th March 2012, killing 9 and injuring more than 50 people.
- On 28th May 2012, 28 people were injured in an explosion in a shopping complex in downtown Nairobi, near Moi avenue.
- West-gate Mall attack on 21st September 2013, where 63 people were killed.
- On 15th January 2019 DusitD2 hotel in Nairobi's Westlands neighborhood was attacked by five gunmen leaving 21 people dead.
Increase of criminal activities in the city has been as result of unplanned urbanization, with a minimal number of police stations and proper security infrastructure. Police corruption is a also one of the major reason for increased crime, as they leave many criminals unpunished.
The government of Kenya over the years has worked towards increasing security in the city by improving police presence in different areas proned to these criminal activities. There are also major reforms that are underway under The Police Force Department which will help curb police corruption and misconduct.
Nairobi which is one of Africa's most influential cities, vital commercial and financial regional hub, home to the regional headquarters of various major international companies and organizations, is now a thriving metropolis that continues to grow rapidly, with major real estate projects.
The city's growth has also been felt on the tourism industry with an increased number of visitors and the tourism earning increased by 10% in 2019 compared to the previous year. Being the only city in the world with a National Park, Nairobi has recently been named as one of the top 10 travel destination on the rise by travel and restaurant review site TripAdvisor.
In terms of infrastructure, there are major plans being implemented in the need to de-congest the city's traffic and the completion of Thika Superhighway has given the city a much needed face-lift attributed to road's enhancement of global standards. Some of the other just completed projects are Syokimau Rail Station, the Eastern and Northern Bypasses. There are numerous other projects which are still underway, just to mention the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed by Kenya and the government of Ethiopia for the development of Lamu- Addis Ababa standard gauge railway. This is under the Lamu-South Sudan and Ethiopia Transport Corridor Project.
The development of infrastructure will not only reduce transport costs due to faster movement of goods and people within the country, but also increase trade, improve the socio-economic welfare of the people as well as boost the country's potential in attracting investments from all over the world.
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