Nairobi the capital city of Kenya is situated in the southern part of the country at an altitude of 1,660 metres above sea level. It is considered one of the most prominent cities in Africa, housing many multinational companies and organizations, including many UN bodies. Today, Nairobi is a cosmopolitan city attracting different ethnicities and nationalities, and has a population currently estimated at 3 million.
The construction of the Mombasa to Kisumu railway played an important part in the development of Nairobi and is an indispensable element of its life and economy. It is widely considered to be the beginning of the development of Nairobi as it is known today. The railway line reached the site where Nairobi now lies on 30th May 1899, when the city was just bare open plain roamed by grazing wild game. It was decided to construct a base for the railway workers before proceeding to the next phase of construction. The railway headquarters was transferred from Mombasa to the site two months later, and a railway town sprung up.
There were no inhabitants, except the nomadic Maasai community. The Masai called this place “Enkare Nyirobi,”meaning the place of cool waters; the name has since changed to Nairobi.
From 1899 to 1905, it served as the British provincial capital.In the year 1905, Nairobi became the capital of the British East Africa Protectorate and in the year 1963, it became the capital of independent Kenya.
Today, Nairobi is a fine mixture of concrete and bush, and lives up to its billing as the CITY IN THE SUN. The tall building structures in the city centre are surrounded by vegetation that adds to the beauty of this city. The surrounding areas are even greener, with beautiful architecture of buildings hidden within lush semi forest vegetation, adding to the freshness of the environment.
Where to Visit
Nairobi National Park
The park occupies 117km2 and was the first national park established in Kenya in 1946. It is the only wildlife park in the world where free ranging lions and rhinos share a city with humans and the only protected wildlife area in the world bordering a capital city and dubbed “The World’s only wildlife capital”.
The park’s main gate is located 10km from the city-centre and the fence runs parallel to the city. The Athi-Kapiti Plains and Kitengela migration corridors are unfenced and are important wildlife dispersal areas during the rain season. Man-made dams within the park attract many animals and are important during the dry season.
Major wildlife attractions are the black rhino and the white rhino (not indigenous), lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, buffaloes, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, elands and 400 species of birds. Other attractions include the Ivory burning site Monument, Nairobi Safari Walk, the Orphanage and the walking trails at hippo pools.
How To Get There
By Road: 10km south of Nairobi City Centre.
By Air: Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and Wilson Airports.
The park has 6 gates. Two gates are for KWS service use only. The gates are:
Main gate: KWS headquarters Langata road
• Cheetah Gate
• Langata Gate
• Maasai Gate
• Mbagathi Gate (service gate)
• Banda Gate (service gate).
April-June and July-October are warm and wet. The rest are dry months.
A visit to the only wildlife park in the world bordering a city is a must-do and best time to visit it is early morning or late afternoon. For more info log on to the Friends of Nairobi National Park (FoNNaP) website: www.fonnap.wordpress.com
Nairobi Animal Orphanage
Established in 1964, it is the oldest animal orphanage in Kenya and set in Nairobi National Park. It is a refuge and rehabilitation centre for wild animals found abandoned or injured in Kenya. Animals at the facility undergo a thorough medical examination, followed by treatment if needed, before entering into an appropriate feeding and rehabilitation program.
Wildlife: Lion, cheetah, hyena, jackal, serval, rare sokoke cats, warthog, ostrich, leopard, various monkeys, baboon, buffalo, parrots, guinea fowl, crown crane.
Bomas of Kenya
These are attractive and interesting exhibits of traditional homesteads of several Kenyan communities complete with their inhabitants. Boma is a Swahili word for village, and these homesteads reflect the truly traditional architecture of the people. Their creation was aimed at promoting Kenyan culture. Over the years, the Bomas have become one of the leading attractions in the country. Visitors can take a leisurely guided tour of the homesteads, making this a good way to gain an insight into Kenyan culture. However, perhaps of more interest are the various performances of traditional dances and songs which are staged daily in a large circular theatre.
The Bomas of Kenya is located just 10 km from Nairobi and about one kilometre up from the main entrance to the Nairobi National Park.
The arboretum, a 30-hectare green paradise in the city was established in 1907 by Mr. Batiscombe, then Deputy Conservator of Forests, to try out introduced forestry trees for Kenya. It is on Arboretum Road off State House Road.
The Arboretum is under the management of the Forestry Department (FD). The Arboretum has over 350 species of indigenous and exotic plants. The diverse vegetation is also home to over 100 species of birds, a population of Sykes and Vervet monkeys, many butterflies and other small wildlife. It has beautiful paths for walking and jogging, and there are regular concerts held including tree walks and talks by The Friends of Nairobi Arboretum.
For more information e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kenyatta International Conference Centre
The general public can travel up the interior of the conference centre tower in the high speed lifts to the 27th floor and walk the final 3 floors of stairs up to the roof for a 360 degrees bird’s eye view of Nairobi City. For safety, there is a handrail around the perimeter. It has a helipad, the only one in the city, on the top tier of the tower.
Besides viewing, it has become a haven for journalists, artists and performers who delight in the perfect photography and videoing angles it presents. A number of local videos run on our local televisions and internationally aired documentaries have been shot atop the tower.
A green park amidst the high-rise buildings in the heart of Nairobi. It has an artificial lake and is a popular place for Nairobi residents to relax and for occasional political and religious gatherings. Freedom Corner was named after the Green Belt Movement founder and Nobel Laureate 2004 the late Professor Wangari Maathai for her efforts to protect public spaces in Kenya. She famously fought former President Moi and his government to prevent a 62 storey skyscraper destroying the park – one of central Nairobi’s only public spaces. This was in the early 1990s during Moi’s dictatorship, which did not accept transgressions.
Dedan Kimathi Monument
The life-size bronze statue of the Mau-Mau freedom fighter on Kimathi Street, opposite the Hilton Hotel was unveiled in Nairobi on the anniversary he was executed – February 18, 1957. Kimathi, clad in military regalia, holds a rifle in the right hand and a dagger in the other, symbolizing the last weapons he held in his struggle for the Nation’s freedom.
Tom Mboya Monument
The monument stands along Moi Avenue by the National Archives just 20m from where the late Hon. Tom Mboya was murdered. It was erected in 2011 in honor of the influential Kenyan Minister who was assassinated in 1969. The monument by the artist Oshottoe Ondula, cost the Government Sh15 million while the whole project took about Sh20 million. It was taken to China where it was cast in bronze.
This iconic range has been immortalized as ‘immovable waves against the sky’, in her novel turned Hollywood blockbuster, “Out of Africa’ by Karen Blixen who had a farm on its foothills in the early 1900s. One can climb the 5 peaks of the mountain which the Maasai believe is the clasped fist of the giant who fell to his death here.
Central Park is across the road from Uhuru Park whereas Uhuru Park is busy and exciting, Central Park is more relaxed and serene.
Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage
The orphanage is located within the Nairobi National Park, with the entrance on Nairobi to Kiserian Road, opposite the Kenya School of Communication Studies. It is a centre for the rehabilitation and rearing of orphaned baby elephants. It was founded by Daphne Sheldrick in 1977 in honour of her late husband and famous naturalist, David Leslie William Sheldrick. Daphne Sheldrick, his wife, continues his work of raising orphan elephants that have been brought to her from all over the country. The orphanage is a charitable organization, and is open to visitors daily between 11am and 12 pm daily, when the baby elephants take their mud baths.
The Orphanage has a truly dedicated and experienced team that is committed to ensuring the survival of these animals and their successful reintroduction into the natural wild. The feeding time is truly interesting, with the baby elephants behaving just like babies, naughty, playing, and running around trying to catch the attention of everyone.
The archives are located at the heart of CBD along Moi Avenue. It houses the Murumbi Gallery, dedicated to the late Joseph Murumbi, Kenya’s second vice-president from May 1965-August 31, 1966. He and his wife Sheila were avid collectors of African art. Murumbi’s collection has been described as “Africa’s best known collection of priceless heritage and artifacts”. He left behind over 50,000 books and sheaves of official correspondence. The National Archives department has set up a library containing some of the 8,000 “rare books” (those published before 1900) entrusted to them upon the death of Murumbi. Murumbi co-founded African Heritage with Alan Donovan, and it became the largest Pan-African art gallery on the continent. There is an extensive stamp collection of the Murumbis’ on the upper floor.
Murumbi turned down several huge bids from overseas bidders for his vast art collection and sold it instead to the Kenya government at a concessionary rate. He was specific that the collection be preserved at his Muthaiga home, which would become the Murumbi Institute of African Studies, with a library, hostel and kitchen upon his demise.
He died on June 22 1990 followed by his wife, in October 2000. They are buried outside the City Park cemetery near Pio Gama Pinto (March 31, 1927 – February 25, 1965) who was Murumbi’s mentor. Pinto, a journalist and politician was shot dead at a very close range, believed to be a political assassination.
The National Archives preserves public records.
The centre was started as a refuge for the endangered Rothschild giraffe translocated from western Kenya. It is the perfect location to see giraffes eye-to-eye and feed them with specially made hay-pellets, which they take from your hand using their sticky 25-inch long blue-grey tongues. Today there are about 1,500 Rothschild giraffe in Kenya with the biggest herd at Soysambu Conservancy on the shores of Lake Elementeita.
Located in Langata, you can feed ostriches and watch them guard their gigantic eggs.
It is where Kenya’s first flag was raised on 12 December 1963. The national monument on Langata Road is Kenya’s largest memorial park. The park offers a tranquil picnic site, a popular family outing destination and a venue for corporate events. The Uhuru monument stands in it.
Built in 1988 on Uhuru Highway to commemorate 25 years of independence, the marble monument shows the lowering of the British colonial flag and the raising of the Kenyan flag. It ‘s construction costed nearly a million dollars.
Jomo Kenyatta Mausoleum
The mausoleum on the grounds of the Parliament in Nairobi’s CBD, is the final resting place of Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya’s first president who took up office as Prime Minister of the self-governing Kenya in 1963. A year later, Kenya became a Republic with Kenyatta as its first president.
The park hosts permanent and temporary exhibitions about peoples, cultures, wildlife, prehistory and restaurants. It has a specific designated art gallery exhibits works by contemporary Kenyan and international artists.
The adjoining Snake Park has a large collection of reptiles and mammals. The Botanic Gardens and Nature Trail has the Kaya forest, grasses of Kenya and sculptures including medicinal plants. Located on the grounds of Nairobi National Museum is the office for Nature Kenya. Membership includes a Wednesday weekly bird walk around Nairobi, a day out within 100-km radius of Nairobi and occasional safaris. Log onto www.naturekenya.org. It is an affiliate of other nature groups in the country.
Built in 1913, this Old Provincial Commissioner’s office was fondly referred to as ‘Hatches, Matches and Dispatches’ because births, marriages and deaths were recorded here. The museum holds temporary exhibitions. The gallery is located right in the heart of Nairobi City next to the towering Nyayo House at the intersection of Uhuru Highway and Kenyatta Avenue.
Karen Blixen Museum
The museum was set up in 1985 on the Blixen’s coffee farm at the foot of the Ngong Hills and still retains much of its original features. The colonial farm house is indeed well preserved. Much of the original furniture is still preserved in their original state, including kitchen utensils, photographs and original oil portraits painted by Ms Blixen. Within the compound is a coffee-drying plant and small carriages that were used to ferry the coffee to the market.
Briefly, Karen Blixen is the author of the famous book Out of Africa, which was made into a film in 1985. She lived in the then M’Bogani House from 1913 to 1931, and her pen name was Isak Dinesen. The house was built by a Swedish settler in 1911 and Karen coffee company took it over in 1913 when Bror Blixen bought the Coffee Company for Karen. Just before the Karen Blixen Museum is the Swedo House that was built in 1912 as the residence for the Swedish manager of the coffee plantation.
Experienced and well versed guides are available to take visitors through the house, with very detailed explanations about the history of Karen and her life.
The museum is located in Karen area, near the Karen Country Club.
Institute of Primate Research Nature Trail
Tucked within the Oloolua Forest a few minutes from Karen Blixen Museum is the Institute of Primate Research’s nature trail. The indigenous forest has a spectacular waterfall, picnic site, caves, campsite and a viewing tower. The National Museums of Kenya helps to conserve and protect this valuable natural heritage for future generations. Enjoy a walk in the forest or a picnic. Entrance is strictly by prior arrangements with IPR or the National Museums of Kenya.
Where to Shop
• Lifestyle – Location: Within CBD along Monrovia/Moktar
• Galleria – Location: Along Langata Rd, opposite Bomas of
• The Junction – Location: Along Ngong Rd
• Prestige Plaza – Location: Along Ngong Rd
• Yaya Centre – Location: Along Argwing Kodhek Rd
• The Mall – Location: In Westlands, along Waiyaki way
• Sarit Centre – Location: In Westlands,
• Westgate – Location: In Westlands, along Mwanzi Rd
• Village Market – Location: In Gigiri, along Limuru Rd
• Diamond Plaza – Location: In Parklands, along 4th Parklands
• Capital Centre – Location: Along Mombasa Rd
AFRICAN HERITAGE is a gallery and retail shop at the entrance to the Carnivore, selling artifacts inspired by the designs of Africa. Also available are textiles, sculptures and arts of Africa as well as a clothing boutique and craft shop. Another feature of the shopping area is the WARTHOG GALLERY selling wrought iron sculptures by the internationally acclaimed local artist Kioko Mwitiki.
MAASAI MARKET is an open-air market ideal for African handicrafts, jewellery and souvenirs like beaded jewellery, batiks, baskets, sculptures, and paintings. It features at designated areas during the week.
Below are some places where the market is held:
Tuesday – Westgate shopping mall
Wednesday – Capital centre, along Mombasa rd
Thursday – The Junction shopping mall
Friday – Village market, Gigiri
Friday – Uchumi by Wilson airport
Saturday – Nairobi Law court grounds, CBD and Uchumi by Wilson airport
Sunday – Nairobi Law court grounds, CBD and Yaya Centre, Hurlingham
Where to Eat
THE CARNIVORE – NAIROBI – Nairobi’s old time favourite and internationally acclaimed, The Carnivore is a meat specialty restaurant and the ultimate ‘Beast of a Feast’. Whole joints of meat – legs of lamb and pork, haunches of exotic meat, rumps of beef, sirloins, racks of lamb, spare ribs, sausages, chicken wings, skewered kidneys, even crocodile, and other tasty morsels – are roasted on traditional Maasai swords over a huge, spectacular charcoal pit that dominates the entrance of the restaurant.
The Simba Saloon at The Carnivore is for those who do not want to indulge in a large meal. It serves pizzas (from a traditional, domed, brick oven), an extremely popular salad bar at lunchtime, steaks, hamburgers, scampi, trout, chicken, and other light snacks. It includes a nightclub from Wednesday to Sunday and has themed nights to cater for fans of contemporary African music, rock, soul, jazz and the latest hits.
Chinese and Japanese Restaurants
• August Moon; situated at the food court,
• Bamboo; situated at Zen gardens, Lower
• Taste of China; situated inside the stylish Prime
Apartments at the very end of Rhapta Road,
• Alabaster Lounge
• Half Past One Café
• Jade Coffee and Tea House
• French Cuisine Restaurants
• Le Rustique
• Ambiance Restaurant
• Piano Bar at Captains Club Casino
• La Prudna D’oro
• La Grigla Restaurant
• La Dolce Vita
• Haandi Udupi
• Open House Karen & Westlands
• Anghiti Westlands & Muthaiga
• Café Habibi and Sheesha lounge