Nairobi is the capital and largest city of Kenya. It is located in the south of the country along the Nairobi River. The Ngong hills lie to the west of the city, Mount Kenya lies to the north and Kilimanjaro to the south-east. The city is perched 1661 meters above sea level which makes its climate milder. With a population of around 2.5 million people, Nairobi is the largest city of Eastern Africa, and the fourth largest city on the African continent.
Nairobi is a financial and political center, home to many companies, businesses and organizations. It is also a thriving culture hub. Nairobi is a bustling city day and night. Restaurants, clubs, pubs, discos, casinos, movie theaters, and museums; you will find it all. The movie theatres show the latest movies, the culinary scene abounds in restaurants serving almost any type of food. Modern technology and convenient internet facilities are widely available.
When touring the city, do not miss the Central Market, the National Museum, and the Arboretum. Even though Nairobi is a big metropolis, it is not severed from the nature that surrounds it. In close proximity to the city lies the Nairobi National Park, which encompasses 113 sq km and is home to zebras, buffalos, giraffes, cheetahs, and 400 species of birds.
Nairobi has a moderate climate due to its high altitude. Summers (December – March) are warm and sunny, with day temperatures around 25 °C. Winters (June, July) are cool to cold, especially at night. Nairobi has two rainy seasons: April- May, and November- December; but rainfall is moderate. The wettest part of the year is late summer and autumn, with clouds and drizzle.
January average temperature 20 deg Celsius, 46 mm rainfall February average temperature 20 deg Celsius, 43 mm rainfall March average temperature 21 deg Celsius, 74 mm rainfall April average temperature 20 deg Celsius, 160 mm rainfall May average temperature 19 deg Celsius, 119 mm rainfall June average temperature 17 deg Celsius, 30 mm rainfall July average temperature 17 deg Celsius, 13 mm rainfall August average temperature 17 deg Celsius, 13 mm rainfall September average temperature 18 deg Celsius, 25 mm rainfall October average temperature 20 deg Celsius, 43 mm rainfall November average temperature 19 deg Celsius, 119 mm rainfall December average temperature 19 deg Celsius, 76 mm rainfall
Nairobi’s main international airport is Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, located 15 km from the city center. Flying to Nairobi is convenient and easy, as it is a major hub. www.kenyaairports.co.ke/kaa/airports/jkia/
Airport bus, the Metro Shuttle, leaves every half hour for the hotels in the city. Taxis are cheaper, especially if you are good at haggling.
Nairobi can be accessed by car from Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Somalia.
Kenya has a reliable system of bus transports. Routes connect several cities with Nairobi, the center of bus network. Nairobi can easily be reached from Uganda, Tanzania and Kampala.
Daily arrivals and departures are available at the Nairobi Railway station.
Nairobi can also be accessed by boat.
Buses are cheap but crowded during peak hours. Also, be ware of pick pockets.
They are similar to buses but they are more frequent.
Taxis are expensive and unmetered, but safe. Especially at night, but also at daytime, they are worth the extra money. Fix the price in advance but pay after the trip. Taxis are found around hotels and tourist areas.
Nairobi is a quite small city and can be easily explored in foot. Keep in mind, however, that certain areas in the city are off limits for tourists.
This is one of the best known and best loved game reserves in the entire Africa. It is distinguished by great open skies, savanna, annual wildebeest migration, a great variety of bird life, and is home to many lions, cheetahs, hyena and large herds of grazers. The park was used as the setting for the film ‘Out of Africa’. Another major draw is the Masai village where traditional dances and music are performed. This provides an additional income for the Masai living here since they are now allowed to hunt and graze their animals there anymore. The Mara is one of the most breathtaking wildlife parks in the whole country.
WHITE WATER RAFTING ON TANA RIVER
Only an hour’s drive from the city, the adventurous can indulge in the whitewater rafting on the beautiful river of Tana. The Tana River rafting offers a mixture of high action, with difficulties up to the grade V, as well as calm water. If rafting is not exciting enough, you can jump off a 30 meter waterfall, or jump into a big surfing hole, or swim the Devil’s Toilet.
Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and Africa's second highest - after Kilimanjaro. The park is only 2 hours’ drive away from Nairobi. The mountain is an extinct volcano. It has 5 peaks, the highest, Batian is 5,199 meters high. The park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It covers 620 km² and is visited by approximately 15,000 people per year. For the local Kikuyu tribe the mountain is a sacred place, where the Supreme Being resides. Their homes are traditionally built so as to face the mountain.
The mountain is home to a marvelously diverse flora and fauna, due to the mountain’s altitude and its position close to the equator. The mountain forest abounds in animal life: monkeys, elephants and buffalo. In the middle of the forest zone there is a completely natural bamboo zone. Higher up the mountain lies a timberline forest with smaller trees, and higher still heath land and chaparral. At about 3,800 meters the Afro-alpine zone starts. Here the air is thin and temperatures vary drastically. Above 4,500 meters there is no vegetation. A rare phenomenon can also be seen here: the equator snow.
There are several mountain routes. The highest peak can be accessed only via climbing, while other peaks are also within reach of trekkers. Apart from trekking and climbing the mountain, the park offers other activities such as great hiking and game watching, as well as lakes, glaciers and pristine wilderness.
The park is unique in lying so close to a major city. It is also the biggest tourist attraction in Nairobi. The park covers an area of 117 km2 and contains 400 species of bird, and many other animals including lions, cheetahs, rhinos and giraffes. The park is also a very successful black rhino sanctuary, where visitors can be certain to see this animal in its natural habitat. The park lies only 7 km from the city and can be easily accessed through Langata Road. There are seven gates. The park offers no accommodation.
LANGATA GIRAFFE CENTER
Address: Koitobos Road, Langata Open: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Phone: (020) 890 952 Access: bus (Matatu 24, 126)
The giraffe center is situated 5 km from central Nairobi, and is the sanctuary for the endangered Rothschilds giraffe species. Visitors can feed adult and young giraffes from a feeding building set amidst the fenced territory where giraffes roam free.
BOMBAS OF KENYA
Cultural center situated in Langata, in close proximity to the Nairobi National Park. The village comprises several traditional Kenyan houses, called bombas. The complex also features Africa’s largest theatre with 3,500 seats where visitors can become acquainted with the traditional culture, dance and songs of various Kenyan tribes. Performances are held daily.
This diverse museum houses an interesting collection of history, culture and art from Kenya and East Africa. The museum’s most notable features are the pre-historic finds doscveres by the Leakeys, fossils from Lake Turkana, artifacts from Kenyan local tribes and more. The museum features great sections on art, geology, wildlife and local history.
From 1914 to 1931 the farmhouse was the home of the Danish author of the book Out of Africa. The house was once surrounded by a large coffee plantation that she and her husband had established. Today, the museum stands in a rich neighborhood. After the enyan independence, the farmhouse was donated by the Danish government.
Nairobi has a good selection of restaurants. You can choose from a variety of cuisines: Kenyan, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Ethiopian, Indian, Greek, French, Italian, German, Yugoslav, Continental, and many other. There are also barbecue and pizza places. Most places are open until late at night.
Some of the typical Kenyan dishes include: sambusas (pastry filled with mincemeat, deep-fried), ugali (thick cornmeal porridge), mandazi (flat bread, semi-sweet). The fruit here is superb. Try mangoes, papayas, custard apples, passion fruit, green oranges, bananas and pineapples.
The cheapest food is found in small hotelies. These serve traditional Kenyan dishes at very affordable prices. Find one with many customers, which is a good sign the place offers fresh and hot food safe to eat. More everyday dishes are to be found at one of the fast food restaurants, located mostly on the corner of Moi Ave and Mama Ngina Street. You can get anything from chicken, to pizza to hamburgers. You can eat delicious chicken in one of the Kenchic Inns, where you can get a quarter, half or full chicken. The finest restaurants can be found in the top hotels.
Date: March Web: http://www.motorsportkenya.com/kcbsafarirally07.htm
Every year the rally comes to Nairobi for two days. The world’s best drivers drive from the city to the Rift Valley. The race has become known as a tough one. The excited crowds gather in the city to celebrate the beginning and the end of the event.
KENYAN MUSIC FESTIVAL
Date: August Location: Kenyatta International Conference Center (Harambee Street)
Every year the winners of regional contests are united at this festival, drawing students from schools and universities. There are several categories of music: African, Oriental and Western. The rendition can be vocal, instrumental or dance-oriented.
EAST AFRICAN ART FESTIVAL
This annual event is always held in Nairobi and is organized by the Kenya National Museum. The three-day event features artists from the entire East Africa region who put their art, paintings, traditional artifacts, and architectural designs on display.
The annual music festival is organized by the Kijani Kenya Trust, a British charity organization that supports HIV/AIDS as well as conservation projects in Kenya. All profits from tickets go for the cause.
Nairobi offers diverse nightlife. There are first class cinemas and movies listed in the Daily Nation Newspaper.
Bars and clubs also abound. The usual practice is to start in bars. Clubs and discos start to fill up around midnight but stay open until the break of dawn.
Casinos are also popular and can be found at the following hotels: Six Eighty Hotel and Casino, The Landmark, Nairobi Hilton Hotel, Norfolk Hotel, Holiday Inn Nairobi Mayfair Court, The Stanley, Nairobi Intercontinental, Nairobi Serena Hotel, Safari Park Hotel and the Grand Regency Hotel.
There are also ‘club nights’ staged in clubs on the final weekend in month. These events feature traditional music, food and drink from Kenya’s diverse ethnic cultures.
Nairobi is a young city. It emerged as a British railroad camp around 1899 when the Mombasa - Uganda Railway was being built. Prior to that, the area was a Masai waterhole. In fact, the name Nairobi originates from Masai name ‘Ewaso Nyirobi’, meaning cool waters. The tent city of Nairobi quickly evolved into the administrative center of the Uganda Railway.
MODERN (20TH CENTURY)
In 1905 Nairobi became the capital of the British East Africa Protectorate, replacing Mombasa. The city quickly started developing into an administrative and tourist center. The major tourist branch in those days was big game hunting, a practice which attracted British colonialists into the region. To house the new guests, several glorious hotels were built in the city. Nairobi soon started attracting white settlers who populated the fertile highlands to the north and south of the city. The expanding city was devouring the Masai land. The situation angered the Masai and later the Kikuyu people who wanted their land returned to them. But reality was different: In 1920 there were 9,000 white settlers and by 1950 their number rose to 80,000. They set up agricultural farms and coffee plantations. Among them was also Karen Blixen and her husband. She became well known as the author of the book ‘Out of Africa’.
In 1915 the British restricted the ownership of land to the whites. The situation worsened even further for the blacks with the introduction of high taxes and low wages. In addition, they were forced to wear name tags. In 1919 Nairobi was declared a British municipality and in 1921 Harry Thuku established the Young Kikuyu Organization which organized protests against the British. A year later he was arrested. This sparked off massive protests during which the British government reacted by shooting 56 protesters, killing 25. The events shocked the world and the unrest continued to intensify. Tuku was exiled to a desert oasis.
After WW II the unrest escalated into the Mau Mau Uprising. After the rebellion Kanyatta, the future president of Kenya, was jailed even though there was no evidence linking him with the rebellion. After the jail he was placed under house arrest until 1963. The pressure on the British showed no sign of decreasing and Kenya finally gained independence on December 12, 1963. Kenyatta became the first president, and Nairobi the capital of the new independent republic. After the independence the city continued to grow. Many colonial buildings were replaced by office buildings. The rapid growth took a toll on the city; power cuts and water shortages becoming quite frequent.
In recent years the city planning did away with some of these problems. The city continues to grow and now the government must provide a plan for maintenance and development of national parks, as the new conurbation is shrinking the land, previously the setting of the migration of big herds of animals.
Kenyans are very friendly, warm and welcoming people, proud of their country. Keep in mind that in the rural parts of Kenya social etiquette and customs are still quite conservative, be it in Muslim or Christian societies. These are more relaxed in the country’s capital, Nairobi. Kenyans are very polite people and appreciate the same from the visitors. Be thankful and say please a lot, this will bring you a lot of respect in Kenyan society.
Always shake hands, as well as give and receive gifts with the right hand. Left hand is completely inappropriate. Handshakes are normally weaker than you are probably used to. Direct eye-contact while greeting can be deemed disrespectful. Avoid prolonged and direct eye contact.
Kenyans dress modestly. Women should cover shoulders and upper arms and wear long skirts, especially in Muslim areas. Men are advised to wear long trousers and a t-shirt or a shirt. Beachwear should be worn on the beaches only.
Avoid public show of affection, which especially applies to the gays. Nairobi is more relaxed but still it is wiser to practice caution.
Nairobi is notorious for petty crime, robberies, muggings and armed carjacking. Be ware of con artists and groups of people following you. Visitors should keep alert at all times, especially at night. Stay in the central part of the city, and under no circumstances should you wander into the dangerous parts of the city. Stay away from the areas north and east of the River Road. Do not carry large amounts of cash, or your passport with you. Crime levels have recently abated but visitors should practice caution at all times.
Recent attacks on golf courses have been reported. It is advised not to wander too far away from the club house.
Recommended vaccines include: Tetanus, Diphtheria, Polio, Typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Yellow Fever, Rabies and Meningitis.
Nairobi enjoys a fairly moderate climate. It is located just below the equator but the city’s elevation is high. The warmest and sunniest period is from December to March, when temperatures are around mid-twenties. Winters are mild to cool with very cold evenings. There are two rainy seasons, but both are moderate. The wettest period is just after the summer.