Known as both the Green City in the Sun and the Safari Capital of the World, Nairobi is not only the largest city in East Africa, but is also the highest (at 1,700m), the most modern, and the fastest growing.
The city normally enjoys hot sunny days and cool evenings.
Nairobi derives its name from the Maasai word ‘Enkare Nyarobi’ meaning “place of Cool Waters’. The Kenya – Uganda railway surveyors arrived at the turn of the century on their way to Lake Victoria to find the place a little more than a swamp.
Nairobi, born in the spirit of adventure in the days of the early pioneers, less than 100 years ago, was then an insignificant jumble of tents and ox wagons beside the Uganda Railhead, which halted here 500 km inland from the coast to gather steam for the way ahead. By the late 1890s, Nairobi was established.
During the days of colonial rule, Nairobi was a major centre for hunters, travellers, and new arrivals to the colony. Replacing Mombasa as the capital city in 1907 and subsequently becoming the administration district of the British East Africa Protectorate, Nairobi received its City status by royal charter in 1950.
The Central Business District, CBD, is the pulsating heart of the city. Upper Hill is home to businesses and administrative offices. Gigiri is the site of the Huge United Nations Regional Headquarters, and a number of embassies. Muthaiga, with its legendary colonial Country Club, is a prime residential area. Westlands is a vibrant hub of shopping centres, cinemas, galleries, restaurants and nightlife. Karen, named for Karen Blixen, borders Nairobi National Park.
Places of interest include the Law Courts and Parliament Buildings; Railway Station and Museum, with its steam locomotives so emotive of a more romantic age; the ornate Jamia Mosque; the City Market with its arrays of tropical fruits and flowers; the famous Norfolk Hotel, linked with Kenya´s history since 1904; Kenyatta Conference Centre built in 1983; the National Museum and the adjacent Snake Park and Aviary, founded in 1910, with its unique collections so relevant to Kenya´s early history and the prehistory of mankind; the Karen Blixen Museum, outside the city, a memorial to a woman admired both for her writing and her spirit.
Other attractions include the Bomas of Kenya, the nation´s cultural centre where it is possible to watch a vivid display of tribal dancing in a rural lovely setting, the nostalgic Nairobi City Park, The National Archives, Nairobi Arboretum, Giraffe Centre, Dalphne Sheldrick Trust; and 118sq km Nairobi National Park with its adjacent Safari Walk.
There are several art galleries exhibiting work by local artists, displays of tribal dancing, two theatres, variety of good restaurants and entertainment joints as well as a wealth of fascinating curio shops.
Look around first, there is so much on offer: wood carvings and traditional handcrafts; sensuous soapstone from Kisii; colorful sisal mats; “kiondos”, the famous Kenya bags; “kangas” and “kikois”, traditionally worn by women and these days used as tablecloths or beach wraps; batiks, as the silk ones printed by Heidi Lange or Robin Anderson … Also two gem stones originate in this part of Africa: the blue Tanzanite and the vivid green Tsavorite.