Exploring Nairobi: A Journey Through Time – Part IX

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Turning onto Kimathi Street, formerly known as Hardinge Street during the colonial period after the first Administrator of the Kenya Protectorate, Sir Arthur Hardinge, we made our way to the Thorn Tree Restaurant for a cup of coffee, pausing first to acknowledge the Dedan Kimathi Statue. It was rected on August 15, 2007, in honor of Dedan Kimathi, a rebel field marshal fighting against British colonial authorities during the Mau Mau rebellion of the 1950s.

“A relentless campaign to capture Kimathi and his insurgents was launched by the British colonial government’s tribal police that ended up capturing him alone early on October 21, 1956. After a laborious and intricate trial, on November 19, 1956 at the Supreme Court of Kenya in Nyeri, Chief Justice Kenneth O’Connor found Kimathi guilty of unlawful possession of a firearm and ammunition, actions made illegal by the Emergency Regulations put in place by the British Government in an attempt to quell the violence of the rebellion. In the early hours of February 18, 1957, Kimathi was hanged to death at Kamiti prison and, according to documentation, buried within its grounds,” I narrated.

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Passing through the mahogany rotating door of the Stanley Hotel, which was its very first original door, and stepping onto the black and white motif floor, we were transported to a bygone era when the first European explorers roamed the country. Sipping coffee at Thorn Tree, located within the Stanley Hotel, Vlad and Olga marveled at the rich history of the place, as evidenced by the old photos adorning its walls.

Named after Henry Morton Stanley, a Welsh-American explorer, journalist, soldier, colonial administrator, author, and politician, famous for his exploration of Central Africa and his search for missionary and explorer David Livingstone, the Stanley Hotel was established by British colonial settler Mayence “May” Bence in 1902 and was originally a general store.

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The Stanley’s main café was the first pavement café in Nairobi and has evolved around the famous “Thorn Tree,” which served as the first “Post office” of Nairobi. In fact, the Thorn tree became the bearer of messages that were stuck on its yellowish trunk to be plucked off by travelers even before the city was born. The Exchange Bar operated as Nairobi’s first stock exchange from 1954 until 1991. Today’s Nairobi Stock Exchange has its roots in the Stanley Hotel, where in 1922, the first stock was floated on a ‘Gentlemen’s Agreement.’



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