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Kenya Nairobi

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The City of Nairobi

Nairobi is the capital city of Kenya. Nairobi has the highest urban population in East Africa, with an estimated population of between 3 and 4 million. Since its foundation as a railway camp in 1899, Nairobi has grown to become the largest city in Kenya, and one of the largest cities in Africa.

The History of Nairobi

Nairobi was founded in 1899 as a supply depot for the Uganda Railway which was being constructed between Mombasa and Uganda. It was named after a water hole known in Masai as Ewaso Nyirobi, meaning "cool waters".

It was totally rebuilt in the early 1900s after an outbreak of plague and the burning of the original town.

Nairobi replaced Mombasa as the capital of the British East Africa Protectorate in 1905. The railway brought wealth into the city, which made it grow dramatically. It then became Kenya's second largest town after Mombasa.

As the British colonialists started to explore the region, they started using Nairobi as their first port of call. This prompted the colonial government to build several grand hotels in the city. The main occupants were British game hunters.

Nairobi continued to grow under the British rule, and many British peoples settled within the city's suburbs. The continuous expansion of the city began to anger the Maasai people, as the city was devouring their land to the south. It also angered the Kikuyu people, who wanted the land returned to them.

In 1919, Nairobi was declared to be a municipality. Between the years of 1920 and 1950, the number of white settlers within Nairobi rose from 9,000 to 80,000. There was, however, friction that existed between these settlers and the local peoples. Nairobi was granted city status in 1954.

After the end of World War II, this friction developed into the Mau Mau rebellion. Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's future president, was jailed for his involvement, even though there was no evidence linking him to the rebellion.

Pressure exerted from the locals onto the British resulted in Kenyan independence in 1963. Nairobi was the capital and largest city of the Republic of Kenya. After independence, Nairobi grew rapidly, and this growth put pressure on the city's infrastructure. Power cuts and water shortages were a common occurrence.

Geography and Climate

The city is located at 1°16′S 36°48′E and occupies around 150 km². It is situated about 1660 metres (5450 feet) above sea level.

Nairobi is situated between the cities of Kampala and Mombasa. It is beside the Rift valley. The Ngong hills are towards the west, Mount Kenya is towards the North and Mount Kilimanjaro is towards the south-east. As Nairobi is adjacent to the Rift Valley, minor earthquakes and tremors occasionally occur. The Nairobi River and its tributaries traverse through the Nairobi Province.

At 1860 metres, Nairobi enjoys a fairly moderate climate. The altitude makes for some chilly evenings but it is never too cold. The sunniest and warmest part of the year is from December to March, when temperatures average the mid-twenties during the day. The temperature usually peaks at 25°C. There are two rainy seasons but rainfall is only moderate. The cloudiest part of the year is just after the first rainy season, when, until September, conditions are usually overcast with drizzle.

Business and Economy

Nairobi is the headquarters of several international companies and organizations. This makes it one of the most influential cities in Africa. The United Nations has strong presence in Nairobi, as two of its departments, UNEP and UN-Habitat have headquarters in Nairobi.

Goods manufactured in Nairobi include clothing, textiles, building materials, processed foods, beverages and cigarettes.

Nairobi has a large tourist industry, being both a tourist destination and a transport hub.


Nairobi is not a prime tourist destination, but it does have several tourist attractions. The most famous is the Nairobi National Park. It is the only national park to border a capital city, or city of this size. The park contains many animals including lions and giraffes. Nairobi also has more species of birds than any other capital city in the world.

Nairobi has several museums. These include the Nairobi Railway Museum and the National Museum of Kenya, which houses many artefacts including the full remains of a homo erectus boy.

Nairobi hotels include the Panari Hotel, the Hilton, the Grand Regency and the Norfolk Hotel, the oldest continuously operating hotel in the city.

Nairobi has just opened the largest ice rink in Africa in the Panari Sky Centre. The rink is 15,000 metres squared and can accommodate 200 people.

Nairobi´s Major Attractions:

Nairobi is blessed with a variety of attraction some of which include: Landmarks and historic sites Museums Parks and Gardens Zoos and Wildlife

Landmarks and Historic Sites

Nyayo Monument

Built in 1988 to commemorate 25 years of independence, this monument is a marble rendering of the lowering of the British colonial flag and the raising of the Kenyan flag. It cost nearly a million dollars to construct and caused a lot of controversy. Uhuru Highway, just below the Nairobi Serena Hotel.

Parliament Building

Of special interest are needlework tapestries made by the East African Women's League showing Kenya's history, a mosaic of Kenyan tribes and a table made from samples of Kenyan trees. Tour times vary according to the National Assembly schedule. Parliament Road. To arrange a visit, call the Clerk of the National Assembly: 221-291.

Uhuru Monument

This was built in 1973 as a commemorative monument to independence. An ihara tree marks the spot where the national flag was first hoisted on 12 December 1963. Surrounding the tree is a map of Kenya showing its different provinces. Two other monuments, laid by President Daniel Moi, commemorate 20 and 25 years of independence. Langata Road, near Wilson Airport.

Karen Blixen Museum

The restored house and grounds, with furniture and photographs of Danish author Karen Blixen, who wrote under the name Isak Dinesen, of Out of Africa fame. The house was originally a coffee plantation out in the country, but now finds itself on the outskirts of Nairobi. The quiet, tree-lined roads and large yards with older homes make this a pleasant place to visit. The Karen Blixen Coffee Gardens restaurant is next door, adjacent to a particularly interesting old settler's house. It's open for lunch noon-3 pm. The museum is open daily 9 am-6 pm. 200 KSh adults, 100 KSh children. Karen Road (next to Karen College). Phone 882-779.

Kenya Railway Museum

Nairobi exists because of the Uganda Railway. This museum is fascinating and should not be missed, even though it's a bit hard to find. It's filled with fascinating historical photographs and relics from old trains, as well as actual trains you can climb onto. (One of them is the carriage in which Charles Ryall was dozing in 1900 when a lion seized him through the window, broke his neck and carried him off.) Daily 8:30 am-5 pm. 200 KSh adults, 100 KSh children ages 6-10. Located near the train station on Station Road. Turn off Haile Selassie Avenue onto Workshop Road, then right on Pate Bay Road, left on Ngair Avenue leading to Station Road. A dirt track directly ahead leads to the museum. If you get lost, keep asking for directions—it's worth it. Phone 221-211, ext. 2449.

The National Archives

Ground floor is a public gallery containing some beautiful drawings and some very amateur art, as well as a collection of ethnography—weapons, musical instruments and domestic artifacts. The first floor houses a collection of photographs of President Moi's early history and some Mau detention camp photos. Monday-Friday 8 am-4:30 pm. Free. Moi Avenue and Tom Mboya Street (in the old Bank of India building across from the Hilton Hotel). Phone 225-959 or 228-020.

National Museum of Kenya

A museum containing the Leakey family discoveries at Tanzania's Olduvai Gorge and Koobi Fora in northern Kenya. Wildlife displays haven't been updated for years, but you may want to view the range of weapons, ornaments and headdresses of various Kenyan tribes—a good introduction to the country and its peoples. Also on view are original watercolors by Joy Adamson, who wrote Born Free, and displays of Kenya's modern history. Be sure to look in on works in the exciting new art center run by the Kuona Trust. (You can buy art in the contemporary art hall upstairs.)

Within the museum grounds is a snake park with live East African snakes: puff adders, black and green mambas and other reptiles. An aquarium with marine and freshwater fish recently opened on the grounds. There's a free bird walk every Wednesday, leaving at 8:30 am from the museum parking lot. All facilities are open daily 9:30 am-6 pm. 200 KSh adults, 100 KSh children. (You'll pay this same admission fee to get into the snake park.) Museum Hill (off Chiroma Highway). Phone 742-131 or 742-161.

Parks and Gardens
The Arboretum

More than 300 species of indigenous trees on 80 acres/32 hectares of forest reserve. Security has improved with a posted guard, and grounds are maintained with the help of volunteers. Open sunrise to sunset. Free. Arboretum Road (off State House Road). Phone 749-957.

Uhuru Park

A popular park in the middle of the city, heavily used. Boats on the small lake are for hire. There's a good view of the city's main skyline from the top of the park. Inquire before visiting if a political rally is scheduled (dangerous to encounter), and visit during daylight only. Uhuru Highway and Kenyatta Avenue.

Zoos and Wildlife
The Giraffe Center

This place saved Rothschild giraffes from extinction. Now you can see them up close and even feed them. The sign says the center is "primarily for schoolchildren," but don't let that stop you. Warthogs, bushbuck and dik-diks are also on the property. Excellent gift shop sells animal-motif souvenirs (at great prices) with profits going to wildlife preservation. Daily 9:30 am-5:30 pm. 500 KSh adults, 100 KSh children. Donations to the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife appreciated. 11 mi/18 km from town, on Koitobos Road, about 3 mi/4-5 km from the Karen Blixen Museum: Go to Langata South Road and follow signs. If you go by cab, which can be fairly expensive, negotiate a round-trip price and have the driver wait for you. Phone 891-657 or 890-952.

Nairobi National Park

On the outskirts of town and easily accessible, this 44-sq-mi/114-sq-km park is fenced on the Nairobi side but open to the migration of game from the Athi plains and the Kitengela and Ngong conservation areas. It's possible to see rhinos, hippos, lions, leopard, giraffes, zebras, cheetahs, warthogs, antelope and more than 400 kinds of birds (the only animals not found in this park are elephants).