Long a jumping-off point for safaris for adventurers like Ernest Hemingway and Teddy Roosevelt, Nairobi remains the first stop for travelers ready to explore East Africa’s many wildlife parks. A little more than one hundred years ago, the capital was a glorified water depot for British railway workers, but it is now home to imposing public buildings, grand hotels and expats from around the world. It is the best evidence of modernity in East Africa, and many first-time visitors are surprised by the city’s skyline. It is one of Africa’s largest capitals, and although some early architecture remains, most of the city is marked by modern office towers. Even with the relatively new influx of Western culture and business, the city still retains much of its charm. Hotels recall the elegance of times gone by, brilliant bougainvillea line the streets and the horizon bursts with lavender colors as the jacaranda blossoms.
The Nairobi National Museum is a good introduction to the history of both the capital and Kenya overall. Exhibits include fascinating reproductions of rock art and Richard and Mary Leakey’s important archaeological discoveries. In the 1960s, the couple discovered the remains of early human ancestors at Lake Turkana, and their findings pointed to the Rift Valley as the likely Cradle of Humankind. The museum also showcases beautiful paintings by Joy Adamson and an intriguing collection of the country’s colorful butterflies and birds. Visitors can even take guided bird walks from the museum, led by the knowledgable experts of the Kenya Museum Society.
Karen Blixen, author of ìOut of Africa,î made Nairobi her home from 1913 to 1931. Visitors today can visit the grand estate, where she once hosted lavish dinner parties for British royalty and carried on a passionate relationship with famous aviator Denys Finch Hatton. Exhibits include some of Blixen’s treasured belongings and even some of the farm machinery that once cultivated the surrounding land for tea and coffee. More of her furniture and personal effects can be viewed at Nairobi’s McMillan Library, and the estate offers magnificent views of the nearby hills, covered with euphorbia, also known as the candelabra cactus.
Another must-see sight in the capital is the Railway Museum, developed to preserve the records and relics of the area’s harbors and railways. Children of all ages will especially enjoy the displays, and visitors can see Teddy Roosevelt’s original rhino catcher from his 1908 safari and the carriage owned by Charles Ryall, an English railway man who was dragged out of the carriage window by a hungry lion. Other exhibits include rare posters and photos and silver service from the days of Nairobi’s elegant overnight trains. Visit on the second Saturday of the month to take a ride on an authentic steam train.
Get in touch with Nairobi’s wild side at the David Sheldrick Orphanage for Rhinos and Elephants. There, you can watch baby elephants bathe and play before they mature enough to be reintroduced to the wild. The experience is incredibly heartwarming and definitely a must-do while in the capital.
Immerse yourself in local life at the City Market, a vast jumble of activity, color and noise. Housed in a 1930s aircraft hangar, the market is loaded with stalls selling everything from traditional fabrics to exotic meats. Haggling is expected, so do not be shy about bargaining for the best price.
Nairobi Geographical Location
Nairobi is located in the southwest of Kenya adjacent to the east edge of the Rift Valley.
The population of Nairobi is approximately 3,200,000 and is the largest city in Kenya.
English and Kiswahili are the official languages of Kenya and are widely spoken however there are a total of 69 languages spoken in minorities throughout Kenya.
Nairobi Predominant Religion
- 45% Protestant
- 33% Roman Catholic
- 10% Muslim
- 10% Indigenous Beliefs
- 2% Other
The majority of the Muslim population lives in Coast Province while Christians primarily populate the western area of Coast Province.
The Kenyan Shilling is the official currency of Kenya.
Nairobi experiences consistently pleasant temperatures during the day and chilly evening temperatures. There are two rainy seasons in Nairobi, one in November and the other in April and May.
Nairobi Main Attractions
- David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
- Giraffe Center
- Nairobi National Park
Other Attraction in Nairobi
- Kazuri Beads Factory
- Nairobi National Museum
- Karen Blixen Museum
- Uhuru Gardens Memorial Park