Nairobi

View of Nairobi

Travel to Nairobi – Colourful Capital of Kenya

Modern Nairobi is still the safari capital of the Africa, but the modern world has quickly caught up with the city. A frontier town no more, Nairobi has become one of Africa’s largest, and most interesting cities. Nairobi is a city that never seems to sleep. The entire town has a boundless energy, and is thriving place where all of human life can be found.

This is a place of great contrasts where race, tribe and origin all become facets of a unique Nairobi character. The streets of the city are a parade of Kenyan life and colour. From pavement cafes and piano bars to the lively bazaars and markets the visitor to Nairobi can see the full spectrum of society here, and learn more about the unique character of the capital.

Kenya’s capital city has risen in a single century from a brackish uninhabited swampland to a thriving modern capital.

When railway construction workers reached this area in 1899, they set up a basic camp and supply depot, simply called ‘Mile 327’. The local Maasai called this highland swamp Ewaso Nai’beri – the place of cold water.

The camp became a rustic village, and then a shanty town, which by 1907 was the capital of all of British East Africa. It was soon an important centre for the colony and a mecca for adventurers, hunters and travellers from all over the world.

The influence of Nairobi’s Indian community, the descendants of the original colonial railway labourers and merchants, is undeniable. They play a major role in the economic and social life of the city.

There are a number of Hindu and Sikh temples throughout Nairobi, one of the most impressive being the recently constructed Swami Narain Temple on Forest Road, a massive temple complex with fine external statuary. Nairobi is also home to many mosques. At the centre of the city is the large Jamia Mosque with attractive twinned minarets. There is a strong Ismaili community (followers of the Aga Khan) in Kenya, and their beautiful Khoja Mosque is found directly beside the main city market.

Nairobi’s population is predominantly Christian, and there are countless churches throughout the city. In the city centre are the large Catholic Holy Family Cathedral and All Saints Cathedral, a gothic style Anglican church that was founded in 1917 and consecrated in 1952. Nairobi’s Parliamentary buildings were also built in the 1950’s. Directly beside Parliament, however, the Republic’s First President, Jomo Kenyatta rests in a respectfully landscaped Mausoleum.

The city has not lost its sense of the past, with an excellent museum and the historical home of Karen Blixen, author of Out of Africa open to visitors. This is not a modern capital separated from the great wilderness that surrounds it. Just outside the city is Nairobi National Park, 113 sq kms of plains, cliffs and forest. The park is home to large herds of zebra, wildebeest, buffalo, giraffe and more. Rhino, cheetah, and a large number of lions are all found here, living wild within 20 minutes of the centre of town.

Further out of town, the spectacular 27 metre deep ‘Fourteen Falls’ waterfalls at Thika are perfect for a scenic day trip. Nearby Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park, is centred around an imposing 2,146 metre mountain.

In the centre of the town is the large City Market, selling a great selection of produce, including fruit, vegetables, flowers, fruit, fish and meat. This colourful Market is an interesting place to visit, and a good place to find local handicrafts.

Kariakor Market, located just outside town off racecourse Road, is another excellent market for handicrafts, in particular for good and reasonable priced sisal basketwork. This very lively market, named after the Colonial ‘Carrier Corps’ (Karia-kor) who were once stationed here. Kariakor is renowned all over town as the best place to sample real traditional Kenyan food. There are many small shops and eateries attached to the market selling a wide range of traditional cuisines.

For the adventurous, take an hour’s drive from town and you will find white water rafting on the beautiful Tana River.

Nairobi is very much the heart of modern Kenyan culture. The city has many theatres, galleries and cinemas. The city has a thriving music scene, and the clubs and bars of Nairobi are an excellent place to check out live bands.

Each year, a National Music Festival is held in Nairobi. Musicians from all over the country attend the festival, which celebrates Kenyan music both traditional and modern. For anyone with an interest in Kenyan music, this event should not be missed.

Relaxing

From the wildlife to the nightlife, Nairobi is a city unlike any other. With a fantastic music scene, excellent international restaurants and an endless and colourful array of shops and markets, there is plenty on offer for the visitor.

There is an incredible range of restaurants in Nairobi covering a world of cuisines. From Korean BBQ to French Novelle Cuisine, Ethiopian Injera to a Traditional Roast Sunday lunch, Hamburgers to Tandoori specialities, you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for, or a new and unexpected treat.

Walking around Nairobi is relatively straightforward, as the city centre is small and accessible. In some areas, there can be a security risk while walking, and it is best to seek local advice before setting out. Taxis are widely available, and convenient. Taxis are often parked in the street around hotels and tourist areas of the city. Hotels and restaurants can order taxis if necessary. Nairobi Taxis are usually marked with a yellow line along each side. Taxis are not metered, and a price should be agreed with the driver before departure. Ask for local advice or at your hotel for correct rates. There are several companies operating Dial Taxi services with phone bookings, modern vehicles, competent drivers and reasonable rates. Several Taxi companies have airport booking offices.

Buses operate on set routes throughout the city. The large Kenya Buses run on routes throughout the city on regular schedules. Buses can be boarded at any stop and tickets purchased on board. Matatus (Public Minibuses) also operate on city routes throughout the day, and are the most popular form of local public transport.

  • See the safari capital of Africa.
  • An ideal city to start or end your holiday with excellent air access and good choice of accommodation.
  • Visit some of Nairobi’s excellent museums and nearby attractions.

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Africa Travel Information