Nairobi, capital of Kenya, is a lively cosmopolitan and bustling city that sits at 1870 m above sea level. The centre is modern and prosperous; services are well organized and efficient. Businessmen and women talking on mobile phones walk the pavements alongside Masai warriors with long, ochre-stained hair; tourists mingle with busy traders and commuters; markets sell traditional handicrafts in the shadow of the office towers, and life goes on at a frenetic pace. The city never stops moving, and the streets throng with pedestrians, cars, matatus and mkokoteni - hand-drawn cars used to carry goods to market.
It’s hard to believe that just 115 years ago, Nairobi hardly existed. The name ‘Nairobi’ comes from the Masai ‘enkare nyarobe’ meaning sweet (or cold) water, for, originally this was a watering hole for the Masai and their cattle. It began life in 1896 as a railway camp during the building of the Uganda Railway from the coast to the highlands and grew steadily as a trading centre for settlers, eventually succeeding Mombasa as the capital of British East Africa. After independence came a wave of construction and the over the years it has attracted many of Kenya’s rural poor seeking employment in the big city. The population today is estimated at three million (compared to 300,000 at independence in 1963), which has resulted in large slums developing around the city centre.