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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.Read more
Nevertheless it is a lively African city, which boasts a generally good infrastructure, amazingly friendly, interesting people from all walks of life, and excellent facilities for tourists. It has the best restaurants and nightlife in the country, and Kenyans themselves like to go out and socialize, especially at the weekends when nightclubs are pumping and families enjoy picnics in the parks or long lazy lunches around hotel swimming pools. It’s also the best place to buy souvenirs in the good curio shops and markets, or modern shopping malls.
Nairobi has an interesting cross-section of sights that explore both its colonial past and Kenya’s unique wildlife and cultural heritage. With Nairobi National Park a stone’s throw away as well as a number of other wildlife attractions, it’s well worth making time to spend time in the city at the beginning or end of a trip.