Nairobi is the capital and the largest city of Kenya. It is one of the most beautiful places of Africa with diverse landscapes, incredible animals and friendly people who make it a truly special place. The name comes from the Maasai phrase “Enkare Nairobi”, which translates to “cool water”, a reference to the Nairobi River which flows through the city. Nairobi is famous for having the world’s only game reserve in a large city. It is also the second-largest city in the African Great Lakes area with a population of 4,004, 400 million residents according to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics. Nairobi is the main commercial and cultural center for East Africa. It is the largest city between Cairo and Johannesburg. As one of Africa’s leading cities, it hosts important international conferences and is the home for many embassies, international organizations, and businesses. The city has a cosmopolitan flair that combines African, Asian, European, and Middle Eastern cultures.
Nairobi is the regional headquarters of several international companies and organisations. In 2007, General Electric, Google, Coca-Cola, IBM Services, Airtel, and Cisco Systems relocated their African headquarters to the city. The United Nations Office at Nairobi hosts the UN Environment and UN-Habitat headquarters. Several of Africa’s largest companies are headquartered in Nairobi. Kenya Airways, Africa’s fourth largest airline, uses Nairobi’s Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as a hub.
Safaricom,the largest company in Kenya by assets and profitability is headquartered in Nairobi. The telecommunication service provider’s input to the Kenyan economy stands at 6.5%. It has also had a job creation growth rate of 5% with 32 per cent women in senior management positions.
Nairobi has not been left behind by the FinTech (Financial Technology) phenomenon that has taken over worldwide.
In fact M-Pesa is Africa’s first mobile money platform which was launched by Safaricom in 2007 to enable remittances to be sent home and has enjoyed widespread adoption. Today, 96% of households outside Nairobi have at least one M-Pesa account. The growth in mobile phone ownership raises the potential for mobile money to reach unbanked people, providing them with a more affordable payments system. Mobile money users are therefore more financially resilient and can protect themselves better against economic shocks. This is key to enabling households to lift themselves out of extreme poverty. Today, it is notable that Kenya leads the world in mobile money services.
Nairobi is also home to the manufacture of goods such as clothing, textiles, building materials, processed foods, beverages, and cigarettes. Several foreign companies have factories based in and around the city. These include Goodyear, General Motors and Toyota Motors.
Tourism and Hospitality
Nairobi has a large tourism industry, being both a popular tourist destination and a business hub.These are some of the notable attractions that make Nairobi a major tourist destination.
Kenya’s first national park, Nairobi National Park is a haven for wildlife and only seven kilometers from the skyscrapers of Nairobi’s city center. The park is also a rhino sanctuary, which protects more than 50 of these critically endangered creatures. In addition to the rhinos, you can see lions, gazelles, buffaloes, warthogs, cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, and ostriches, and more than 400 species of birds have been recorded in the wetlands.
Nairobi National Park is also a famous ivory burning site. In 1989, former President Moi ignited 12 tons of elephant tusks and rhino horns here, boosting the country’s conservation image on the world stage. Today, a monument marks this historic site. The Nairobi Safari Walk is a popular attraction offering animal lovers the chance to spot wildlife on foot, and walking trails weave around the area known as Hippo Pools. At the park’s main gate, you can bond with orphaned baby elephants and rhinos at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.
The center cares for young abandoned elephants and rhinos and works to release the animals back into the wild.
At the Giraffe Centre, on the edge of Nairobi National Park, visitors can come face to face with endangered giraffes. This non-profit center lies on the grounds of the plush guesthouse, Giraffe Manor, and its main mission is to provide conservation education for children. The visitor center displays information about these graceful creatures, and a raised platform allows you to feed them at eye level with specially prepared pellets. This is one of the most popular things to do in Nairobi. After communing with these long-lashed beauties, you can enjoy a 1.5-kilometer self-guided forest walk in the adjacent nature reserve.
Uhuru Park is a 12.9 hectare recreational park adjacent to the central business district of Nairobi, Kenya. It was opened to the general public by the late former President Jomo Kenyatta on 23 May 1969. It contains an artificial lake, several national monuments, and an assembly ground which has become a popular skateboarding spot on weekends and also a location for local skateboarding competitions (best trick contest 2017), catering to Nairobi’s growing skate scene.
Apart from skateboarding, the assembly ground is used for occasional political and religious gatherings.
In 1989, Wangari Maathai and many of her followers held a protest at the park, attempting to stop the construction of the 60-storey Kenya Times Media Trust business complex. She was forced by the government to vacate her office and was vilified in parliament, but her protests and the government’s response led foreign investors to cancel the project.
Bomas of Kenya is a living museum located about 10 kilometres from Nairobi celebrating the colorful tribes of Kenya. This is a great place to learn about the lifestyle, art, music, crafts, and culture of each tribe. The complex encompasses a recreated traditional village with homesteads or bomas, each one reflecting the culture of a major ethnic group. Every afternoon, a team performs traditional dances and songs in the large theater.
The Railway Museum in Nairobi celebrates the rich history of the railroad in Kenya and its impact on the nation’s development. Among the museum’s fascinating collections are train and ship models, photographs from the original construction of the Uganda Railway, railway magazines, maps and drawings, and a silver service set used on overnight trains to Mombasa. A collection of steam locomotives and rolling stock are also on display, including a model of the MV Liemba, built by the Germans and still in use along Lake Tanganyika. A favorite exhibit is the carriage used during the hunt for the Maneater of Kima in 1900. Captain Charles Ryall, a colonial officer, positioned himself in the carriage to shoot a man-eating lion; unfortunately he fell asleep and was dragged out the window by the lion.
The Kenya Railways Corporation is developing a new standard gauge railway (SGR) line for passengers and cargo transportation between Mombasa, a city in Kenya and the largest port in East Africa, and Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. This is the biggest infrastructure project in Kenya since its independence. It will shorten the passenger travel time from Mombasa to Nairobi from more than ten hours to a little more than four hours. Freight trains are expected to complete the journey in less than eight hours. The SGR is a flagship project under the Kenya Vision 2030 development agenda. It will simplify transport operations across the borders and reduce travel costs, apart from benefiting the economies of Kenya and the neighbouring countries.
Upper Hill is on the path to becoming the next “Sandton” of Nairobi. It has experienced major skyscraper constructions over the last 5 years. Insurance companies, banks, multinationals, hotel chains and other private investors are contributing to the rise of the upper hill skyline. Up until now,the skyline of upper hill, dubbed Africa’s high end financial and commercial district is experiencing major high-rise constructions. In 2017, President Uhuru Kenyatta laid the foundation stone for the 70 storey, 320 metre Pinnacle complex, which will be the tallest building in Africa. Hilton Hotel announced plans to have a 45 storey wing in the Pinnacle complex as their newest property in Upper hill. The same year, Hass Consult embarked on excavation for The Montave, a mixed use development just a short distance away from the Pinnacle, with a 3 tower complex including a hotel, office block and residential apartments. In February 2018, Lordship Africa launched their 88 Nairobi condominium in Upper Hill, poised to be the tallest residential apartments in sub-Saharan Africa upon completion in 2020.
Life in Nairobi
- Always Accept food
Most Kenyans feel insulted when you don’t eat something they’ve offered you. So even if you have to politely nibble, do it. Most times, your host went slightly out of their way to offer you something to eat, so it’s disappointing to them when you don’t accept it. You can consider this a fantastic way to try new foods. It is quite difficult to define Kenyan food by one dish, however, it is famous for a staple food called Ugali (corn meal). This is prepared using maize and water. Most homesteads have ugali several times a week. Variations of this dish include use of millet instead of maize, mostly by communities in the western region of the country. It is served with meat stew, sukuma wiki, fish or chicken.
- Experience a Matatu ride
The Matatu is a minivan, which is the Ghanaian version of a trotro. The Matatu offers a fun, adventurous ride that covers short distances normally accompanied by some loud African music. The ticket collector, seated by the window with half side hanging out, screams at the top of his lungs the name of the destinations such as “Accra Road! Kariokor! Tononoka”. When you want to get down at your destination, all you have to do is knock twice on the roof of the matatu.
- Learn A Bit of The Lingo
Most people in Nairobi speak English. However, some local words are such a fabric of the language that Nairobians assume that they are part of the English language and that you know them. To avoid miscommunication, learn some basic words like sawa (okay), kesho (tomorrow) and sasa (hello). They’re usually thrown around casually in conversations so don’t panic.
- Absolute Meat Lovers
Nairobians love their meat. If you’re a vegetarian, you might have some difficulty with this. Always call ahead and let your host know your dietary requirements, chances are that they are serving meat for dinner. (Remember what you must do when offered food.) Many restaurants are popping up in order to cater to vegetarians, but for the most part, meat still rules the menus. In response to being offered salad, don’t be surprised to hear a Kenyan say ‘I don’t eat rabbit food!’ or ‘I don’t eat grass.’
- Don’t Call Kenya ‘Africa’
While in conversation with Nairobians and when talking about Kenya, be careful not to refer to it as ‘Africa.’ They do not appreciate such generalizations. So don’t just say you’ve visited ‘Africa’ before, be more specific. It’s much more interesting. (Do this always, not just when in Nairobi.)
Nairobi undoubtedly has become the world’s preferred business and tourist destination in Africa primarily through it’s enchanting skyline laid with shiny skyscrapers,improved technology and infrastructure and beautifully rich culture displayed proudly everywhere.