Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, is a world-class city, and has some of the best facilities found in Africa. The name comes from the language of the Masai people, which translates to “the place of cool waters”. The city has two nicknames: ‘Green City in the Sun’ and ‘Safari Capital of the World’ – the second because of the many tourists that use Nairobi as a hub for a safari in East Africa each year.
A Bit of Nairobi History
Nairobi started out as a railway stop that was conveniently located between Mombasa and Kampala, in Uganda. But the high altitude made the region cool and there was plenty of river water nearby, so Nairobi quickly began to expand and develop. A few years after its founding, the city replaced Mombasa as the British protectorate’s capital. The city grew quickly as British tourists came to explore the big game hunting experience. After Kenya became an independent nation in 1963, Nairobi remained the capital city.
Sights in the City
The first and foremost destination in Nairobi is the Nairobi National Park. Just 8km (5 miles) from the city center, it’s the largest tourist attraction in town. It certainly makes Nairobi unique. No other city can boast a park full of wild animals right outside its borders. Take an afternoon to drive through the park, or tour on foot to see rhinos, giraffes and even lions. The park is only fenced on the Nairobi side, so wild animals can freely wander in and out.
Other places to see are the Nairobi National Museum, Uhuru Park, the Karen Blixen Museum (located in the house of the famous author of “Out of Africa”), the Kenyan Parliament buildings, the Solar ice rink and the Watatu art gallery. There are restaurants that offer foods from many different cultures, not just African. There are popular places for Indian, Japanese, French, Chinese or Italian cuisines.
Life in Nairobi Today
Nairobi is a cosmopolitan place, where you’ll meet all sorts of people. It has a lively cultural scene. For African standards, the city also has great facilities. There are shopping centers, movie theatres, a busy business district, parks, universities and much more. Health care in Nairobi is among the best in Africa. As in any large metropolitan area, there are rich neighbourhoods (Karen and Tagata) as well as the slums of Kibera and Mathare.
The Size of Nairobi
The city is around 260 square miles in size. The most recent census figures put the population of Nairobi at just under 3 million people, and substantial growth puts population estimates at around 15 million by the year 2020. It’s definitely a city that’s about to take its place on the world stage. The population of Nairobi is a blended mix of many indigenous tribes, living along with Asians and Europeans.
Today, Nairobi is the main business and cultural center in East Africa. After some decline in the early 1990s, it has enjoyed good economic growth. However, there’s still a huge gap between rich and poor. More than half of the inhabitants live in slums. Population estimates differ between some 2 and 4 million people.
Visiting Nairobi is a must if you come to this country and it’s a all-year-round destination. Compared the surrounding countryside, it’s cool and the weather is pleasant, even during the rainy seasons.