Kenya, the country with the freest land in Africa in terms of natural life, is reflected in the capital Nairobi with its wildlife, passion for tradition and contemporary face.
Towards the capital of the country that stretches on both sides of the Equator, you will meet an ideal climate as you approach the high plateaus of Nairobi through a pathway winding through lush hills and tea fields. 100 years ago, Nairobi was the fertile land around a water source for the Masai and their sacred cattle, today it is one of the most popular cities not only in Kenya but also in East Africa.
A cosmopolitan African town
Nairobi has a cosmopolitan and contemporary look with skyscrapers pointing to a brisk trade, hotels, and monuments symbolizing the soldiers who fought there. And, of course, as in all major cities, especially during the rush hour, the unbearable trouble of heavy traffic exists here. The area where the inhabitants can breathe in peace every Sunday is Uhuru the Park of Liberty. There is no room in this park for the slavery order of the past or the civil wars between the tribes. One of the important Sunday activities of the residents is church rituals. Every Sunday in churches in Nairobi, tens of thousands of Christians worship with prayers and joyful songs. This ritual does not necessarily take place under a roof. If you see those who worship, sing and dance with joy in the Swahili language in the streets and dirt roads of the city, do not fret. The worship rituals of the African Church, which is attended by many different tribes, resembles an exuberant street festival.
The colors of tribe people
Although it has made a rapid transition from tribal life to social order, traditions in Nairobi make their presence felt at every opportunity. Those who want to get lost in the colors of Africa and Kenya must visit the traditional outdoor marketplace in the center of the city. Even the rainbow cannot compete with the colors of Kenya’s most powerful symbol, the authentic merchandise market of the tribe people Masais. All kinds of goods and handicrafts produced by Masais such as beads, jewelry, masks, and fabrics are spread out in front of you in this mottled fairground, creating a truly dazzling picture. Many Kenyan women in the marketplace will attract your attention with traditional clothes and hair. In Africa, the woman’s hair is a jewel. It is not easy to have the finely braided hair. The hair is first divided into hundreds of fine bundles, then reinforced with synthetic pieces to give length and thickness and braided for about eight hours. By washing only once a week, it is possible to keep the hair in order for several months.
History on rails
One of the city’s most impressive venues is Fairmont The Norfolk Hotel, which undoubtedly revives history in every corner. The British in Africa, who wanted to develop their political and commercial powers, actually laid the foundations of Nairobi when they built railways there. Along with life, agriculture and trade have developed around this small train station. Since its opening, this hotel, which has attracted many famous names of all races in the world, was once a train station. Railways are of great importance in East Africa even today. It was an important beginning for the independence of the continent and its modern history. The decision to build the railway was taken to end the slave trade in Africa and was signed by the great powers. While seeing the vehicles in the carefully designed garden of the Norfolk Hotel takes people to the past, the Railway Museum in Nairobi exhibits the rich history of the Kenyan railways and its impact on the development of the country with its impressive collection. It includes train and ship models, as well as photos of the construction of the Uganda Railway, railway magazines, maps, drawings and the silver set used on the Mombasa night train.
The shelter of natural life
Nairobi National Park, Kenya’s first national park, is a paradise for wildlife, just 7 km from the skyscrapers in central Nairobi. It is also a shelter for more than 50 of the endangered rhinos. In addition, lions, gazelles, buffaloes, wild boars, cheetahs, zebra, giraffes, and ostriches, as well as more than 400 bird species have been recorded in wetlands. The Nairobi Safari Walk, which offers opportunities to explore wildlife on foot, is worth a try. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust near the park is the place to get close to abandoned baby elephants and rhinos. In 1977, Daphne Sheldrick started this rescue and rehabilitation project in memory of her late husband David, the director of Tsavo East National Park. The aim of the program is to bring back abandoned young elephants and rhinos to the wild. Knowing that you’re supporting the project’s conservation efforts through the admission fee, you can watch these cute animals playing in the mud and feeding on giant baby bottles.
From fossils to minerals
The natural history museums in Nairobi are truly satisfying. The Nairobi National Museum is a bit of entertainment and a bit of education. It is pleasant to spend time here with more than 900 stuffed birds and mammals, Lake Turkana fossils, ethnic exhibits from Kenyan tribal groups, and local art. You can explore the impressive rock and mineral collection at the Geology Gallery and learn about the life cycle of a volcano. Prehistoric bones and fossils, including the preserved fossil of an elephant, are also impressive here. If you wonder about live specimens of the most common reptiles in Kenya, the adjacent Snake Park will welcome you with its collection.
Before the beauties become extinct
The Giraffe Center is another nonprofit initiative and its main mission is to provide protection education for children. This is one of the most popular activities in Nairobi, especially with children. Here you can meet endangered Rothschild giraffes, learn about these elegant creatures and feed them from a platform. After spending time with these endangered beauties before they are extinct, you can enjoy a 1.5 km forest walk in the nature reserve next door.
Those who want to get away from the heat of Nairobi and enjoy a pleasant break can head for the Ngong Hills, one of the city’s top tourist attractions. These pointy green hills, known as “Ngong”, are likened to the back of a fist facing the sky, which means “knuckles” in Masai language. In the early colonial times, many white settlers built their farms with half-timbered houses and flowered gardens. You can enjoy views of the valleys below as you cross the hills from the hiking trails. A century-old house hidden among the trees at the foot of the Ngong Hills revives the story of Kenya’s colonial years. This is the home of Danish writer Karen Blixen, who devoted her life to Kenya in the early 20th century, struggling to grow coffee and educate blacks on these lands. To better understand this geography and history, you can read the book “My Africa” or watch the movie based on the book. The former house of Karen Blixen, whose pen name was Isak Dinesen, is today the Karen Blixen Museum. It is possible to see this well-preserved colonial farmhouse, where Blixen lived from 1917 to 1931 and operated a coffee plantation, the kitchen which is in a separate building, the coffee-drying facility in the wooded area, and the agricultural college in the field. The furniture of Karen Blixen and her husband and the photos and books of her lover Denys Finch Hatton are also on display here.
DO NOT MISS
About 10 km from Nairobi, the living museum Bomas of Kenya is a reconstructed traditional village complex showing the lifestyle, art, music, crafts, and culture of colorful tribes. Don’t miss the traditional dance and songs that take place in the theater every day.
At the Kazuri Bead Factory, you can both watch disadvantaged local women make beads and ceramic objects and support them by buying crafts. The word “kazuri”, which means small and beautiful in Swahili, befits these colorful, shiny beads.