Nairobi

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The capital of Kenya and the largest city is Nairobi with a population of nearly four million.

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Points of Interest in Nairobi

Nairobi is known as the safari capital of Africa, however the city has still managed to keep up with modernization. Unlike other cities, Nairobi is surrounded by 113km² (70 mi²) of plains, cliffs and forest that makes up the city’s Nairobi National Park. The city is filled with many things to do during the day and the night. Tourists can have their pick from numerous safaris (wildlife, cultural, sport, adventure, scenic and specialist), ecotourism tours, restaurants, culture, shopping and entertainment. While in Nairobi, tourists can also engage in numerous sports from golf, rugby, athletics, polo, horse-racing, cricket and football (soccer).

  •    Nairobi National Park (just outside Nairobi). This is home to large herds of Zebra, Wildebeest, Buffalo, Giraffe, Lion, Cheetah, Hippo, Rhino and even birdlife (over 400 species). Here you can also go on the Nairobi Safari Walk, an educational centre to make people aware of wildlife and habitat conservation. Also in the park is the Nairobi Animal Orphanage.
  •    Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage (close to the Nairobi National Park). his Orphanage takes in elephant calves and rhinos from all over Kenya which were orphaned by poaching.
  •    Giraffe Centre (in Lang'ata right outside of Nairobi). The Centre breeds the endangered Rothschild Giraffe and has conservation/education programmes for Kenyan children. It also has many warthogs.
  •    Kenyatta International Conference Centre (K.I.C.C) (Central District). The best place to get that far ranging view over the sprawling, congested metropolis that is Nairobi. You can go up to the saucer-shaped top of the conference centre's round viewing tower and depending on smog and fog, you might be able to see as far as the slums and the national park. KES400 / KES200 reduced.
  •    US Embassy Memorial Site (Central District). In 1998 a blast rocked downtown Nairobi. A truck had exploded next to the US Embassy building, reducing it to rubble and killing 212 people some on staff, most bystanders. On the same day, the US embassy in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, was also subject to a similar terrorist attack. 21 people have been charged with the crime, including Osama Bin Laden. The former embassy site today contains a memorial that can be visited.
  • Nairobi National Museum. 08:30-17:30. Where visitors can learn about Nairobi, its history and culture. The museum celebrated 100 years in 2010.
  •    National Railway Museum. visitors can learn more about the history of Kenya’s railways and the Kenya/Uganda railway. It also houses, some of the engines and rolling stock from the country’s colonial period.
  • Nairobi Gallery, P.O.Box 40658-00100,  +254 20 216566. This is a museum housing only special exhibits, so the featured artwork is always changing.
  • Karen Blixen Museum, P.O Box 40658-00100,  +254 20 8002139, e-mail: karenblixen@museums.or.ke. is based on the Karen Blixen’s book "Out of Africa". Her house is now the home of the museum. It is on the outskirts of Nairobi and a taxi or bus can get you to the museum.
  • Bomas of Kenya. portrays Kenya’s culture. Visitors can see exhibits of traditional Kenyan homes, artifacts, dances, music, and song.
  • Uhuru Gardens. built in remembrance of the struggle for independence, which Kenya was granted in 1963. The monument is a 24-m (79 ft) high triumphal column supporting a pair of clasped hands and the dove of peace, high over a statue of freedom fighter raising the flag. The monument is surround by fountains and lush-landscaped gardens.
  •    Westlands by night. Visit the bustling and hip Westlands district, which has turned into the new nightlife centre of Nairobi. Many restaurants and bars line the busy Woodvale Grove and Mpaka Road. A visit to 'Tree house' club is a must if you are looking for a spacious one and crowd outnumbered with expats, rather than the otherwise congested natives dominated ones. Traffic can become hectic, well into the early hours. Security is generally tight and the action spills out from packed clubs into the street.
  •    Jamia Mosque (Central District). While Jamia Mosque is tucked away in between other buildings there are striking views to be glimpsed of its intricate structure from many different angles. Easily the most impressive religious structure in the capital, the interior is off-limits to non believers

Around Nairobi

  • Ol Donyo Sabuk National Park (65km from Nairobi). Centred around a 2,146m (7,141 ft) mountain, this is mountain forests and plains, with a large population of Buffalo. It also serves as a refuge for Colobus monkeys, bushbuck, duiker, leopard, and a large variety of bird species.
  • Tana River (An hour's drive from the city). White water rafting throughout cataracts, which leads to the 14 falls can be done here. The rafting trip also includes a full BBQ lunch.
  • 14 Falls. a waterfall at Thika

City Market

Kenyatta Mausoleum

City Hall

Nairobi City Stadium

National Archives

Teleposta Towers

Uhuru Park

Times Tower

City Square

Parliament Building

Central Park

Kenyatta International Convention Centre

University of Nairobi

National Assembly Building

Arboretum

Nairobi National Museum

Karen Blixen Museum

Nyayo National Stadium

Nairobi Railway Museum

Moi International Sports Centre

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About Nairobi

History

The word Nairobi derives from a water hole known in Maasai (an Eastern Nilotic language) as Enkare Nyirobi, which means “cool waters“. Nairobi, which was a swamp area, was founded in 1899 and was first a railway camp for the Uganda Railway. The city became Kenya’s capital - it had been Mombasa initially - and it also became the capital of the British East Africa Protectorate in 1905. With the spread of plagues in the early 1900s, the town was burnt down and had to be rebuilt. Having a railway helped it to have rapid growth, becoming the second largest city in Kenya behind Mombasa. The city of Nairobi also grew due to administration and tourism businesses (mostly big game hunting). The British, who were one of Kenya’s colonizers, set up shop in Nairobi leading to the creation of big hotels primarily for the British hunters. Also, Nairobi has an East Indian community, who are the descendants of original colonial railway labourers and merchants.

Activities

  • Safari in central Nairobi park.
  • Try the many excellent restaurants in Nairobi.
  • Go dancing and be apart of Nairobi's excellent nightlife
  • Go ice-skating at Panari
  • Visit Village Market and Sherlocks with your friends
  • Go to Maasai market and buy keepsakes for yourself and friends: On Saturday it is at Nairobi High Court parking lot, Village Market on Friday, The Junction on Thursday, Capital Centre on Wednesday. Prepare to haggle and as a guide, pay about half to two thirds of the asking price.
  • Do something different visit Kibera, the slums of Nairobi. Guided walks are arranged by Kiberatours.
  • Go-Down Arts Centre (South of Centre),  +254 20 555770. A former warehouse turned arts centre - this has also happened in Nairobi and this spot allows you to get a glimpse of what contemporary Kenyan artists are up to, including exhibitions, performances and discussions.
  • Kazuri Beads shop. Started in 1977 the workshop of beads is adjacent to Karen Blixen's Museum. Was started by an English women to provide sustainable income to poor Kenyan women. Has beautiful jewellery created of clay brought from the areas surrounding Mt. Kenya.
  • Oloo’s Children Center (OCC), Kibera,  +1 616 987-1106. Lend a hand at the volunteer operated school, take a tour of Kibera, and have a cup of tea with the OCC Founder. The founder of the school lives in Kibera and works to provide children in need with education and meals.

Food

Budget

  • Roast House. in the city centre facing the matatu station on Tom Mboya Rd. Regular local prices with more selection, excellent food, friendly service. Very busy at lunchtime.
  • Habesha. near Yaya centre- great Ethiopian food for around USD5-6, although they serve Nescafé coffee rather than the traditional Ethiopian freshly-roasted beans.
  • Smart Village. just Southwest of Habesha on Elgeyo Marakwet gives an authentic Ethiopian eating experience, with fewer expats than the more-popular Habesha.
  • Red Sea. is an authentic Ethiopian restaurant located on the top floor of China Centre on Ngong Road near the Chinese embassy. Meals cost around KES500 and the food is excellent, with nice traditional coffee ceremony.

Mid-range

Nairobi has a fantastic array of mid-range eateries.

  •    Abyssinia Exotic Ethiopian Restaurant, Muguga Green, Off Brookside Grove, Off Waiyaki Way,  +254 725 3515 1515. A delicious Ethiopian restaurant. Mains from KSH500-800.
  • Java House. with quite a few locations, including The Junction, ABC Place, and close to the United Nations, features a western coffee house menu, from bagels to burritos, with excellent coffees and milkshakes, and a full breakfast menu. Another popular coffee house is Dormans. KES500-750 for a complete meal..
  • Trattoria. is an Italian restaurant. Do not expect anything decent when it comes to the mains (all around KES700). However, there is a fabulous and extensive dessert menu, including crepes, tiramisu, souffle, and a coffee granita with fresh cream (KES250-500).
  • Motherland. is an authentic Ethiopian restaurant with great and affordable food (typical of Ethiopian restaurants in Nairobi!).
  • Havana Bar, Woodvale Grove, Westlands,  +254 20 445-0653. Popular bar and restaurant with a laid-back Latin theme. Renowned for their sizzling Fajitas, steaks and seafood dishes. Reasonably priced. The kitchen is open daily from noon until late.
  • Village Market Food Court. Has an array of different ethnic cuisines, including Thai, Italian, Chinese and German, as well as a Mongolian Barbecue. Good prices as well. Venture further into Village Market to find a good Japanese restaurant as well, though with slightly steeper prices. There are also food courts at other malls in the city.

Nairobi has a wide range of Indian restaurants that speaks to the significant South Asian community in Kenya. The city also offers other restaurants specializing in different European and Asian cuisine.

Common fast food restaurants include Steers, Debonairs, Wimpy, Galito's, local favourite, Kenchic among others.

In addition, there are several local restaurants that cater to local cuisine like sukuma wiki (green spinach-like vegetable, 'Kale' in English), ugali (corn bread, ground maize flour and made to a tasty white bread/porridge form), nyama choma (literally: meat roast), chapati and other specialities.

Splurge

  • The Carnivore. located just outside the city, close to the Uhuru Gardens, is a luxury restaurant famous for its meats. In 2006, the restaurant was listed as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. Once seated, different masaai grilled meats will be carried around on sticks and carved to your plate at request. Very expensive by Kenyan standards, beware of additional taxes and catering levies. Reservations might be a good idea, ask at your hotel.
  • Furusato. located in Westlands, has fantastic Japanese food. For a price.
  • The Rusty Nail. in Karen, has been super in the past, but mediocre of late. No reason not to give it another chance.
  • The Lord Errol. past Village Market and into Runda, is said to have very good food, and is popular with the expat crowd.
  • Moonflower. on State House hill at the Palacina hotel, is a very upmarket bistro / fusion / grill restaurant in a lovely outdoor setting. Fantastic food.
  • Pango Brasserie. at the Fairview Hotel features upmarket French and continental dishes. Dinner begins in an underground stone wine cellar where the chef will send out complimentary tasters while you sip a bottle of wine of your choice.
  • Alan Bobbe's Bistro. is a venerable, legendary restaurant now located on Rhapta Road (near St. Marys School). Founded in 1962, the restaurant features French haute-cuisine at about a third of what you would pay in Paris!

Drinks

  • Club Soundd, junction of Kaunda and Wabera St, +254 722 571382
  • Gipsy:, Opp,Barclays,Bank Westland, Box 40322, Nairobi, Tel: +254 20 4440964,4440836, Mob: +254 733 730529, Email:gipsy@nbi.ispkenya.com
  • Klub House 1 (K1):, is located along Ojijo Road in Parklands, Box 33003 - 00600 Nairobi, Tel: +254 20 374 9870, Fax: +254 20 374 7099, Mob:+254 733 77 22 33, Email.info@klubhouse.co.ke. [1]
  • Klub House 2 (K2):, Baricho Road, Industrial Area is home to K2 Klubhouse
  • Choices:, Majestic House, Moi Avenue, Box 53319, Nairobi, Tel: +254 20 550 629, Mob: +254 722 521, Email: mmuchami@yahoo.com, Leobag Investment Ltd, Baricho Road
  • Chillers:, Anniv Towers
  • Black Diamond:, many expats and travellers and has a cover band that plays very good music.
  • Havana: 020-4450653. Its an expats' favourite on Thursdays nights. The live band on Saturdays attracts a good cosmopolitan crowd. Bar snacks available throughout the night.
  • Apple Bees: (Strip club) located downtown and recently opened a branch in Parklands, next to the local Police Station.
  • Annie Oakley's:Next to Milimani Backpackers, has pool tables, a descent menu, and a big screen with cable TV. another expats favorite hangout.
  • Cockpit: Langata Road opposite Uchumi Langata Hyper, not just popular with Wilson Airport pilots
  • Barrels: Stripclub. Watch out for police raids
  • Red Tape:, e-mail: redtapewesty@gmail.com. Westlands, Mpaka Road, Bishan Plaza,
  • Florida 2000 (F2):. Located at Commerce House, Moi Avenue.
  • New Florida Clubs (F1):, The New Florida, locally known as Madhouse or Madi, is in the heart of Nairobi on Koinange Street.
  • Pango (F3): +254 20 229-036, e-mail: info@floridaclubskenya.com.. Commerce House, 1st Floor, P.O.Box 55381 - 00200 Nairobi, The Latest addition to the Florida Group
  • Double Inn: Also out in Karen, they show rugby/cricket games and it's always full of expats and white Kenyans. The place to get hammered.
  • Seven Seafood & Grill, ABC Place (ABC Place Waiyaki Way),  +254 737 776677. 24. Amazing seafood and spectacular decor a must visit. KES2000.
  • Klub Zinc Thika (Zinc Club Thika), Kenyatta Hwy (Opp. Total Filling Station Thika),  +254 20 262-1500. We pride ourselves as masters of all tastes and genres of music and also the ability to cut across generations as music is 'Food for All'.

The music ranges widely from the latest to the golden oldies and in styles such as Rock, Rhumba, Reggae, R n B, Hip Hop, Lingala and Salsa to mention but a few.

Patrons are also encouraged to place their requests and dedications to the Djs.

The atmosphere is further enhanced by the latest disco lights and effects.

  • Shooters & Dips Cocktail Lounge, 4372-00506 (Panari Sky Centre,Mombasa Road opp Simba Colt Offices,5km from JKIA),  +254 787 637948. 17:00. Chill out, relax and unwind at the dazzling Shooters & Dips where the decor transports you to an international surrounding. Listen to handpicked music by the DJ and let yourself go to the rhythm. The bar also offers a varied food menu along with a long list of signature cocktails, fine wines and liquors. Shooters and Dips is the perfect place to meet friends, meet new people and experience Nairobi's nightlife right in the safety of the hotel. KES250.
  • Mercury Lounge ABC, ABC Place (Off Waiyaki Way),  +254 722 309947. 16:00-late. An upmarket modern cocktail and tapas bar. Recently put under new management, Mercury is definitely the place to be seen, with a delicious tapas and bitings menu, and the best cocktails and high end spirits array in Nairobi.All major imported and local wine and beers are available chilled to perfection. A popular hangout for expats, well to do locals and local business leaders. A must for any Nairobi traveller. Ample parking and good security make this one of Nairobi's more popular spots. Shooters and cocktails range USD3-6 with shooters and high end, globally popular wines and spirits USD6-15. All major credit cards accepted..
  • Mercury Irish Pub (The Last Drop), Junction Mall (Corner of Ngong and Kingara Rd),  +254 722 309947. 11:00. Mercury Pub at the new Junction Mall is the latest and most authentic Irish Pub in Nairobi. The most recent addition to the Mercury Group, the pub specializes in the best steaks in town, a wide range of cocktails, local and imported beers, high end spirits and shooters and a superb wine list. Furnished in beautiful woodwork, leather seating, and with images of colonial Nairobi, it is located in the secure Junction Mall which has ample parking, good security and central location. Doubles up as a popular sports bar on the weekends with multiple screens. A popular expat hangout. A great balcony from which one can sip a cocktail while watching life pass by. Food prices from$10-$15, and all major credit cards are accepted.

Shopping

There are quite a number of networked banking machines in major shopping areas of Nairobi as well as the arrivals area of the airport. A Barlays ATM can be found near Gate 9 within the security area, easily accessible when arriving, and another one on the left side immediately after leaving the security area. Most transactions are cash only, so it is best to have enough cash on hand to pay for purchases and transport. Major banks such as Barclays, Kenya Commercial Bank and Standard Bank give better exchange rates than any of the FOREX bureaus. Independent machines such as Pesa-point have lower cash limits and may have a higher fee. As an example, in 2007 Barclays did not charge any additional fee for a cash withdrawal but gave a lower exchange rate than Kenya Commercial Bank. KCB charges a C$5 fee for a withdrawal with a maximum of KES40,000 per day.

Cash is dispensed in units of KES1,000. Note that many smaller businesses will not have much change, so before going shopping for curios be sure to have a good selection of smaller notes.

Forex Bureaus are located in many parts of the city where tourists are common. They will exchange cash of different currencies, and may also accept a personal cheque for Kenyan cash. They will want a photocopy of your passport before they exchange money. Rates are not bad, but will be worse than a banking machine will offer. Be aware that many exchange bureaus and hotels will NOT accept or exchange American currency printed before 2000. When the exchange bureaus do accept pre-2000 notes, they typically offer substantially lower exchange rates than for currency printed after 2000. Exchange rates are also typically lower for small denomination currency than for $100 and $50 bills.

Credit Cards Many speciality stores will accept international credit cards, however they will normally tell you up front that they will charge you bank fees, typically 5% of the purchase. The Nakumat and Uchumi supermarket chains would accept credit cards without a surcharge.

This may also be a good place to repeat the warning about safety. Pickpockets are rampant in Nairobi and have been known to keep an eye on people getting cash from a machine. It is best to carry cash in a hidden pouch rather than a wallet. Men: do not carry your wallet in your back pocket, and women: do not carry your purse to your side or behind you, particularly in busy locations.

The four primary supermarkets in Nairobi are Tusky's, Uchumi, Naivas and Nakumatt. For goods beyond supermarket fare, try Yaya Centre on Argwings Kodhek Road in the Kilimani area, The Junction on Ngong Road, or the Sarit Centre and Nakumatt Westgate which are both located in the Westlands suburb.

The Sarit Centre will be recognizable to any Western traveller as a shopping mall, with an Uchumi supermarket inside. Clothing, shipping and internet are all available here. In addition, there is a small cinema. Other malls in Nairobi include Yaya Centre near Hurlingham and The Mall in Westlands.

Nakumatt Westgate is a just finished competitor to Sarit Centre. It is a large building with many spaces for stores to move in to (they have yet to move in at the time of this writing, however the building is still unfinished). Currently, the primary occupant is the Nakumatt itself, which has modeled itself to emulate a Super Wal-Mart type experience.

Any taxi driver will know these two shopping centres by name, so getting there is not a problem.

An additional smaller supermarket, catering more to expatriates, is in ABC Plaza, along Waiyaki Way. Chandarana supermarket carries a wide variety of imported goods, Zucchini greengrocer is a highly dependable spot for clean and varied veggies, and Gilani's is a well stocked western style butchery.

For local curios and souvenirs, the most easily accessible and tourist-friendly is the Maasai Market, held on Fridays at the Village Market, an upmarket, open concept shopping centre near the United Nations and American Embassy complexes. Bargaining is necessary, and one should probably not spend more than KES1000 on one item, except in extraordinary circumstances.

For slightly better prices, visit the Tuesday market in town, just down from the Norfolk hotel. This market is less secure, but is larger and offers more variety and opportunity for bargaining.

Another Nakumatt is located at Nakumatt Junction, past Lavington towards the Ngong Racecourse (Horse Flat-Racing takes place 3 Sundays a month, and is a great way to spend an afternoon). The Nakumatt Junction shopping complex features a few more boutiques - one of note being Zebu, a store highlighting local Designer Annabelle Thom's leather bags and more, where you will find higher quality and higher prices for beautiful designs.

Biashara Street, located downtown, is the spot for textiles. Make sure you pick up at least one kikoi or kikoy (a traditional wrap for Swahili men, predominantly at the coast). Haria's Stamp Shop (been around for more than 70 years!) (www.hariastamp.com) has one of the best selections of kikoy as well as other African fabrics and souvenirs.

Safari

Nairobi is also the capital of safaris in Kenya. There are tour operator from budget to world class all over the city. Yet it is not easy find the best fitting. Here are some options.

  • Safe Ride Tours & Safari Ltd., Avenue House, Mezzanine II, Kenyatta Avenue. Low Price operator with good 3-day safaris to Masai Mara NP Budget.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Nairobi on Wikivoyage.

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