Experiencing Nairobi (part 1)

Nairobi is one of Africa’s most dynamic cities and I really enjoyed my two week visit. The traffic is intense, there is a strong multicultural vibe with some big global businesses, but you can also feed giraffes and elephants within the city limits.

Nairobi provided me with some unique experiences and also delicious food (see restaurant recommendations below). I have already blogged about my Matatu experience, which was the highlight of the two weeks I spent in Nairobi though I did a few other activities which I have decided to write about in 2 posts.

The first tour I did at the beginning of my visit, was a Nairobi Central Business District (CBD) tour which allowed me to discover the highlights of the CBD. I booked this tour through Urban Adventures which I would recommend doing as the the CBD is crazy busy and it helps to have a local navigate you.

My tour started at 9 am when I was met by George, an elderly Kenyan who was extremely knowledgeable not only about Kenya’s history but also the country’s political, social and financial issues.  Whilst leading me around George also offered tidbits of advice and recommendations for the rest of my stay in Nairobi. I had hoped for some company on the tour but alas I was the only person who had booked for that day –  on the positive it was like having a private tour guide.

We began the tour at the top of Uhuru Park, from which my guide was able to point out all key buildings in the CBD. Uhuru Park is the most popular recreational park in Nariobi. Strolling through the park I passed a few vendors, some monuments, a man-made lake and people just hanging out. Being a weekday, Uhuru was relatively quiet, though on my return the next Sunday it was a hype of activity and colour.

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View from the top of Uhuru Park
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There are numerous book-sellers in the CBD

Exiting Uhuru Park we then wandered past the parliament buildings and the mausoleum of the first president of Kenya, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta. It’s important to note that in Kenya there is a strict ban against taking photos in streets, near public buildings and at numerous other “protected areas”, so be sure not to take any photos. George told me many facts about the buildings that I didn’t know which made the walk really interesting.

We continued walking through the CBD passing Kenyatta Conference Centre (KICC), a 105-metre high, 28-storey building. It is the fourth tallest building in the city, and in the country.

The tour did not include a visit up the rooftop of the KICC but I did return on the weekend and I highly recommend doing this. Once atop the 28th floor you get a stunning 360o view of the cityscape. Access to the rooftop is allowed daily between 9am and 8pm. Foreigners pay approximately Ksh 400 (€4), while locals pay a reduced fee. Remember to have some form of identification with you as this is required prior to gaining access to the elevator.

After the KICC, George and I, continued to the August 7th Memorial Park, which was built to commemorate the bombing of the US Embassy in 1998. We then went across to the National Archives where I had the opportunity to visit the Murumbi Gallery housed therein.

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Meat and Fish section of the City Market

I then braved the meat and fish section of the City Market which was crazy busy and loud. The vendors were touting for my attention while I tried to both observe the happenings therein and manage the smell.  The upper gallery of the market houses the more traditional market, fruit and veg sections as well as a lot of tourist trinket vendors.

 

 

Walking towards the final stop for lunch, we passed by Jamia Mosque, one of the city’s most important mosques which was established in the early 20th century, and also took a stroll through Jeevanjee Gardens – the only park in the city that is directly owned by the people, having been donated to the poor people of Nairobi as a resting area.

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Lunch at local Kenyan restaurant

Lunch was at a typical Kenyan restaurant (I can’t remember the name) and found myself eating and mingling with the locals. I chose a vegetarian platter and sampled some typical Kenyan dishes including Irio (mashed peas and potato mix), nduma (yams) and chapatti. I quite liked this part of the tour (am a foodie and adventurous one too so enjoy tasting different cuisines).

After lunch we then took a “Citi hoppa” bus (an alternative to a Matatu) which allowed me to experience this means of public transport along with other locals back to the meeting point where I said good-bye to George. This tour was an excellent introduction to my Nairobi visit and I ended the tour full of local knowledge and ready to explore Nairobi further.

Restaurant Recommendations

Other tips

  • Uber is operational in Nairobi and its much cheaper than the local taxis
  • Get a simcard with data from Airtel or Safaricom

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