The name “Nairobi” comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nyirobi, which means “the place of cool waters”. It’s popularly known as the “Green City in the Sun” due to its proximity to the equator, with ample rainfall and sunshine all year round.
Nairobi is a city of extremes hosting the most modern suburbs and the largest slums in Africa.
The city is located at 1°17’S 36°49’E? / ?1.283°S 36.817°E? / -1.283; 36.817 and occupies 684 square Kilometers. Nairobi is situated between the cities of Kampala and Mombasa. The Ngong hills, located to the west of the city, are the most prominent geographical feature of the Nairobi Area.
It has a population of approximately 2 million people and came into being in May 1899 as an artificial settlement created by the European builders of the East African railway at Mile 327. Easily the largest city in East Africa, Nairobi is also the youngest, the most modern, the highest (at 1700m) and the fastest growing.
As the birthplace of the safari, Nairobi is a natural starting point for most safari itineraries. Indeed nearly all of the famous safaris of colonial history set off from here. But before you set off, you might like to spend a few days relaxing and discovering for yourself some of the many treasures of this surprising city.
Things to do in Nairobi:
Find a comprehensive list of places to visit in Nairobi
Visit the Karen Blixen Museum
At the foot of the blue-tinged Ngong Hills is the house where Karen Blixen once lived, farmed, albeit disastrously, her coffee and about which she wrote in her famous book, ‘Out of Africa.’ The grey stone house, redolent of colonial times long gone by, stands unchanged and set in rambling gardens with a glorious view up to the hills where Denys Finch Hatton, Karen’s lover, was buried and upon whose grave the lions came to lie. And if you listen hard enough, you can still catch the strains of her beloved Mozart from the wind-up phonograph out on the veranda.
Feed the giraffes at the Giraffe Centre
The Giraffe Centre, in Nairobi’s Langata suburb, was established by the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife and offers visitors a wonderful opportunity not only to stand on a wooden deck and stroke the velvet nose of a baby giraffe, but also to learn more about the endangered Rothschild giraffes and the efforts that are being made to save them. It makes a charming afternoon’s entertainment and can easily be combined with a trip to the museum above.
Do a City Tour
Our experienced guides will take you on the grand tour of this historic African city and its many landmarks which include the fascinating Railway Museum, the newly opened Safari Walk in Nairobi’s extensive and often overlooked Game Park, numerous charming old colonial buildings and the more recent ‘sights’ such as the Houses of Parliament and the mausoleum of founding father, Jomo Kenyatta.
Visit the Maasai market
Not only is the selection of cultural arts and crafts available in Nairobi second to none but also the ancient art of bargaining is alive and well and living on her streets. Choose from the Maasai market offering fabulous beadwork, talismans and charms or from a plethora of other retail outlets ranging from tiny boutiques to the massive City Market and displaying everything from carved ebony, teak and soapstone to woven sisal, intricate basketwork, hand printed textiles, paintings, wrought-iron work, hand-blown glassware, leather goods and novelties made from such unusual items as banana leaves and tree bark.
Dine at the Carnivore
No trip to Nairobi is complete without a visit to the world-famous Carnivore Restaurant where, in entirely unique surroundings, you can get your safari off to a really intrepid start with a famous ‘dawa’ cocktail followed by such hunter’s delights as: ostrich, eland and crocodile steaks seared over red-hot furnaces and served by sword. While for the more faint hearted, there are some fine vegetarian choices too.
Explore Nairobi National Park
Often passed over, but actually one of the most charming in the country. Nairobi National Park is often teeming with game such as rhino, lion and giraffe. And so close is the park to the city centre that you can take in a trip before breakfast. There’s also the newly opened Safari Walk Animal Sanctuary and a complex of restaurants and shops to be enjoyed after you are through.