Nairobi is the capital and largest city in Kenya. The name “Nairobi” comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nyirobi, which translates to “the place of cool waters”. However, it is popularly known as the “Green City in the Sun”.
Nairobi was founded in 1899 as a simple rail depot on the railway linking Mombasa to Uganda. The town quickly grew to become the capital of British East Africa in 1907. Nairobi eventually the capital of a free Kenyan republic in 1963.
Nairobi has an estimated population of 4 million, Nairobi occupies 684 square kilometers and is currently the 13th largest city in Africa. Now one of the most prominent cities in Africa both politically and financially.
Nairobi is an established hub for business and culture and is home to many companies and organizations, including the United Nations Environment Programme and the UN Office in Africa.
A number of international events have been held in the city among them being the annual Nairobi Marathon, sponsored by Standard Chartered bank. This has become a signature sports event that brings together runners and supporters from all over the country as well as foreign participants to Nairobi, the beautiful capital city of Kenya and home of the greatest distance runners in the world.
History of Nairobi
Nairobi is the capital and largest city of Kenya. The city and its surrounding area also form the Nairobi County. The name “Nairobi” comes from the Maasai phrase ‘Enkare Nyrobi’, which translates to “cool water.
The area Nairobi currently occupies was essentially uninhabited swamp until a supply depot of the Uganda Railway was built by the British in 1899 linking Mombasa to Uganda. The location of the camp was chosen due to its central position between Mombasa and Kampala. It was also chosen because its network of rivers could supply the camp with water and its elevation.
This would make it cool enough for residential purposes for not only the thousands of Indian laborers who came to Kenya seeking to be employed to work on the railway line, but also for the British settlers. With such an apt location, it had soon grown big enough to become the railway’s headquarters.
The city was first incorporated in 1900 as the Township of Nairobi. The regulations governing it were published on the 16th April, 1900 under the powers vested in Sir Arthur Hardinge, H M Commissioner at Zanzibar by Article 45 of the East Africa Order-in-Council.
The regulations defined the township of Nairobi as “the area comprised within a radius of one-mile-and-a-half from the present office of H.M. Sub-Commissioner in Ukamba” and authorized the Sub-Commissioner to nominate annually a number of the leading residents or merchants to act with him as a Committee.
By 1903 the use of the railway as a medium of exporting produce as well as importing equipment had become noticeable, and there was some talk of finding permanent markets in South Africa. Nairobi was growing at a fast pace and new people arrived with every ship that docked at Mombasa. There was a little post-office halfway down Government Road, near the new municipal offices, which had been opened the previous year, these offices were grandly known as “Town Hall.”
In 1905, Nairobi replaced Mombasa as capital of the British protectorate, and the city grew around administration and tourism, initially in the form of big game hunting. As the British occupiers started to explore the region, they started using Nairobi as their first port of call. They were encouraged to settle in the country, and Nairobi was their natural choice due to its cool climate and fertile soils. British authorities hoped the Settlers would develop a modern economic sector.
In 1919, the Nairobi Township community formally became the Nairobi Municipal Council. Its boundary was extended to include surrounding part-urban settlements. The boundary was again extended in 1927 to cover 30 square miles.
In July 1920 it was proposed that a more distinctive title be adopted for the chief of the municipality of Nairobi the capital of the protectorate. The title Mayor was suggested. It was not until 1923 that the title was officially applied.
In the early years the growth of the Town had been controlled only by economic forces with no coordination of development. In an attempt to order the situation, a Town Planning Consultant was appointed in 1926.
Jacaranda Jim Jameson from Kimberly also submitted his town planning report in 1926; he had a great quickness for planting Jacaranda trees for the beautification of the town.
With the expansion and rapid growth of African wage earners there arose the problem of housing them. This was tackled as energetically as strained wartime resources would allow. Ziwani was a Municipal Housing experiment; Starehe, a Government Staff Housing venture and finally Kaloleni.
The development of Local Government in the Town was determined by racial considerations. Thus membership in the Town Council was dominated by Europeans, followed by Asians. It was not until July 1946, that the first African Councilors, Muchohi Gikonyo and Khamisi took their seats. It was as the Mayor remarked an historic occasion in East African Local Government.
In April of the same year, the Council’s attention had been directed to the fact that in 1950 Local government in Nairobi would be fifty years old. The council gave some thought to the form that suitable celebrations might take and it was suggested by Alderman Vasey that the town should seek the status of a City.
Top Things to Do in Nairobi
The gateway to Kenya is undoubtedly its capital city, Nairobi. As the transportation hub of the country, the city’s airports, roads, trains, and bus stations are responsible for ferrying guests to various destinations. These includes aquamarine waters of the coastline, the expansive Rift Valley Lake region, the wide open savannahs of the Maasai Mara National Reserve and verdant landscapes of the central highlands.
However, those on African safari in Kenya would be mistaken to leave the capital unexplored. This is as it has proven time and time again to be one of the African continent’s most dynamic cities. Read on to discover but a taster of what this magical East African gateway has to offer:
1. Nairobi National Park
Whilst tourists flock to Kenya’s Maasai Mara in the hopes of spotting the Big 5 and the thundering Great Migration, its capital city is a safari destination in its own right. It is also the only place where you will find a national park abutting a capital city. Enjoy the novelty of reaching the reserve by taxi and photographing a giraffe against the city’s distinctive skyline.
2.Karen Blixen Museum
The famed memoir and film adaptation, Out of Africa, has generated many a romantic notion about Kenya and the continent at large. The house in which author Karen Blixen lived between 1917 and 1931 has been lovingly preserved as a museum in Nairobi, affording visitors the opportunity for an intimate look into a piece of personal history.
3. David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Situated just outside Nairobi National Park, this wildlife trust has a carefully developed program for introducing baby elephants and rhinos back into the wild. Once a day visitors to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust can see these ivory orphans being bottle fed and taken for a daily mudbath. This makes for heart-warming viewing but be warned: things can get messy when these titan tykes come to feed and frolic.
4. Maasai Market
A stroll through Nairobi’s Maasai Market is the ultimate stop for keepsakes from your Kenyan adventure. It also gives you a chance to marvel at the creativity and ingenuity of local artisans and their distinct brand of artefacts. With its venue changing every day of the week, this colourful open-air market is certainly something to track down while in Nairobi, and is a fascinating (and somewhat chaotic) way to spend a day. Remember to bring your bargaining A-game!
5. Try Local Cuisine
What is a visit to East Africa and Kenya’s hub without sampling the local fare? Nairobi is packed with local culture and cuisine aplenty. Nyama Choma is one of the most popular dishes in the country and consists of meat slow-cooked over hot coals until tender and juicy, accompanied by rice and a tomato relish. Other favorites include Mandazi (a sweet doughnut) and roasted makai (made from maize and available from vendors on many street corners).
6. Giraffe Centre
With their distinctively mottled coats and adorably long limbs, giraffes are undoubtedly some of the most easily recognizable animals in Africa. Nairobi’s Giraffe Centre is dedicated to the protection of the endangered Rothschild giraffe – a species endemic to the open grasslands of East Africa. Visitors to this non-profit can feed and interact with the center’s giraffes and keep an eye out for the several warthogs that live here, too.
|Languages spoken||English, Kiswahili|
|Currency used||Kenya Shillings|
|Area (km2)||696 km²|