Nairobi is not only the de facto first city of Kenya, the buzzing East African metropolis is also one of the engines driving the rise and rise of the African continent as a whole.
It is one of Africa’s key fashion hubs, hosts thriving literary and art scenes, is home to great restaurants and hotels, but most importantly Nairobi is Africa’s foremost tech capital – earning it the name the “Silicon Savannah.”
One of the most striking things about Nairobi, is that despite being a fully fledged urban capital, with a pretty grey and gritty downtown area, whole swathes of the city are set in lush and wild greenery. You can find yourself in forest settings, whilst being just a short car ride from shopping malls, in safari like landscapes and catch a glimpse of giraffes and Zebras and while still well within the city limits, and let’s not forget the backdrop of rolling hills.
It should also be noted that the city’s particular geography makes for a very pleasant climate, remaining in the fresh mid 20s (°C) much of the year.
Just to top it all off, a mere hour’s drive outside of Nairobi, you will already have witnessed the Great Rift Valley, and be well on your way to Lake Naivasha.
Each of HA’s hip cities have its own unique set of attributes to boast, and in that vein we would like to crown Nairobi as the destination with the most charming hotels. From rustic tree house lodges, to quirky colonial style properties, to cutting edge urban design hotels, to a country manor where giraffe’s freely roam the grounds.
Other attractions in the city include some of Africa’s best (and only) Museums. Namely the National Museum, which features an impressive snake farm, and the Railway Museum, an equally bizarre and quirky spot where you may admire the old British trains left behind from colonial times.
If you are doing business in Nairobi, or in town for other trendy purposes, it’s likely that you will spend a lot of your time in the Westlands area, which is home to many of the city’s plushest hotels and restaurants. Other notable areas include Lavington and Hurlingham, and Gigiri is an expat hot spot due to its proximity to the UN premises, the US embassy, and home of the popular mall, Village Market.
However if you’re in town for more than 24hrs it’s worth checking out, Karen, allegedly named after Karen Blixen, the Danish author of Out of Africa. The affluent suburb is also known to some as the “Wild West” of Nairobi, given the many European people living there who appear to have gone native, and can be observed living in big houses, riding in big cars, and generally looking rather outdoorsy.
Unfortunately, another distinct feature of Nairobi happens to be the pervasive security presence, from metal detectors, to police checkpoints with bag checks, and all sorts of rules and regulations, which make it impossible to forget that this is a city on major terrorist alert. Since the Westgate Seige of 2013, where Al Shabab jihadists killed almost 70 people in the popular shopping mall, Nairobi has taken extreme steps in an attempt to ensure that an attack on that scale never happens again.
In addition to the terror threat, Nairobi also has a particularly high crime rate compared to other African cities. This mostly takes the form of armed robbery, car-jackings, and sometimes kidnappings. We highly recommend that first time visitors to Nairobi remain vigilant, avoid hailing taxis off the street, and certainly don’t walk around in downtown or isolated areas after dark.
If you happen to be flying into Nairobi on your way to the Maasai Mara, be sure to stop and take a look around this exciting, and sometimes breathtaking, city. While Nairobi has its challenges, it is above all a city representing Africa on the move, and indeed on the up.