NAIROBI

The name “Nairobi” comes from the Maasai phrase ‘Enkare Nyrobi’, which translates to “cool water”.

Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, has risen in a single century from a brackish uninhabited swampland to a thriving modern capital. The former swamp land occupied by the city now was once inhabited by the herding people, the Maasai, under the British East Africa protectorate when the British decided to build a railroad to open East Africa and make it accessible for trade and encourage colonial settlements. The Maasai were forcibly removed to allow land for white ranchers. When railway construction workers reached this area in 1899, they set up a basic camp and supply depot, simply called ‘Mile 327’. The local Maasai called this highland swamp Ewaso Nai’beri – the place of cold water. The location of the Nairobi railway camp was chosen due to its central position between Mombasa and Kampala, as well as its proximity to a network of rivers that could supply the camp with water. Its elevation made it cool enough for comfortable residential living. Furthermore, at 1661 meters (5,500 feet) above the sea level, the temperatures are too low for the mosquitoes carrying malaria to survive.

The camp became a rustic village, and then a shantytown, which by 1907 was the capital of all of British East Africa. The town was totally rebuilt in the early 1900s after an outbreak of plague and the subsequent burning down of the original town. By 1907, Nairobi was a humming commercial center and replaced Mombasa as capital of the British East Africa. The city expanded, supported by the growth in administrative functions and in tourism, initially in the form of British big game hunting. As the British colonialists explored the region, they began using Nairobi as their first stop. This prompted the colonial government to build several grand hotels in the city for British tourists and big game hunters. It was soon an important center for the colony and a Mecca for adventurers, hunters and travelers from all over the world.

Nairobi continued to grow under British rule, and many Britons settled within the city's suburbs. The continuous expansion of the city began to anger the Maasai, as the city was devouring their land. In 1915 The British passed laws restricting the ownership of land to whites. Then followed high taxes and low wages. Blacks were forced to carry identification cards. In 1919, Nairobi was declared to be a municipality by the British. In 1921 Harry Thuku founded the Young Kikuyu Association and began organizing protests as people became more open about their grievances against the British. On March 14, 1922 he was arrested. His arrest caused a general strike in Nairobi in which thousands of Africans protested and the British government reacted by shooting 56 protesters, 25 of whom died, the massacre shocking people worldwide, even the British. Although Thuku was exiled to a remote desert oasis, this was only the beginning of unrest that continued with escalating severity.

After the end of WWII, the friction developed into the Mau Mau uprising. Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's future president, joined the Kikuyu Central Association after moving to the urban Nairobi from a small village, becoming its general secretary in three years, a step that lead to his becoming Kenya's first prime minister and then Kenya's first president. Following the disputed Kenyan presidential election, 2007, serious violence broke out in Nairobi. In the Mathare slum, Luo gangs burned more than 100 homes.

Because the area around Nairobi continued to be a popular attraction for British big game hunters, the Nairobi National Park was established by Britain in 1946, the first national park in East Africa. It remains unique in 2008 in that it is the only game reserve bordering on a capital city in the world. The park is home to large herds of Zebra, Wildebeest, Buffalo, Giraffe and more. Rhino, Cheetah, and a large number of Lions are all found here, living wild within 20 minutes of the centre of town.

Pressure exerted from the local people on the British resulted in Kenyan independence in 1963, with Nairobi as the capital of the new republic. Nairobi grew rapidly and this growth put pressure on the city's infrastructure. Power cuts and water shortages were a common occurrence, though in the past few years better city planning has helped to put some of these problems in check.

The U.S. embassy in the heart of Nairobi was bombed on August 7, 1998 by Al-Qaida, as one of a series of U.S. embassy bombings. Over two hundred civilians were killed in the embassy and another 213 persons in the surrounding area with more than 5,000 people injured. 

Modern Nairobi is still the safari capital of the Africa, but the modern world has quickly caught up with the city. A frontier town no more, Nairobi has become one of Africa’s largest, and most interesting cities. Nairobi, like New York City, is a city that never seems to sleep. The entire town has a boundless energy, and is thriving place where all of human life can be found. This is a place of great contrasts where race, tribe and origin all become facets of a unique Nairobi character.

Nairobi, Kenya's capital and largest city, still conjures all the romance and adventure of its colorful colonial days. The city evolved from a humble camp for railway workers in 1899 to the capital of British East Africa by 1907. Today, Nairobi's rich history and tribal culture is brought to life in its excellent museums. The Karen Blixen Museum is a big hit, especially with fans of the Out of Africa book and film, who come to see where the namesake Danish author toiled on her coffee farm in the beautiful Ngong Hills.

But even in such a bustling city, wildlife is a huge draw. This cosmopolitan capital is one of the only cities in the world with a safari park in its borders. A mere 15 minute drive from the skyscrapers of the city center, you can enjoy a classic African wildlife experience at Nairobi National Park. Lion, cheetah, zebra, wildebeest, giraffe, rhinos, and buffalo roam the sun-soaked savanna here, and animal lovers can cuddle baby elephants and connect with giraffes at the excellent animal sanctuaries nearby. Nairobi is also the gateway to the world-famous safari parks of Kenya, which have captivated adventure seekers for more than a century.

1. Nairobi National Park

Kenya's first national park, Nairobi National Park is a haven for wildlife and only seven kilometers from the skyscrapers of Nairobi's city center. The park is also a rhino sanctuary, which protects more than 50 of these critically endangered creatures. In addition to the rhinos, you can see lions, gazelles, buffaloes, warthogs, cheetahs, zebras, giraffes, and ostriches, and more than 400 species of birds have been recorded in the wetlands.

Nairobi National Park is also a famous ivory burning site. In 1989, President Moi ignited 12 tons of elephant tusks and rhino horns here, boosting the country's conservation image on the world stage. Today, a monument marks this historic site. The Nairobi Safari Walk is a popular attraction offering animal lovers the chance to spot wildlife on foot, and walking trails weave around the area known as Hippo Pools. At the park's main gate, you can bond with orphaned baby elephants and rhinos at the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Nairobi National Park

2. David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

At the main gates of Nairobi National Park, this orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program is a major attraction for animal lovers. Daphne Sheldrick founded the project in 1977 in memory of her late husband David, a former warden at Tsavo East National Park. The center cares for young abandoned elephants and rhinos and works to release the animals back into the wild. You can connect with these lovable creatures as they frolic in the mud and drink from giant baby bottles. Best of all, your entrance fee helps support the project's conservation efforts.

David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust

3. Giraffe Centre

At the Giraffe Centre, on the edge of Nairobi National Park, visitors can come face to face with endangered Rothschild's giraffes. This non-profit center lies on the grounds of the plush guesthouse, Giraffe Manor, and its main mission is to provide conservation education for children. The visitor center displays information about these graceful creatures, and a raised platform allows you to feed them at eye level with specially prepared pellets. This is one of the most popular things to do from Nairobi, especially with children. After communing with these long-lashed beauties, you can enjoy a 1.5 kilometer self-guided forest walk in the adjacent nature reserve.

GIRAFFE MANOR

Giraffe Manor is one of the most popular accommodation choices in the whole of Eastern Africa. It is for this reason that availability for Giraffe Manor is often difficult to secure within 6 months of enquiring, unless it is booked with a sister property.

Giraffe Manor is an exclusive boutique hotel in the Langata suburb of Nairobi Kenya and the accommodation of choice before or after a Masai Mara or a Serengeti safari.

As one of Nairobi’s most iconic buildings, Giraffe Manor has extraordinary appeal, it is set in 12 acres of private land within 140 acres of indigenous forest and harks back to the 1930s when European visitors first flocked to East Africa to enjoy safaris. With its stately façade, elegant interior, verdant green gardens, sunny terraces and delightful courtyards. However, a fascinating experience about Giraffe Manor is its herd of resident Rothschild giraffe who may visit morning and evening, sometimes poking their long necks into the windows in the hope of a treat, before retreating to their forest sanctuary.

Accommodation in the Giraffe hotel itself, in the Main Manor as well as the Garden Manor all of which offer luxurious rooms with exclusive features and amenities for discerning travellers. Spacious bathrooms, large patios and the occasional visit from a curious giraffe, all combine to make this most memorable holiday destination.

Giraffe Centre

Giraffe Manor

4. Karen Blixen Museum

One of Nairobi's top tourist attractions, the Karen Blixen Museum, at the foot of the Ngong Hills, is the former home of the famous namesake Out of Africa author. Karen Blixen, also known by her pen name, Isak Dinesen, lived in the house from 1917 to 1931, where she ran a coffee plantation. Today, you can tour the well preserved colonial farmhouse, a kitchen in a separate building, a coffee drying plant in the woodland, and an agricultural college on the grounds. Furniture that belonged to Karen Blixen and her husband is on display, as well as photographs and books owned by Karen and her lover, Denys Finch Hatton. Enthusiastic guides bring the story of Karen Blixen and colonial Kenya to life.

Karen Blixen Museum

5. Railway Museum

The Railway Museum in Nairobi celebrates the rich history of the railroad in Kenya and its impact on the nation's development. Among the museum's fascinating collections are train and ship models, photographs from the original construction of the Uganda Railway, railway magazines, maps and drawings, and a silver service set used on overnight trains to Mombasa. A collection of steam locomotives and rolling stock are also on display, including a model of the MV Liemba, built by the Germans and still in use along Lake Tanganyika. A favorite exhibit is the carriage used during the hunt for the Maneater of Kima in 1900. Captain Charles Ryall, a colonial officer, positioned himself in the carriage to shoot a man eating lion; unfortunately he fell asleep and was dragged out the window by the lion.

Railway Museum

6. Ngong Hills

"Ngong" means "knuckles" in Maasai, a fitting name since these beautiful pointed green hills resemble the back of a fist facing the sky. They are a popular place to visit close to Nairobi and provide a welcome respite from the city heat. The hills are the peaks of a ridge overlooking the Great Rift Valley, and many white settlers established their farms here in the early colonial days. Half-timbered houses and flowering gardens remain, but seem more suited to southern England than Africa.

Several walking trails traverse the hills offering beautiful views of the valleys below. Wildlife is also visible in the area. Buffalo, gazelles, giraffes, bushbuck, the occasional klipspringer, and troupes of baboons are often glimpsed grazing along the roadside. For Out of Africa fans, the grave of Denys Finch Hatton, the lover of famous Danish author, Karen Blixen, lies on the eastern slopes, graced by an obelisk and garden.

Ngong Hills

7. Bomas of Kenya

About 10 kilometers from Nairobi, Bomas of Kenya is a living museum celebrating the colorful tribes of Kenya. This is a great place to learn about the lifestyle, art, music, crafts, and culture of each tribe. The complex encompasses a recreated traditional village with homesteads or bomas, each one reflecting the culture of a major ethnic group. Every afternoon, a team performs traditional dances and songs in the large theater.

Bomas of Kenya

8. Nairobi National Museum

The National Museum in Nairobi is an educational way to spend a few hours on a city stopover. The museum displays diverse cultural and natural history exhibits including more than 900 stuffed birds and mammals, fossils from Lake Turkana, ethnic displays from various Kenyan tribal groups, and exhibits of local art. In the Geology Gallery, you can explore an impressive collection of rocks and minerals and learn about tectonic plates and the life cycle of a volcano. The Hominid Vault contains a collection of prehistoric bones and fossils, including the preserved fossil of an elephant.

FOUR POINTS BY SHERATON

Four Points By Sheraton is an airport hotel, situated outside the bustling city with panaramic views of the Nairobi National Park. It is the perfect base for your Nairobi adventure. Only 5 minutes from the Nairobi Airport Terminal and the views from Tazama rooftop bar and grill are amazing. Relax in a modern, well equipped hotel with fast internet access and delicious food.