City Stopover: Nairobi, Kenya

CITY:  Nairobi

COUNTRY: Kenya

YEAR OF TRAVEL:  2013

HOW WE GOT THERE: Emirates from Dubai.

FLIGHT HIGHLIGHTS: Blonde Aussie flight attendant gave us a bagful of toys and coloring books for children in Kenya.

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CITY BRIEFING:

For decades Nairobi’s been then gateway to the wildlife of the Maasai Mara game reserve. Now, Nairobi is bustling these days with a different breed – European social entrepreneurs, Chinese engineers, and overseas-based Kenyans who are flocking to the city to build Africa’s tomorrow.  Companies like Coke, Google, and GE base their African headquarters here for strategic purposes.  In addition, global non-profits, including the UN and HABITAT, staff their global talent here to address challenges faced across the eastern seaboard, including Somalia.

Setting Nairobi apart is the charm of multi-decade co-mingling. The 1950s and 1970s thrive beautifully in the 2010s. Cars pull into angled parking slots in front of mid-century colonial buildings. Waiters, donning ties and nametags with Biblical names like John, Samuel, and David, dish char-grilled meats with classic cinematic flair.

There isn’t a list of touristy things to check off in this city. And we like it this way.

What makes Nairobi most special is not the landmarks or attractions, but the warmth and optimism of its people.

TIPS:

– Nairobi is a clean city. Not that you would do it, but burning trash is illegal. This is great for us, because the air is crisp unlike other East African cities.

– Taxis are affordable, we recommend having a driver for the day, which is cost effective and safe. Besides, they’ll take you to a local spot for a mid-afternoon Tusker (beer).

– The ride from the airport is only 20 km. However, with Nairobi’s notorious rush hour traffic, it can take up to 2 hours into town.

– Single men, be aware of a few ladies at some bars/clubs. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

FAVORITE NEIGHBORHOODS:  For a first time visit to Nairobi, Westlands is the ideal place to be based. Restaurants, cafes, and retail shops are found here.

FAVORITE ACCOMODATIONS:

– Sankara Nairobi – http://www.sankara.com/

– Fairmont Norfolk – http://www.fairmont.com/norfolk-hotel-nairobi/

– Tribe – http://www.tribe-hotel.com/

FAVORITE RESTAURANTS/BARS:

  • Tamarind  – Located downtown, Tamarind transports its diners to the Kenyan coast, with a growing selection of fish.
  • Talisman – In the suburb of Karen, this eclectic restaurant is a gem worth driving out for. Standout dishes include Zanzibari coconut seafood soup, Ostrich fillet, and Grilled Mt. Kenya Trout.
  • Haandi – Indians have lived in Kenya for generations, and this restaurant serves up some of the most delicious Indian food in Africa. With simplicity.
  • Havana can be the starting point for your first night in Nairobi. Rub elbows with the trendy locals and expats sipping Cuba Libres outside the bar. Bring up sports or mobile phones to strike up a conversation with a local. Hopefully your night ends with you and your new friends dancing to Rihanna at Black Diamond. If not, hey, there’s always the museum to check out tomorrow.

SIGHTSEEING RECOMMENDATIONS:

– KICC – Kenyatta International Convention Centre boasts the 360-degree panoramic views of the city from its rooftop.  Make this the first stop to get your Nairobi bearings

– The National Museum of Kenya – The museum is known for two things a) the ethnographic view of various tribes/groups in sub-Saharan Africa  and b) the making of modern Kenya.

– David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – If  you can’t make it to the Maasai Mara, check out David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in town. It’s a haven for orphan elephants and rhinos and supports Kenya Wildlife Services’ efforts in animal conservation, including its anti-poaching campaign.

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Other Entries In Our “Stopover” Series:

Atlanta, Georgia, USA

Barbados

Frankfurt, Germany

Hong Kong SAR

Istanbul, Turkey

London, England

New Delhi, India

Seoul, South Korea

* Stockholm, Sweden 

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Lead-In Art Courtesy of Maaike Boot/Shutterstock.com