When you take a walk in the Nairobi city centre (along the Kenyatta Avenue and Kimathi Street axis), you enter a time warp. You fast forward to what Nigeria’s Isale Eko and Marina would be like with constant electricity and law & order.
In the city centre, there’s a surfeit of multilevel shopping complexes, Bureau De Change offices, fast food restaurants and people, including the requisite “area boys” and beggars that seem to dot many African cities.
Nairobi is a thriving hub of commerce and enterprise. But it’s accessible to both the rich and the not-so-rich. You can rent a shop with the equivalent of N5,000 a month. A flat that would cost N20m to buy in Lagos, costs N6m in Nairobi. You can also raise capital and credit through the entrenched cooperative financial system. (I was informed by my guide, that to own one or two commercial buses in Kenya, you must go through the cooperative system. You’re only allowed to self-finance a fleet.)
I spent a few days in Nairobi and wondered why no one was smoking on the streets. I was informed that the fine for public indulgence was $500. While smoking doesn’t seem to be a Kenyan habit; drinking and a lifelong love for BBQ meat (Nyama Choma) are.
Like other African nations that were colonised, you’ll see a healthy mix of foreigners – Europeans, Indians and Arabs – alongside native citizens. There is tolerance here. But there is also fear and religious extremism. Kenya has had its share of terrorist attacks. The result is that some freedoms have been curtailed. Certain areas are designated no-photograph zones, for instance.
The Police are well-trained and polite. They take permission to search your car and my guide informed me that there’s a mobile app that citizens and tourists can use to report police aggression, on-the-spot.
I noticed the African family factor in Kenya, where the family of the ruling class is entrenched in business and commerce, with no trace of irony.
Kenya takes tourism seriously. You cannot take commercial photographs (with zoom lens, tripod and all) in some tourist areas. You can however take personal photos on your phone for social media. (How this policy hopes to endure with the increasing pixel strength of mobile phones, is beyond me.)
While in Nairobi, I visited the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trusts’ Elephant Orphans Project, where vulnerable and abandoned baby elephants found on Reserves, are rehabilitated till they are about 3 years old. They are then reintroduced to the wild. My tour group was informed that after re-introduction, it may take up to 5 years for the elephants to form bonds with, and get adopted by wild elephants. During that time, the orphanage provides support.
It was amusing to learn that each baby elephant takes up to 24 litres of human baby formula a day. I did the quick math and wondered who had the contract for milk supplies. ?
I was intrigued by the work of late Daphne Sheldrick, the Kenyan-British woman who founded the orphanage in honour of her late husband, David Sheldrick. It reminded me of the work of Susanne Wenger (Adunni Olorisha), in Nigeria. It’s amazing what people give their lives to and the enduring legacies that they build.
I went to The African Fund for Endangered Wildlife Girrafe Park. At the park, if you’re not squeamish, you can feed the giraffes mouth-to-mouth. Apparently their mouths are quite antiseptic!
I also paid a visit to the Nairobi National Park, located in the middle of the city. I saw Zebras who remain safe as long as they stay in packs. But apparently, there’s always that stubborn male who leaves the pack and becomes lion prey.
I saw Impalas and learnt the males operate a 2-week dominant cycle, where they mate with up to 30 to 40 females, before another male takes over.
I saw Warthogs and it was interesting how the first thing that came to mind for my tour group, was Pumbaa from Lion King.
I wonder how long the National Park will last. You can see commercial projects all around the horizon. But, there’s something achingly beautiful and grounding about seeing the animals running free, so close to modern development. I think the Reserve will be a good anchor for Nairobi. It will remind the city of its tourist roots and its link to nature.
My group stopped at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre to get a bird’s eye view of the city from the rooftop.
We dropped by Carnivore, the famed restaurant that serves different varieties of meat. I tried Ostrich for the first time. It was absolutely delightful. I also sampled a local cocktail – Dawa.
Le Palanka Pan African Restaurant is a good food choice in Nairobi. The chef is Nigerian, so my friend and I requested for our Jollof rice and stewed goat meat to be prepared to Nigerian taste. We were deliciously satisfied.
In the downtown area, there are quite a number of food options along Kimathi Street near GTBank, from KFC to coffee shops to local restaurants. I tried Kilimanjaro Restaurant.
On our way out of Kenya, we discovered you just can’t arrive at the airport. Your vehicle must go through a truck scanner and the occupants must step down to go through a body scanner, about 2km away from the airport. You then pick up a parking ticket from an unmanned machine about 1 km away.
My trip to Nairobi was unsettling. One notices little things while traveling. How impossible it is to deploy tech on a massive scale in Nigeria without light.
You may view photos from my Nairobi trip here.Nairobi is a thriving hub of commerce & enterprise. It's accessible to both the rich and the not-so-rich. Click To Tweet