Nairobi, the capital city of the Republic (1670 metres above sea level and 270 sq.miles) has since 1899 grown from a simple Uganda Railway construction camp named “enairobe” in Maasai language (meaning a place of cold water in reference to the cold waters of Nairobi River) to the modern centre of commercial, financial, manufacturing and tourist destination in eastern Africa. It replaced Mombasa as Kenya’s capital in 1907 and became a city in 1950. Today, the city population stands well over 1.5 million. Both the Great North Road (Cairo to Cape Town) and the Trans-African Highway (Mombasa to Lagos) pass through the city. It’s mean annual temperature is 17’C and the mean annual rainfall is 1,080 mm. Rains come in March to May and the end of October to December. June, July and August are generally cool. The city is famous for its satisfying hospitality to visitors, with its wide ranging classes of high standard hotels offering international cuisines, in-building shops and a great variety of evening entertainments. Prestigious buildings like the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC – 27 storeys), I.C.E.A., Hilton Hotel, Hotel Intercontinental, Lillian Towers, Co-operative House, NSSF Building, Fedha Towers and Nyayo House have sprang in the city since independence.
Most tourists to Kenya only spend one or two nights in Nairobi, time which is often spent in shopping, searching out Kenyan mementoes and gifts to take home. There are soapstone carvings, wonderful ethnic jewellery, many wooden carvings, colourful cloth kanga and kikoi… Most hotels have souvenir shops. African Heritage shops (downtown and on the airport road) have a broad selection and good displays. Leave behind your valuables, but take your humour, patience and bargaining skills and have fun. Downtown Nairobi is full of souvenir shops.
Main entertainment centres include – Bomas of Kenya with exhibitions of African traditional dances and culture plus Alliance Francaise, Geothe Institute, Italian Cultural Centre, Japan Information and Culture Centre, National Archives, International Casino, National Museum, Public Parks and Gardens and many cinema theatres.
Other sightseeing options are: Karen Blixen Museum, the house where Karen Blixen lived from the “Out of Africa ” fame; National Museum, famous for Leakey pre-history discoveries and tribal artifacts; Utamaduni, an upmarket craft centre in Langata; Kazuri Beads, original ceramics in Karen and the Craft Market and Undugu Co-op store in the Westlands area.