Surviving Nairobi (crucial to climbing Mount Kenya)
Nairobi has a fearsome reputation that I’m not sure it deserves (at least, not anymore).
It’s a city of layers: development, decay and more development. There are slums, there are skyscrapers, there are soldiers outside of every building. There are beggars of course; tragic street kids with a glue habit; young men hustling you for souvenirs and safari tours; rich Africans in expensive 4x4s with tinted windows; but most of all bustling people that are just going about their day and minding their own business.
We finally plucked up the courage to get the camera out in Nairobi.
I have the impression that Kenya has changed a lot in the past 20 years or so, and Kenyans know this and are rightly proud of it. Often the locals would want nothing more from us than to eagerly tell us “Welcome to Kenya!”
However, crime statistics and traveller experiences make for depressing reading. I can only say from my own experience that I spent several days in the city, passed through it many times during my travels in East Africa, and nothing untoward ever happened to me.
Apply Common Sense and You’ll Be Fine
Common sense here means staying out of the slums; avoiding flashing your Western bling in public; sticking together with at least one other person during the day; and not wandering about in the dark in dodgy areas such as train stations and empty streets.
Some advise against walking in the dark at all, which is of course the safest approach and not too inconvenient; even budget hotels generally include a restaurant for you to get your nightlife fix. But in central Nairobi in the early evening when there are lots of people about it seemed fine. Or maybe I was just lucky, who knows?
Moving from Surviving to Sightseeing in Nairobi
Acting like adults in the Nairobi Railway Museum.
Once you’ve got over your initial culture shock of being in Africa, peeked your head out of your hotel door and realised, “nope, probably not going to get mugged,” – it’s time to explore! There’s enough to see to fill two or three days. The most famous sight is the Nairobi National Park where you can see both elephants and skyscrapers simultaneously – though you do have to shell out on a driver with a vehicle to explore it.
Typically, we chose not to explore the most famous sight. Instead we amused ourselves by visiting the Nairobi National Museum (including a slightly sad reptile house); the Nairobi gallery (featuring an impressive collection of African art); the Kenya Railway Museum (we had lots of fun exploring the interiors of the trains, and re-enacting that scene from Back to the Future III); and going up to the top of Times Tower (now the second tallest building in Kenya, soon to be third) for a spectacular view of the city.
The lettuce leaf is a coping mechanism for this sad croc in the Nairobi National Museum.