People in urban Nairobi jostle between jobs and have to struggle for a living. There is a big divide between the rich and poor. There is hunger and poor sanitation for the city slum dwellers and the slums are increasing with the number of immigrants who hope to have a better life in the city. There are more than 2 million living in slums. These large numbers only have about 1.5 % land to live in. In the rainy season these areas become dangerously uninhabitable. Garbage piles up in these areas which have no electricity. Diseases are rampant. Evictions happen often. Indignity and homelessness is the rule as the government has never recognized the need to formalize these settlements. Crime thus is an obvious course for many.
The Muungano Movement is pushing for the rights of these dwellers. The Government has been forced to now look into some constitutional remedies.
The non slum dwellers have fairly decent houses and some even live in large houses. The west side of Nairobi has the richer neighbourhood. Middle class is on the increase and with companies moving in, apartment blocks are coming up. Security precautions are seen in all housing colonies.
The British Raj influence is there and there is a multicultural and varied composition. Kenyan ethnic groups include the Kikuyu, probably the largest composition, Luo, Luhyia, Kalenjin, Kisii and Kamba. Amongst others there are many Europeans and a sizable expatriate community as the embassies, corporates and UN offices have their head quarters here. Indian and Pakistani settlers from the railway construction days have made their base here. Somalians and Sudanese immigrants are also found in Nairobi. There are thus temples, mosques and churches found in all areas.
Film makers and writers have been inspired by this place and it is the home of some great films and works from all over the world, besides famous Kenyan and European authors making it their base. The book and 7 Academy Award winning movie ‘Out of Africa’ by Karen Bixen is world renowned and was set in the vicinity of Nairobi. She lived in Nairobi and wrote about her varied experiences in Kenya. American film ‘The Constant Gardener’ was also made in Nairobi. Ngugi wa Thiongo is a famous writer of Kenya and is based here.
Nairobi is the core for African and contemporary western music. A fusion of Jazz and the African Luo music gave birth to ‘Benga’ a new form in Nairobi. It is very popular. Regular school and college music festivals are held here. It is a centre for African music. Musicians from all over Eastern Africa relocated to Nairobi after the political problems in their areas. Hip hop and western music integrated with Asian forms can all be seen and heard here. American musicians Bob Marley and Raggae styles have been inspired by this blend from this part of Kenya. Famous singers have performed here too.
There are many English speaking educational institutions as a legacy of the British and many good universities.
In Sports, Nairobi is the home to large stadiums where African meets have been held. Cricket, football, rugby, aquatics, athletics and now golf are popular here. The Kenyan cricket team is based in Nairobi. Safari rallies, car rallies, and marathons are popular. It also has the largest ice rink in Africa.
With all its problems, Nairobi is still the heart of Kenya and people of Nairobi know how to find their joy in each other and their music and dance. People who go beyond the daily problems fall in love with Nairobi and its ever changing ethos.