While Nairobi today is certainly not the small station depot it used to be, it cannot really be classed as a very big city. It is not a city one goes to visit just for the city itself. But this is the gateway to an immensely beautiful and adventurous country with unique features not available anywhere else in the world. It has many drawbacks yet it is a friendly city and it can really grow on you, if you have the right approach. The place can be lively and interesting. It has a unique culture. Where else can one see Maasai warriors in traditional attire walking along with modern business people? The city is perpetually busy and colorful.
The central business district has all the facilities and provisions for the traveler. Nairobi has really developed around the central business district. The Kenyan Parliament is located in this region and so is the City Hall and City Square. Recent trend as in many cities is for corporates to move out of the main district and move towards the outskirts where land is cheaper. In Nairobi this trend is towards two areas about a couple of kms away. These are the Upper Hill area and the Westlands. Many new constructions are seen. The famous Nairobi Business Park and other such business parks have come up in recent times. Companies from the Middle East have shown interest in establishing regional headquarters in Nairobi.
In Africa Nairobi stands out with many corporates keeping their head quarters here. Nairobi is the region’s economic headquarters and new corporate and commercial development can be seen along the airport road.
The airport is the largest in East Africa. Kenyan Airways is head quartered here. Nairobi also has huge industrial centers and hosts the regional offices of many international companies. Nairobi produces processed food, soaps, chemicals, beer, textiles, building material etc. It gives employment to many and also provides jobs for skilled workers and laborers. A huge number of immigrants are drawn to Nairobi in the hope of better lifestyle and work. The UNO has a large set up in Nairobi.
Agriculture and tourism are still the major sources of income. Flower export is another big market.
As in any modern city and definitely more noticeably here, there are slums along with modern structures, richness along with extreme poverty, poor infrastructure along with rapid development. Yet not far from the main city, one can go into a completely different world of open lands, rain forests and grasslands with the best wildlife one can see anywhere, right on the doorstep. A little further and Kenya’s vast scenic resources can be reached easily from Nairobi, be it glaciers, the Rift valley, the coastal belts, the peaks, valleys, jungles or deserts.
The city itself has enough to offer whether on budget travel or looking for the finest. There are great restaurants, fine hotels and good shopping. Cultural shows and traditional dancing and music are part of the daily life of this city.
There are mosques, temples and gurdwaras but the majority of the population is Christian and the Anglican Gothic style cathedrals namely the Holy Family and All Saints can be seen in the City Center. There are many churches all over the city as well.
The National Park in the city outskirts has lots of wild life and one gets to see cheetahs, rhinos and lions at very close range. On the way is the home of Karen Bixen, whose book and movie ‘Out Of Africa’ brought the world closer to Nairobi. This is now a museum. If one is fond of giraffes then the Giraffe Manor brings one closer than one can ever get to the species.
There are great Golf Courses in Nairobi, and good Mountain Trails. Clubs, be it for cricket, golf, trekking etc, abound in Nairobi and there is an ex-pat community of almost all nations. The city is vibrant today with museums, resorts and good night clubs. Tourism is still the biggest puller.
Unfortunately with modernization, the city has been battling increasing crime graphs. There is a lot of policing. There is political unrest and militancy. Demonstrations may turn violent. In 1998, the US embassy was blown up killing many. The ray of hope is in the City Council which is trying to restore the city. It has taken up road projects and is cleaning huge amount of garbage.