5 things I loved about Nairobi
It's one of the greenest capital cities I've ever visited, with incredible food, friendly people and a lot to see and do during the day and at night. If you can get past the traffic, you have a city with a lot going for it.
I've tried to whittle down the list to the five things I loved most about Nairobi which isn't an easy thing to do. To read my in-depth review of Nairobi, follow this link, otherwise, read on for the five things I loved about Nairobi.
5. Peace in the chaos @ Singh Sabha Gurdwara
Nairobi is chaotic. The streets are an endless gridlock of traffic, the air thick with pollution and heated from exhaust fumes. People crowd over one another in the Central Business District, spilling out of cafes, waiting for buses or shopping in outdoor markets. The CBD is undoubtedly the heartbeat of the city, and also its busiest point.
It's why finding the most peace in the busiest part of the city was so satisfying. As you pull up near the smoke and queues of Nairobi's bus station you see a magnificent dome rising above walls. The walls are covered with people; sitting, standing, chatting, walking, but as soon as you enter the gate the noise stops and there is nothing but silence.
The Gurdwara dates back to the 1950s and its architecture is stunning - one of the most visually impressive Gurdwaras I have ever visited. I managed to speak to the Granthi Singh for a while and learned about the history of the Sikh community in Nairobi. Honestly, this is a place to visit, even if you aren't Sikh - get that moment of calm in the storm of the city.
4. Visiting the largest slum in Africa
Nothing will put your life in perspective like a visit to Kibera. I've visited favelas in Brazil, witnessed poverty in Amritsar, and came from first world poverty myself. But this is different. The scale of Kibera is insane with estimates of the population anywhere between a quarter of a million and 2 million residents.
The streets are narrow, crowded and raw sewage flows openly through many parts. The thing that struck me about Kibera was the number of children. They seemed incredibly happy running around playing with each other, but I can't help but think how much their future will be limited.
This is Kenya's excluded - outside of government services, financial services - this is off the grid in a completely different way. But life goes on, and I saw many little shops, barbecues and a fairly large school servicing this informal economy.
3. Stretching out with the Africa Yoga Project
The Africa Yoga Project trains wellbeing leaders in Africa, and they have classes across the city. Attendance is by a suggested price, and although it was tricky to find, I really enjoyed my first dip into the world of yoga.
It was challenging, but the teacher was very clear and patient (especially with me). The only shame was that the class was overwhelmingly attended by westerners, which is probably not what the project is looking to achieve.
2. Supporting animal welfare @ the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
Watching people post pictures of themselves with tigers in Thailand or riding elephants in Sri Lanka is one of the things that annoys me most. Many of these animals are drugged, beaten and starved into submission. I've only visited one elephant park before, and that was the incredible sanctuary in Lampang - where you're not allowed to ride any elephants.
This is a whole different level. The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust looks after orphaned and abandoned baby elephants with a view to reintroducing them to their natural habitat if it's possible. To ensure the elephants are able to heal, don't get too used to people and aren't stressed, the opening time is limited to one hour in the morning. What's more, the elephants are split into two groups, so they don't spend any more than 30 minutes around crowds.
That doesn't mean you can't get close to them, they walk right up to you, but it means it is done in an ethical and sustainable way. These are the types of projects that tourists should be supporting - not pictures with drugged up tigers and elephants.
1. Safari in the city @ Nairobi National Park
I really fell in love with Nairobi - but every city needs that 'something' - that thing that makes it unique. Nairobi manages to do that in a spectacular way - with a National Park in the middle of the city. What's more, this park is populated by rhinos, gazelles, monkeys, elephants, crocodiles, hyenas, buffalo and lions (among many others).
The park opens early - at 6:30am, so getting there early is important, but once you are in you feel a million miles from the rush of the city. Acres of open spaces are filled with the types of animals you typically associate with safaris. Only from certain angles, when you see the skyscrapers towering on the horizon of the park, do you remember you're only 4 miles south of the city centre.
I went on a relatively cold, rainy and overcast day, which resulted in a 4x4 getting stuck in the mud on the way to part of the park where the lions tend to hang out. That being said, as soon as I entered the park I saw a pack of hyenas and I still managed to see some of the 'big 5' animals, most spectacularly a couple of rhinos.
I don't have very many bad things to say about Nairobi. This was a list of 5 things I loved, but I could have easily done 10 - so I strongly recommend reading my more in depth review.
There aren't many places I would seriously consider living, but this would be part of that small list. The modernity is there, the culture is there, the food is good and the people are kind and friendly. Yes, there is poverty. but the country is rapidly progressing and I hope some of those children I saw in Kibera will grow up with opportunities that their parents and grandparents didn't have.
Nairobi has a well established Sikh community so it's definitely safe for Sikhs to visit. I didn't have any issues at the airport, or any issues during my travels around the city in car, bike or just walking around. It never felt unsafe.
Nairobi should be a city on everyones bucket list.
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British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.