It has been a dizzying few weeks, I have made stops in several cities around the world and more yet to come. Each city even more beguiling than the next. I would however be quite remiss if I didn’t take a few moments to write a love letter to Nairobi.
On a cool summers Sunday, I stepped out of an oddly quiet Jomo Kenyetta airport into the Nairobi air. The week ahead was carefully planned, with some hard work and a bit of play. Anyone who has been here will tell you there is an energy in Nairobi that is somewhat indescribable. Some locals know it, others take it for granted. I call it the ‘Kenyan Savoir-faire’ because no matter the situation you can always figure it out. Nairobi is flirtatious but she is not coy, she will wreck you, yet make you beg for more.
My first order of business call my “favourite” Kenyan.
“I am in your city my love!” I yell enthusiastically into my mobile phone.
“Darling, this is amazing!” he echoes my enthusiasm, and so it begins.
There is something outrageous about the amount of experiences Nairobi offers. A good friend, who happened to be on his first trip the city, was marveling at every little thing. Nairobi, through his eyes, is a shinning city. Africa’s Emerald City, if you will. The city of super fast internet, and the local will settle for nothing less. This is proven true when my other favourite Kenyan and I made our way through Madrid and she was appalled by the internet speed in the great European city. In this Emerald City, you will get an adventure whether you want it or not.
There are no hoity-toity affairs here, the city and its people are full of boundless energy and it is delightfully infectious. Between sips of chai (which you must drink here), a new friend tells me you don’t have to go too far to find entertainment or lions, the latter has me excited.
The Nairobi National Park is some 20mins away from the heart of the city on a day without traffic, which is rare but possible. Nairobians claim that they have the only park of this size so close to a metropole. Truly so, because while gazing at Gazelles gracefully dancing their way across the field you can see the city’s skyline, where people bustle on about their workday.
I love nature and as we made our way through the park on the crisp morning, even the desperation for sleep couldn’t tear my eyes away from the animals. This effect is synonymous with every park I have ever been to. There is something quite awe-inspiring about watching a family of Zebras go about their day or to witness to speed of the Gazelle first hand. If you find yourself in Nairobi, make this trip, even if it is at 6am in the morning.
When people talk about Kenya not just Nairobi, they talk about the parks and mountains and the Mara. They talk about this other worldly experience, observing lions in their natural habitat or the marvel that is Samburu — because elephants. They talk about the great tea and coffee that is made here. Here, you can drink tea one of two ways here, the Kenyan way with lots of milk and little tea, or black with the milk on the side. The Kenyan way is worth the experience, chai.
The more I visit this country, and this city in particular, I see a new kind of Nairobi. The one that has a growing coffee shop culture, there is a Java or an Artcaffe at every turn and a skinny latte is one hand-raise away. Nairobi is the city of the young. Where Kenyan celebrities hop in and out of TV studios and make their way through the busy city streets. There is a party culture here, some of it seem to be imported from Nigeria, Kenyans know more about Nigerian music than I do (shameful, I know). These beautiful people of Nairobi, these 20 and 30-somethings are happy to go see a lion or an elephant but their natural habitat seems more in the party streets or a cup of chai at Java.
I must admit, though I had cup chai at Java and latte at ArtCaffe my time was mostly spent at Mama Ashanti. A Ghanaian/Nigerian restaurant that brings the pleasures of Nigerian cuisine to a lovely out door setting. I gorged myself full of plantains and pepper soup almost every night.
In this city there is a humdinger of life that puts all other humdinger cities to shame.