2020 has been a slow start for running, but a great one for travel. January began with a trip to Kenya – Nairobi and beyond. Nairobi is an amazing city. And, like every large city has its own charms and peculiarities.
Since we all come away from our travels with slightly different perceptions of locations we visit, I will share mine of Nairobi and the events that helped shape those perceptions.
To know a city, know a few local people. My primary purpose in visiting Nairobi was the wedding of a family friend. It was an opportunity to join in that joyous and beautiful event on our first full day in Kenya. Noon-day nuptials, a reception and dinner followed by an evening of dancing – a true, day-long wedding. It was my absolute pleasure to be invited and to join with other friends of this family who have arrived from around the globe as happy as I to be a part of the day.
One of my travel companions also had a connection in Nairobi, a former colleague who lives there. Spending time, having conversation with local residents and listening to their take on their city and their country was so helpful in understanding and appreciating this region.
Nairobi has an Energetic Feel. I felt the entrepreneurial spirit here, from the roadside vendor selling barbecued maize to the up-and-coming businesses that seem to be booming. It isn’t difficult to spot extreme poverty and extreme wealth in Nairobi as in many cities. Here, you also see industrious people with a sense of hope and energy.
Traffic – Where are the Stoplights? I’m told there are a few, but I didn’t see any during my stay. Occasionally, during the heaviest traffic times, there will be an officer directing traffic. For the most part, everyone merges. It is like one great understanding of how vehicles should flow. With extremely heavy traffic, I didn’t see as much as a fender-bender during our 3-day stay.
Air Pollution is Noticeable. It’s moments like sitting in heavy traffic in Nairobi, and a number of other cities I have visited around the world, that I say thank you for our Clean Air Act. The air quality was most noticeable our last day in Nairobi driving to the opposite side of the city making our way south. Thankfully, my hiking kerchief was at hand to use as a mask.
Kenyans know how to do Hospitality. Nairobi is the most welcoming city I have found. There is a naturalness to the hospitality here, be it the greeting from professional hotel staff or the street vendor on the corner, we were greeted with a smile and a genuine desire to please visitors and guests.
Security in Nairobi is intense. Arriving at our hotel, the vehicle is thoroughly checked before being allowed in the parking area. Each time we return, we enter through a metal detector with personal items acanned. Larger churches have security lines prior to services. Even arriving at a restaurant for lunch, the vehicles is searched before entering the parking lot. Rather than being aggravated by this level of security, it was a clear indication of the seriousness of the threats to Kenyan citizens and visitors and the goal to keep past terror events from reoccurirng.
With that broad brush and perspective on Nairobi, my next post with take a look at the local sites to enjoy and to further understand this intriguing city.
In the meantime, have you visited or lived in Nairobi? What is your perspective?