Nairobi’s only been a city since 1954, but it’s been making up for lost time ever since. The capital of Kenya is now a thriving metropolis that continues to grow rapidly in a country that covers 582,650 square kilometres (around twice the size of Nevada).
Nairobi is always on the move, always changing. While its name comes from a Maasai phrase meaning “the place of cool waters,” Nairobi is more commonly referred to as the “Green City in the Sun.” Positioned between Somalia and Tanzania in Eastern Africa, it’s a place where residents and wild beasts live in close proximity — and might be the only city with a safari park on its doorstep.
Now one of Africa’s most influential cities, Nairobi is a vital commercial and financial regional hub, home to the regional headquarters of various major international companies and organizations. It’s also got the highest number of malls in Kenya.
Despite its youth, Nairobi’s growth rate has been one of the highest of any African city, with major real estate projects and skyscrapers regularly popping up on its burgeoning skyline.
“There’s a lot of entrepreneurship going on in Nairobi. Everybody is busy creating a life, also, the vibrancy of the city, wharf and business and tourism and hospitality, every part of Nairobi is fast. When I come to Nairobi from Mombasa, I found myself in a different landscape. Here people are moving fast, and people want to get things done.” says Najib Balala, Kenya’s minister of tourism.
Its growth can largely be traced back to the arrival of the railway system, without which the city as we know it would not exist.
The two have been intertwined since 1895 when the British were busy connecting parts of its empire by building a railroad from Mombasa on Kenya’s coast to the neighbouring colony – Uganda.
With an elevation of 5,889 feet above sea level, the area was chosen as a stopover point due to its cool temperature and the availability of food and water. In 1899 Nairobi was founded by the colonial authorities as a rail depot on the Uganda Railway.
Nairobi has long been the safari capital of the continent and its National Park plays a major part in the structure of the city. Measuring about 134 square kilometres, it’s home to more than 400 species of birds as well as a plethora of animals, including buffaloes, leopards, lions and rhinos and has the rather unusual backdrop of city skyscrapers and landing planes.
This sharp contrast between the wild and the city – an electric fence the only thing separating them – is about as unique a wildlife offering as it gets. After all, where else in the world can you witness at least four of the big five living next to half a million residents?