Finally getting around to Kenya! I’ll start with Nairobi, my base of operations so to speak – it was the city I popped in and out of perhaps ten different times over the course of my three week trip. I’ll cover everywhere else I went in other posts. There will be many, many pictures and much rhapsodizing.
I had wanted to visit Kenya for longer than I can remember, and when I finally made it there, even the nondescript nighttime drive from the airport had me overwhelmed with anticipation.
I woke up the next morning to this expansive but misty view of Nairobi.
I could tell immediately that Nairobi was green, but I didn’t realize just how green until I had a look around. Then it became clear that Nairobi should be called Garden City. It is so verdant and tree-filled that being outside provided a sort of ambient therapy for my nature-starved self.
Take for example, the extravaganza below. It is not a park; it is just the “unused” space between a few properties.
I got my first hint of just how green Nairobi is after breakfast the first day, when I walked a couple of leafy miles to the National Museum. There, I saw anthropological wonders like Turkana Boy (1.6 million years old!)…
…and this 1.7 million year-old skull…
… as well as artifacts of Kenyan history…
…and beautiful works of art.
I also saw snakes in the adjoining snake house and trees in the adjoining botanical gardens, but neither were as impressive as the museum.
The next day, a Sunday, I went to Karura Forest, which immediately became one of my favorite places on earth.
I stopped in my tracks as I approached the waterfall below, because in many small ways (the wet rocky path leading up to it, the way people were hanging out on its banks, the fencing of the path surrounding it), it reminded me of the one I hiked to countless times in Philadelphia’s Wissahickon Park. Crazy how you can be halfway around the world and find places that feel like home.
And then there was this adorable creature and his little friends, who I happened upon while walking silently along a particularly quiet stretch devoid of other humans. According to the Karura guide, he’s either a Harvey’s duiker or a suni.
There is a beautiful, peaceful cafe in the park called River Cafe. I sat down at a communal table and eavesdropped on the conversation between an Italian couple who run a safari company and a Masai guide with whom they partner.
And then I started a week of work in the west of Kenya, which I will get to later. For now, let’s skip ahead to when I got back to Nairobi and started seeing a bit of the non-green city… Like this building that looks sort of like London’s Gherkin but somehow even more obscene.
And the railway museum.
On the same property as the museum, there is an artists’ studio, and I imagine that some of those artists are the same ones who painted the murals along the railway yard.
Downtown was a blur of crowds and cars and buses and motorbikes, but the really overwhelming center is pretty compact. And then it goes back to being green, like this spot just a few blocks from the busiest part of town.
Then there are the Masai markets, held in different parts of town on different days. My friend had warned me, “There’s a lot of good shopping in Kenya,” but I hadn’t really expected it to be much different than what I’d found in other nearby countries. I was so, so wrong, especially when it came to woven goods. I now own so many baskets that I’m probably going to end up using some of them just to store the other baskets.
Apart from going nuts over baskets, I spent the majority of my free time in Nairobi communing with nature. On my last day, I went to the arboretum, which costs like $1 to enter and gives new definition to the term forest-bathing. It was resplendent.
Finally, I end with pix of some but not all of the cute places where I ate.
Wasp & Sprout, which has a beautiful gift shop on the second floor.
I ordered Dawa, which means medicine in Swahili. It has ginger, lemon, honey and hot water in it – much the same as Beninois tea – and it is comforting and delicious. If I had had a cold, it probably would have cured it.
I had more ugali (cornmeal fufu) than I could shake a stick at in Kenya. Nyama Mama, however, is the only place in Kenya where I saw ugali pizza on the menu. I immediately ordered it because it was my only chance to get anything close to gluten-free pizza in Kenya. I also ordered it with avocados because it was a menu option and I thought, why not? It tasted nothing like pizza but it was nevertheless delicious.
I did not actually eat at Honey & Dough because I had just eaten at Nyama Mama a block away, but I went inside to take a look and it has a very nice interior and even better views. So, next time. 🙂
I also didn’t eat at The Alchemist, an indoor-outdoor food, shopping, and entertainment emporium, but I could have, so I include it here. (I bought a basket instead.)
Next up in Kenya, Lake Victoria and the West!