While living in Nairobi, you will experience everyday life in East Africa’s largest, most modern, and fastest-growing capital city. Nairobi is a study in contrasts; Kenyan society grapples with poverty and inequality in the distribution of wealth and income. For the urban poor, living in Nairobi means dwelling in slums and shantytowns.
However, the city is also home to Kenya’s elite and to the steadily growing middle class with their increasing affluence and leisure time. Tourism is an important source of income for many people living in Nairobi. Thus, there are plenty of amenities to suit everyone’s taste — and wallet. Life in Nairobi includes some surprisingly expensive pastimes, provided you can afford them.
For most expats living in Nairobi, planning their “time out” in the city first involves its best-known attraction: the magnificent wildlife that abounds in the Nairobi National Park located on the outskirts of the city. There, you can observe gazelles, buffaloes, and wildebeests against the distant backdrop of high-rise buildings. The Giraffe Centre provides you with the opportunity to get up close and personal with these surprisingly graceful, long-legged creatures.
If you’d rather see baby elephants and tiny rhinoceroses, you should pay a visit to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. Also, the East Africa Natural History Society (aka Nature Kenya) regularly organizes nature walks and bird-watching trips through the Nairobi Arboretum. Nature Kenya is involved in the conservationist movement and in promoting sustainable tourism that benefits the local population.
Of worthy mention are the national efforts being made in Kenya to meet world standards for ecotourism. After the first half of 2016, 109 facilities in Kenya are now eco-rating certified. Thus, environmentally-conscious expats can also find something they like.
If you are interested in cultural tourism, the Bomas of Kenya village is a good starting point. The location preserves and showcases the heritage of Kenya’s various ethnicities, including displays of various traditional villages. It is rather touristy, but it serves as a first impression of life in rural Kenya rather than life in Nairobi.
Furthermore, there are several tour organizers which focus on cultural tourism. They give visitors a glimpse of Kenya’s regions and offer an additional income to Kenyan residents. If you have never been to Eastern Africa, you might want to look into such a tour, which is not only educational for you, but also benefits the local Kenyan community.
Contemporary life in Kenya is much more multi-faceted than even the best introduction for tourists can show. While you are living in Nairobi, there is plenty for you to discover once you have settled in.
Music lovers could get active themselves, e.g. by joining a choir. Choral music is hugely popular among those living in Nairobi. Becoming a member of a parish choir, for instance, is also a great way to get to know new people. Religion plays an important role in the lives of many Kenyans, and church is a common place to socialize.
The less musically talented will probably prefer other activities to singing. The numerous embassies in Nairobi often host cultural events centering on literature, the fine arts, or movies. Theater-goers living in Nairobi should give the Kenya National Theatre in the Central Business District a try; cinema-enthusiasts should not miss out on the Kenya International Film Festival.
Foodies can take advantage of Nairobi’s variety of local and international cuisine. The art of food in Nairobi is shaped by its cultural melting pot of people and ethnicities. Moreover, it doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. Many expats living in Nairobi seek out the local Kenyan places and let their tongues take a culinary “safari”.
Once you have gotten accustomed to the local climate and altitude, Nairobi offers lots of opportunities for hobby athletes. The many successes of professional runners from East Africa are widely known. However, you needn’t strive to become the next Catherine Ndereba or Paul Tergat to enjoy yourself.
Organizations like the Hash House Harriers running club unite Kenyans and expats for social runs and races. Nairobi’s private country clubs host the wealthier residents when they indulge in disciplines like horse-riding, polo, or golf. As far as spectator sports are concerned, football and horse-racing are obvious favorites.
If you venture beyond Nairobi’s city limits, you can go hiking and diving. Mount Kenya — visible from the capital on clear days — is a wonderful destination for nature lovers, trekkers, and mountain-climbers. Africa’s second-highest peak is a Kenyan national park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. The Chogoria Route up and down the mountain features some particularly spectacular scenery.
Alternatively, you can head for the Kenyan coast. Diani Beach, Kenya’s busiest resort, and more off-the-beaten-track locations like Wasini Island and Funzi Island are ideal for sunbathing, snorkeling, diving, and bird watching. If you need a break from bustling life in Nairobi, a trip to the Indian Ocean is well worth it.
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