The city’s name derives from the Maasai word, meaning ‘cool water’, also the name of the river that flows through. Additionally, Nairobi is known as ‘Green City in the Sun’, as it has its own national park! Nairobi National Park, established in 1946, is in fact the only one of its kind to have a city location.
The history of Nairobi begins in 1899. Three years earlier, British workers had begun to build a railroad linking Mombasa and Kisumu, Lake Victoria. The aim of this project was to open up East Africa for trade and colonial settlement. Just one year before the turn of the century, a supply depot and railroad camp were constructed in what at that time was nothing more than a swamp, inhabited by the Maasai and displaced Kikuyu people. Until then, the land had functioned only for agricultural use. However, the camp became the headquarters of the railway and soon many more buildings sprang up to accommodate increasing numbers of workers. A town was born!
Unfortunately, only shortly after this first expansion, plague hit. The town was burned to the ground, but from those ashes rose a hugely successful commercial centre, replacing Mombasa as British East Africa’s capital as early as 1905. Expansion continued apace, due to further colonialism, tourism, and hunting of big game. The British declared Nairobi a municipality in 1919.
Years of civil unrest followed, culminating in the Mau Mau Uprising between 1952 and 1960. In 1963, Nairobi achieved independence and was named as the capital of the Republic of Kenya. Subsequently the city grew again, functioning as host of the World Council of Churches’ fifth assembly in 1975.
Today, Nairobi is the second largest city in the African Great Lakes Region, just behind Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam. We tend to book it as an overnight stay, but if you are tempted to venture in you will find plenty of parks and gardens, swathes of shopping centres, fabulous food and drink, a bustling nightlife, plus monuments and museums galore! The Nairobi National Museum is the national museum of Kenya and boasts an enormous collection of artefacts, showing the fascinating development of this country through time.