There is a first time for everything they say…
riding a bicycle, swimming in an ocean full of sharks, and visiting a famous city like Paris, Los Angeles and our very own Nairobi. You think Nairobi is not famous enough?…
Well, we have a character in that mega-hit series ‘Money Heist‘ called Nairobi.
They were naming characters after cities, and they couldn’t leave Nairobi behind. Those producers are definitely smart; in fact, they deserve a medal of gold for naming a character after the Kenyan capital.
There are many things Nairobi is known for, and a first-timer will notice some unique, interesting things when he lands at JKIA or gets dropped at the country bus station from the countryside.
Wherever you are coming through on your first visit to the city, you will generally notice the following things about Nairobi.
Nairobi has traffic no lie. According to this article by the Standard, “Nairobi wastes billions in traffic” jams. I don’t know if there is another city in Africa with cars like ours, maybe Lagos because it is a way bigger than Nairobi.
But considering that Nairobi is densely populated and the primary means of transport is cars and buses, millions of people go to town each day and that only means a lot of vehicles on our roads during weekdays.
We are literally a car city. More roads have been added, but you will still find some crazy traffic any time of the day. It is not uncommon to see newspaper vendors selling newspapers on the road to cars stuck in traffic.
The trick therefore for a new Nairobian would be to overestimate any distance they would like to cover on any day. If you have an appointment in an estimated ride of 30 minutes, just assume it will take you one hour, and you will make it on time. Or else you will be late all the time.
Nairobians are notorious for being late to meetings and events because of heavy traffic.
Traffic is not a good thing, but hey at least we have good weather, not too hot, not too cold here. We don’t have winter. Nairobi has three main seasons; rainy, hot, cold and in between dominating more than the rest. You are less likely to experience extreme weather changes in this city. It is just the right balance; a kind of weather that you can live with.
According to a survey by InterNations Kenya is one of the countries with the best weather in the world.
However, if you happen to visit other Kenyan cities like Kisumu and Mombasa, you will appreciate the Nairobi weather more because those other cities, and even towns in Kenya are quite hot. Nairobi is known as the ‘city under the sun’ and the sun will just sun-kiss you when you take selfies, but the sun in Kisumu can dry fry you. It dries fish. And the sun in coast can give your skin sunburns.
Mombasa heat won’t even allow you to sleep with a blanket. There are very few shops in Mombasa that sells duvets and blankets; you don’t need them. But you will definitely need them in Nairobi.
If you are coming from a cold place like Nyeri, Kisii or Meru, you will find Nairobi quite warm and friendly because those towns are pretty chill. Russia of this part of the world. It rains heavily in those towns almost daily.
You can think you live by the riverside if you are in those rainy towns and I guess that’s why a lot of farming happens in those towns.
Nairobi is very competitive, I must say. The New York of Africa. Ask Tanzanians and Ugandans who visit here. They find Nairobians quite aggressive and unapologetic. We are always on the front line when it comes to grabbing opportunities and trying out new things. And people are always walking very fast in the streets.
You will wonder where they are heading to; school, work or sports.
I don’t know, but that is it with Nairobians, constantly running up and down looking for the next thing. The city schedule is just tight like that, even on holidays, you will find guys rushing up and down.
You see our neighbours, Tanzanians and Ugandans lead a slow and relaxed life. In fact the Ugandans party almost every day. Theirs is not a challenging environment like Nairobi. You can’t party every day in Nairobi; people are always working and hunting for money or opportunities for growth.
And if they can’t find things here, they are willing to fly out to do business in other countries.
Nairobi’s airport is quite busy with flights to South Africa and the Middle East. Most of them are city dwellers going for jobs outside. But you can make it in Nairobi; you don’t need to fly. There seem to be opportunities here.
As opposed to what many foreigners from other countries think; you will notice that there is a lot of infrastructure in Nairobi. Good roads, malls and tall buildings that almost touch the sky are being erected each day.
Nairobians are political because the most educated citizens of the nation are in Nairobi. I think this is common with any capital.
Whenever there is a gathering of more than 3 Nairobians, you will find a political argument coming up. We are in a thriving democracy; thus, it is normal for city residents to be arguing about the state of the economy, leadership etc.
City politics are quite exciting, and I guess we are all political animals, and you can’t escape that political environment in any society.
There are a lot of foreigners in Nairobi, so you will not be alone if you are a newcomer. You will find some company.
Nairobi is full of West Africans, South Africans, and Americanos too. It is not all black as you might think.
A friend would tell me “I used to think I would be the only white person when I came over, but I have found a lot of ‘comrades’ here“.
Well, it is one of the safest cities in Africa and thus attractive to people from all over the world.
And I know you will enjoy your stay.
First-time in Nairobi is both an exciting and scary experience. An adrenaline rush!
Enjoy your stay!