Blogger Mark Wiens, a food and travel writer who’s online musings have garnered plenty of worldwide attention, gives us a taste of one of his favourite cities in Africa.
Nairobi is the capital and largest city of Kenya. It’s an African city of extreme contrasts, a place where the modern and traditional mix, the rich and poor coexist, and where one can be stuck in a noisy traffic jam one moment and tucked away in a peaceful neighborhood the next. The diversity of Nairobi, and the multitude of attractions it offers, makes it such an incredible city to visit!
Bordering Nairobi’s glass and concrete skyscraper packed downtown, is the Nairobi National Park which teems with wild giraffes, zebras, lions, and cheetahs. While one moment you can be shopping at a modern mall, the next you can be up close and personal with African wildlife in their natural habitat.
For more incredible Nairobi wildlife experiences, be sure to check out the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage (pictured) where you can pet baby elephants, and the Nairobi Giraffe Centre, where you’ll have a chance to feed these towering creatures.
2. Shopping and Markets
No matter what you’re searching for, it can be found somewhere in Nairobi. The city is home to plenty of modern shopping malls as well as makeshift sprawling markets. I like to go to Toi Market, a second hand market with a great selection of clothes, shoes, cd’s, and hair styling salons.
For Kenyan art and handicrafts, check out the Triangle Market (Blue Dukas) opposite Sarit Center, and the famous Maasai Market.
Local Kenyans in Nairobi enjoy having a good time, and there are plenty of ways to be entertained when you’re in town. From watching a live sports match to browsing an art museum, the spectrum of attractions caters to everyone. Kenyans are passionate about music, and there are frequent concerts and bashes that take place in Nairobi.
For nightlife, there are no shortage of options either. The area of Westlands is home to numerous bars and nightclubs, while downtown includes a few well known choices as well. For a more relaxing experience, duck into one of the many dark nyama choma stalls for some meat, Tusker, and Lingala music!
4. International Influence
As one of the most influential hubs of East and Central Africa, along with being home to Africa’s United Nations headquarters, Nairobi is a serious melting pot of diverse cultures.
The influence of the Middle East, India, Britain, and many neighboring countries are noticeably evident in everyday aspects of life throughout Nairobi. One of my favorite places to get a dose of international culture and food is at Diamond Plaza, a local Kenyan Indian shopping center. The food court offers a spectacular selection of curries and grilled tandoori chicken.
5. Nyama Choma (Roasted Meat)
Nothing is more popular to eat in Nairobi than nyama choma, Kenyan style roasted meat. Goat (mbuzi choma), is the most beloved choice, but you can also get beef or chicken (kuku choma). Nyama choma is placed on a giant cutting board, sliced up into bite sized pieces, and served with just salt and pili pili (peppers). I also like to eat my nyama choma with a side of kachumbari – a combination of chopped tomatoes, onions, and dhania (cilantro).
There are countless street side restaurants in Nairobi where you’ll find nyama choma, but my personal favorite is Kenyatta Market for lunch. There are a series of stalls that roast top quality meat that’s always ready to be served.
This is just a flavor of the incredible array of things to experience in Nairobi, there’s still so much more to discover!