Nairobi: Safety Precautions and Major Attractions
Русская версия Kenyans often joke about Nairobi saying that its name derives from the phrase ‘night robbery’. There is always a kernel of truth in jokes, and Nairobi is indeed known as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Just one example: when Victor asked for a photo with a policeman for his collection, the policeman asked for money for the photo. It is hard to imagine how such kind of police can protect someone. Yet, if you still decide to visit Nairobi despite its dangers, here comes our advice on which safety rules to follow and what is worth seeing in the capital of Kenya.
The major rule of Nairobi is not to leave home after dark. We broke this rule once to go out with a local couchsurfer to the nearby pub not far from home. Also, to get out of the city we had to get to the bus station in the evening. It was not dark yet when our matatu got stuck in the traffic jam and we decided to walk 1 kilometer on foot; nevertheless, we have to admit that “mzungu ”, people around kept shouting to us, sounded completely different at dusk.
Since it gets dark quite early in Nairobi, try to get home before 6 pm. In all other cases it is strongly advised to use the authorized taxi. You have to close your doors well too: once we heard on the bus radio that a white couple had been killed in their house at night.
The traffic is another point of concern. Everyone drives the way he or she wants without paying any attention to the traffic lights and even policemen. Once we even asked a traffic policewoman who was quietly watching cars crossing pedestrian zone at the red light: why was she even standing there? She just shrugged her shoulders.
We have already dedicated two posts to African transport – it was that unusual. Yet, it was only in Nairobi that we learned that the price for matatu (small public bus) differs depending on the date (at the beginning of the month after people get their salaries the price is higher), weather (it is more expensive during the rain since the driver will need to spend money on washing matatu too) and the time of the day (more expensive at peak hours). Such marketing deals are especially funny taking into account the condition of an average matatu.
The city seems quite modern in the center, the suburbs are full of slums, single houses and markets. The richer blocks of flats outside of the city center tend to unite into communities, build fences and have guards. Next to them the small houses of average people stand.
The main attractions are situated in the city center, while sanctuaries and zoos are outside of the center.
The cost of the ticket to the National Museum of Nairobi is quite high for Africa: it is 1200 shillings for a white tourist. Yet, it is quite big and very nice. You may learn a lot about African nature here, this is, for instance, the extinct bird called dodo, quite huge for a bird (by the way it was not able to fly).
The significant part of the museum is dedicated to all kinds of African animals.
The collection of fossils is a matter for museum’s particular pride: many of them are unique. For instance, the Black Skull found in Kenya is the best preserved skull of Australopithecus ever found in Eastern Africa.
Other unique fossils include the most complete skeleton of gominini (another sort of human, nothing more that we may add :)) and many other skeletons and skulls. Most of the exhibition is dedicated to Kenyan material culture, this, for instance, is the traditional sambu coat made of the monkey wool and used by the rulers of Kalejin tribe.
And this is the collection of gourds from different Kenyan tribes.
The exhibition dedicated to Kenyan traditions from cradle to grave follows the exhibition on material culture. You may learn here which rituals are or were essential when the child is born, how babies are protected from the evil eye and evil spirits, what games contemporary African babies play, how the initiation rite is held, how people are being healed and buried. The exhibition is huge and very informative. Circumcision rites, witches, the tribes with flesh tunnel ears – all you may learn here.
The Railway Museum
is another educational place not far from the central railway station. The museum includes a lot of antique stuff and some carriages and locomotives. You climb them which is why the visit may last for one hour.
The large part of the museum exposition is dedicated to the visit English queen paid to East Africa in the 1950s travelling by the railroad as well.
The Memorial Park in the center of Nairobi is established to commemorate the victims of the terrorist attack at American embassy which happened in 1998.
, undoubtedly, the best place in Nairobi is :). You may reach it on your own by matatus 125 or 126 (50-70 shillings) which depart from the railway station. Matatu will drop you at the gates and you will have to walk for 1.5 kilometers. Make sure you come before 11 AM when they feed the elephants! At the time of our visit the entrance fee was 500 shillings and the Orphanage had 31 baby elephants. The visitors stand around the stage fenced with a rope. The baby elephants are divided into two groups, 14 babies in each (3 elephants were too small to go out). The groups are let out in two or three to make sure that each gets milk. The elephants were very unhappy in case the nipple was occupied by someone else.
After that, full and merry elephants take dirt baths and cover themselves with sand (this is the natural sun and insect screen).
Then, the elephants walk along the rope which allows the visitors to see them closer, touch, and make a photo.
And then more dirt baths… In the meantime, the employees tell the history of the orphanage, enumerate the elephants’ names, tell in which circumstances each of them was found. Many lost their parents because of poachers which is why it is strongly recommended not to buy any ivory goods. You may also become the guardian of the elephant donating the sum which starts from 50 dollars: you will get the photos and updates of your elephant.
Then the second group goes out, they are older but not less funnier. They can already drink the milk by themselves.
The whole thing takes about one hour and this is the most pleasant experience we had in Nairobi. As a bonus you will see wild warthogs occasionally showing up on the road of the park.
If you return to the main road, you may also visit the Giraffe Orphanage. It will take 1 more kilometer by the main road and 2.5 kilometers after you turn towards the giraffe orphanage (you may cover this by mototaxi). The entrance fee was 1000 shillings.
At the moment of our visit they had 8 giraffes which you may feed and also some warthogs. There is a special platform for feeding the giraffes, you are also given dry food. Some people even put this food into their lips so that the giraffe would leak it with its tongue, which is a matter of taste, of course .
Some giraffes which must have been too full were walking a bit further away which allowed for photos which may imitate wilderness.
They also had turtles and a shop.
Everywhere in Nairobi you may buy very cheap and tasty fruit, and order the traditional grilled meat. People usually buy it from the butcher and grill it just next to the shop, at the special stands.
We also managed to get our favorite Ethiopian food in one of Nairobi Ethiopian restaurants.
Also, our couchsurfer braided Nastya’s hair into real African braids, which is why we loved Nairobi even more.
We spent three days in Nairobi and it was time to start for the final point of our African route – the island of Zanzibar.
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