Kenya: Nairobi

Nairobi could easily be described as the largest, highest (1 700 metres above sea level), youngest, most modern and fastest growing city in East Africa. Nairobi is also known as 'City in the sun' and 'City of flowers', to mention just a few names.

Nairobi is less than a century old and has real claims to Western-style sophistication but lacks a convincing heart. It is as compelling a place as any and displays enormous vitality and buzz. Few cities have a more fascinating variety of people than Nairobi. On any downtown pavement you can see a complete cross-section of Kenyans, plus every variety of tourist.

Worthwhile destinations lie all around, with Nairobi National Park the first and closest target. Lake Nakuru and Lake Naivasha to the north-west and Lake Magadi to the south are just a few hours away from the capital. The National Archives are housed in the striking old Bank of India building amounting to a museum/art gallery in the heart of the city. The National Archives houses a collection of paintings, a photographic exhibition of the struggle for Independence and a delightfully jumbled collection of African ethnographia which includes musical instruments, masks, weapons and domestic artefacts.

Privately run, Nairobi's Railway Museum is a natural draw for rail fans and of more than passing interest for anyone else. The National Museum, with an extensive ornithological collection as well as a Gallery of Contemporary East African Art where principally Kenyan, Tanzanian and Ugandan artists display their work and wares, is probably the city's prime sightseeing attraction.

Nairobi is the best place in East Africa to buy handicrafts, with the widest selection and the best facilities for postage home. There are dozens of shops to browse through with very reasonable prices when purchasing traditional fabrics and clothes, traditional masks, beads, and lots more. The Masai Market, where some twenty to fifty Masai women display their wares, is a hot recommendation if you are after traditional and tourist Masai gear.

For the few days that most people spend in Nairobi, it's a stimulating city.

More places of interest in Kenya

Lake Nakuru National Park | Lake Victoria | Masai Mara | Samburu National Reserve