August 20th 2015, travelling to Nairobi
Exactly 6 months ago, around this time, I was landing in Doha, to start a new life in the desert. I carried with me a lot of positive thoughts and hopes, but also some uncertainties and doubts. At this point I know this has been the best decision of my life.
August 21st 2015, Nairobi, Kenya
We arrived and checked in at Intercontinental, a hotel I haven’t heard good things about, but which I really enjoyed. Well…crew, they love to complain.
As discussed before, my friend A., who I met in Koln at the Arbitration Academy, originally from Nairobi and holding a quite important position in the legal field in his town, Kisumu. Talking of Kisumu, a month later I found myself in Myanmar, watching the CNN African Start-up TV show and they were showing a business from the fishing area of Kisumu using the processed fish skin instead of leather and another business with cosmetics from…Zanzibar. I heart Africa!
He was wearing a suit and we met in the lobby of the hotel, together with his friend. I’m wearing a white dress and my long hair in the wind I don’t know how I manage to wear white only where the population is mainly black.
I learned few funny words in Swahili which actually helped me later on and the one that brings laughter on the Tanzanians’ or Kenyans’ faces is “Mini mi mzungu”, which means “I am white”, but in a very cute and non-racist way. You know, one has to be very careful these days.
Together with his friend, A. showed me the city, which was quite an experience and interesting adventure as most of the crew/visitors don’t go out of the hotel. Indeed, let’s say safety is an issue, that I did not have to worry about since I was with locals. Even so, it didn’t seem dangerous to me, but of course, I always take precautions – if I’m alone – I don’t walk at night alone in suspicious areas, I don’t carry valuables etc.
We talked about many things, from their system here, to corruption, to marriage, prices, government and medical system. I burst into laughter when A.’s friend tells me: “Once you go black you never go back”, of course with all the due respect.
We went past the Galleria Mall, The Junction, admired the huge houses in the Lavington area, realized the similarities between Arabic and Swahili, about Sheng (mixed language, mainly Swahili and English), listened to Lingala music, drove through Karen, watched the people outside selling and buying furniture, pots, flowers, had time to talk plenty and catch up in the crazy traffic.
A.’s friend knew quite a lot of history so together with what I knew before and read afterwards this is the short story: Vasco da Gama reached Kenya in 1498 and the Portuguese stayed in the region for around 200 years, then it fell under British control from 1885. With the help of Mau Mau, by 1963 Kenya was independent.
The current president is Uhuru Kenyatta (4th president), son of Jomo Kenyatta (1st president) who seems to be loved by the people. I was in Nairobi right after the famous visit of Obama, but by the time I reached they were only taking out the flowers they had planted for the visit.
Uhuru means freedom in Swahili and there is a highway in Nairobi with this name. My friends are telling me that the current president was called because of the independence of the country happening right when the current president was born.
Later that day they took me to the Nairobi National Park, which is beautiful and the people taking care of the animals are really friendly.
This song in Swahili is stuck in my brain, something about I’ll take you to have coffee at Java House.
We watch the lions (Simba, of course – oh, what a flashback to Nairobi I had later that month in New York, watching the Lion King in Broadway), the monkeys roaming around us free, huge trees, the hyenas (called fisi in the local language Swahili. Funny: the not so reliable men are called fisi by women).
Lunch was in Carnivore (Langata Road), one of the best restaurants in Nairobi and also a events and weddings center.
The perfect place for a carnivore like me. We had Nyama choma, meaning “barbecued meat” in Kiswahili which is Kenya’s unofficial national dish. Also, I tried Ugali, a sort of porridge with not much taste. The monkeys were still jumping free around us, up on the roof and down by the tables, getting in a loud fight from time to time. At the moment a famous national show was being filmed and a random girl I met in the wash room invited me to stay for the show. So friendly and nice!
We drove back to my hotel and I got changed in a flashy backless jumpsuit to get ready for the Nairobi nightlife of which I heard it’s excellent. We stopped for a drink in the Intercontinental Safari Bar on the ground floor where the atmosphere was just right, with a band playing Lingala music. Evey now and then I heard the word spy, but it’s normal, this is a five star hotel, where else.
Security is a plus to this hotel. They check the car on the inside and outside, underneath and in the trunk every time you enter the hotel. From the parking lot to the hotel there is a cage like double door that only opens when the other one closes, something which I’ve only seen at the American embassies. Actually, the rumor spread that Obama was going to stay here because of the many exit ways, but it was just a diversion. I told my friend: “Many exits means many entries”. The President ended up staying at the Villa Rosa Kempinski, but that is not certain.
We headed to Westlands, where we stopped at Havana. I love it, simply. It’s my kind of bar, not too fancy with Latin music, locals and foreigners, nothing to bother you. Next to it stands Bacchus, but the music was not my cup of tea, so we returned to Havana. It’s a fun experience, people are drinking outside in the street, standing, moving from one club to another. I drank wine, as usual, but noticed Tusker – Together Forever, the local brew. Guys, beware the “girls”. That’s it! Have fun, Nairobi, it’s a good place to go and a modern capital.3