—  City  —
Nairobi's skyline at dusk.


Coat of arms
Nairobi is located in Kenya
Location of Nairobi
Coordinates: 1°17′S 36°49′E / 1.283°S 36.817°E / -1.283; 36.817Coordinates: 1°17′S 36°49′E / 1.283°S 36.817°E / -1.283; 36.817
Country  Kenya
Region Nairobi region
County Nairobi County
Founded 1899
Constituencies of Nairobi
 – Interim Mayor George Aladwa
 – Total 696 km2 (268.7 sq mi)
Elevation 1,661 m (5,450 ft)
Population (2009)
 – Total 3,138,295
 – Density 4,509/km2 (11,678.3/sq mi)
Demonym Nairobian
Time zone EAT (UTC+3)
Area code(s) 020
Twin Cities
 – Denver, Colorado USA

Nairobi (play /nˈrbi/) is the capital and largest city of Kenya. The city and its surrounding area also forms the Nairobi County.[2] The name "Nairobi" comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nyirobi, which translates to "the place of cool waters". However, it is popularly known as the "Green City in the Sun" and is surrounded by several expanding villa suburbs.[3] The people of Nairobi are known as Nairobians.

Founded in 1899 as a simple rail depot on the railway linking Mombasa to Uganda, the town quickly grew to become the capital of British East Africa in 1907 and eventually the capital of a free Kenyan republic in 1963.[4] During Kenya's colonial period, the city became a centre for the colony's coffee, tea and sisal industry.[5] Nairobi is also the capital of the Nairobi Province and of the Nairobi District. The city lies on the Nairobi River, in the south of the nation, and has an elevation of 1795 m above sea-level.[6]

Nairobi is the most populous city in East Africa, with a current estimated population of about 3 million.[1] According to the 2009 Census, in the administrative area of Nairobi, 3,138,295 inhabitants lived within 696 km2 (269 sq mi).[7] Nairobi is currently the 12th largest city in Africa, including the population of its suburbs.

Nairobi is now one of the most prominent cities in Africa politically and financially.[8] Home to thousands of Kenyan businesses and over 100 major international companies and organisations, including the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the main coordinating and headquarters for the UN in Africa & Middle East, the United Nations Office in Nairobi (UNON), Nairobi is an established hub for business and culture. The Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE) is one of the largest in Africa and the second oldest exchange on the continent. It is ranked 4th in terms of trading volume and capable of making 10 million trades a day.[9] The Globalization and World Cities Study Group and Network (GaWC) defines Nairobi as a prominent social centre.[citation needed]



Aerial view of Nairobi (Ca. 1985).
Modern Nairobi
Nairobi's skyline from Milimani suburb.

The area was an essentially uninhabited swamp until a supply depot of the Uganda Railway was built in 1899, which soon became the railway's headquarters. The city was named after a water hole known in Maasai as Enkare Nairobi, meaning "place of cool waters". It was completely rebuilt in the early 1900s after an outbreak of plague and the burning of the original town. The location of the Nairobi railway camp was chosen due to its central position between Mombasa and Kampala. It was also chosen because its network of rivers could supply the camp with water, and its elevation would make it cool enough for residential purposes.[10] However malaria was a serious problem, leading to at least one attempt to have the town moved.[11]

In 1905, Nairobi replaced Mombasa as capital of the British protectorate,[12] and the city grew around administration and tourism, initially in the form of big game hunting. As the British colonialists started to explore the region, they started using Nairobi as their first port of call. This prompted the colonial government to build several spectacular grand hotels in the city. The main occupants were British game hunters.

Nairobi continued to grow under the British rule, and many Britons settled within the city's suburbs. In 1919, Nairobi was declared to be a municipality.[13] In February 1926, E.A.T. Dutton passed through Nairobi on his way to Mount Kenya, and said of the city:

Maybe one day Nairobi will be laid out with tarred roads, with avenues of flowering trees, flanked by noble buildings; with open spaces and stately squares; a cathedral worthy of faith and country; museums and galleries of art; theaters and public offices. And it is fair to say that the Government and the Municipality have already bravely tackled the problem and that a town-plan ambitious enough to turn Nairobi into a thing of beauty has been slowly worked out, and much has already been done. But until that plan has borne fruit, Nairobi must remain what she was then, a slatternly creature, unfit to queen it over so lovely a country.

Dutton, [14]

The continuous expansion of the city began to anger the Maasai, as the city was devouring their land to the south. It also angered the Kikuyu people, who wanted the land returned to them. After the end of World War II, this friction developed into the Mau Mau rebellion. Jomo Kenyatta, Kenya's future president, was jailed for his involvement even though there was no evidence linking him to the rebellion. Pressure exerted from the locals onto the British resulted in Kenyan independence in 1963, with Nairobi as the capital of the new republic.

After independence, Nairobi grew rapidly and this growth put pressure on the city's infrastructure. Power cuts and water shortages were a common occurrence, though in the past few years better city planning has helped to put some of these problems in check.

The United States Embassy, then located in downtown Nairobi, was bombed in August, 1998 by Al-Qaida, as one of a series of U.S. embassy bombings. Over two hundred civilians were killed. It is now the site of a memorial park.[15]


An aerial view of Nairobi, the central business district and Ngong Road

The city is located at 1°17′S 36°49′E / 1.283°S 36.817°E / -1.283; 36.817 and occupies 696 square kilometres (270 sq mi).

Nairobi is situated between the cities of Kampala and Mombasa. As Nairobi is adjacent to the eastern edge of the Rift Valley, minor earthquakes and tremors occasionally occur. The Ngong Hills, located to the west of the city, are the most prominent geographical feature of the Nairobi area. Mount Kenya is situated north of Nairobi and Mount Kilimanjaro is towards the south-east. Both mountains are visible from Nairobi on a clear day.[16]

The Nairobi River and its tributaries traverse through the Nairobi County. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai has fought fiercely to save the indigenous Karura Forest in northern Nairobi which was under threat of being replaced by housing and other infrastructure.[17]

Nairobi Central Business District.

Nairobi's western suburbs stretch all the way from the Kenyatta National Hospital in the south to the UN headquarters at Gigiri suburb in the north, a distance of about 20 kilometres (12 mi). The city is centred on the City Square, which is located in the Central Business District. The Kenyan Parliament buildings, the Holy Family Cathedral, Nairobi City Hall, Nairobi Law Courts and the Kenyatta Conference Centre all surround the square.


Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °C
Precipitation totals in mm
Source: WMO[18]

At 1,795 metres (5,889 ft) above sea level, Nairobi enjoys a moderate climate. Under the Köppen climate classification, Nairobi has a Subtropical highland climate. The altitude makes for some chilly evenings, especially in the June/July season when the temperature can drop to 10 °C (50 °F). The sunniest and warmest part of the year is from December to March, when temperatures average the mid-twenties during the day. The mean maximum temperature for this period is 24 °C (75 °F).[19]

There are two rainy seasons but rainfall can be moderate. The cloudiest part of the year is just after the first rainy season, when, until September, conditions are usually overcast with drizzle. As Nairobi is situated close to the equator, the differences between the seasons are minimal. The seasons are referred to as the wet season and dry season. The timing of sunrise and sunset varies little throughout the year, due to Nairobi's close proximity to the equator.[20]

Climate data for Nairobi
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 24.5
Average low °C (°F) 11.5
Precipitation mm (inches) 64.1
Avg. rainy days 4 5 9 16 13 5 3 4 4 7 15 8 93
Sunshine hours 288.3 268.4 266.6 204 189.1 159 130.2 127.1 180 226.3 198 257.3 2,494.3
Source no. 1: World Meteorological Organisation[18] and Hong Kong Observatory[21]
Source no. 2: BBC Weather[22]

Districts and Neighborhoods

Nairobi is divided into a series of constituencies, these are Makadara, Kamukunji, Starehe, Langata, Dagoretti, Westlands, Kasarani and Embakasi.[23] The main administrative divisions of Nairobi are Central, Dagoretti, Embakasi, Kasarani, Kibera, Makadara, Pumwani and Westlands. Most of the upmarket suburbs are situated to the west and north-central of Nairobi, where most European settlers resided during the colonial times.[24] These include Karen, Langata, Lavington, Gigiri, Muthaiga, Spring Valley, Loresho, Kilimani, Kileleshwa, Hurlingham, Runda, Kitisuru, Nyari, Kyuna, Lower Kabete, Westlands and Highridge, although Kangemi, Kawangware and Dagoretti are lower income areas close to these affluent suburbs. The city's colonial past is commemorated by many English place-names. Most lower-middle and upper middle income neighborhoods are located in the north-central areas such as Highridge, Parklands, Ngara, Pangani and areas to the southwest and southeast of the metropolitan area near the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. The most notable ones include Avenue Park, Fedha, Pipeline, Donholm, Greenfields, Nyayo, Taasia, Baraka, Nairobi West, Madaraka, Siwaka, South B, South C, Mugoya, Riverbank, Hazina, Buru Buru, Uhuru, Harambee Civil Servants', Akiba, Kimathi, Pioneer, and Koma Rock to the center-east and Kasarani to northeast area among others. The low and lower income estates are located mainly in far eastern Nairobi. These include, Umoja, Kariokor, Dandora, Kariobangi, Embakasi and Huruma. Kitengela suburb, though located further southeast, Ongata Rongai and Kiserian further southwest and Ngong /Embulbul suburbs to the far west are considered part of the Greater Nairobi Metropolitan area . Many Somali immigrants have also settled in Eastleigh, nicknamed "Little Mogadishu".[25]

Parks and gardens

Nairobi skyline as seen from Uhuru Park.

Nairobi has many parks and open spaces throughout the city. Much of the city has dense tree-cover and plenty of green spaces. The most famous park in Nairobi is Uhuru Park. The park borders the central business district and the neighbourhood Upper Hill. Uhuru (Freedom in Swahili language) Park is a centre for outdoor speeches, services and rallies. The park was to be built-over by former President Daniel arap Moi, who wanted the 62-storey headquarters of his party, the Kenya African National Union, situated in the park.[26] However, the park was saved following a campaign by Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai.

Central Park is adjacent to Uhuru Park, and includes a memorial for Jomo Kenyatta, the first president of Kenya. Other notable open spaces include Jeevanjee Gardens, City Park, Nairobi Bomb Blast Memorial Park and Nairobi Arboretum.

High Court Building,Nairobi

Administrative divisions

The City of Nairobi enjoys the status of a full administrative County/Region.

The Nairobi province differs in several ways from other Kenyan regions. The county is entirely urban. It has only one local authority, Nairobi City Council. Nairobi Province was not divided into "districts" until 2007, when three districts were created.In 2010,along with the new constitution,Nairobi was renamed a County.

Nairobi County has eight constituencies. Constituency name may differ from division name, such that Starehe Constituency is equal to Central division, Langata Constituency to Kibera division, Kamukunji Constituency to Pumwani Division in terms of boundaries.


Co-operative Bank of Kenya headquarters

Nairobi is divided into eight divisions and fifty locations, mostly named after residential estates. Kibera Division, for example, includes Kibera (Kenya's largest slum) as well as affluent estates of Karen and Langata.

Division Locations
Central Huruma · Kariokor · Mathare · Ngara · Starehe
Dagoretti Kawangware · Kenyatta/Golf Club · Mutuini · Riruta · Uthiru/Ruthmitu · Waithaka
Embakasi Dandora · Embakasi · Kariobangi South · Kayole · Mukuru kwa Njenga · Njiru · Ruai · Umoja
Kasarani Githurai · Kahawa · Kariobangi North · Kasarani · Korogocho · Roysambu · Ruaraka
Kibera Karen · Kibera · Laini Saba · Langata · Mugumoini · Nairobi West · Sera Ngombe
Makadara Makadara · Makongeni · Maringo · Mukuru Nyayo · Viwandani
Pumwani Bahati · Eastleigh North · Eastleigh South · Kamukunji · Pumwani
Westlands Highridge · Kangemi · Kilimani · Kitisuru · Lavington · Parklands


I&M Bank headquarters in Nairobi.

Nairobi is home to the Nairobi Stock Exchange (NSE), one of Africa's largest. The NSE was officially recognised as an overseas stock exchange by the London Stock Exchange in 1953. The exchange is Africa's 4th largest (in terms of trading volumes) and 5th (in terms of Market Capitalisation as a percentage of GDP).[27]

Nairobi is the regional headquarters of several international companies and organizations. In 2007, General Electric, Young & Rubicam, Google, Coca-Cola, Airtel and Cisco Systems relocated their African headquarters to the city.[28][29] The United Nations Office at Nairobi hosts UNEP and UN-Habitat headquarters.

Several of Africa's largest companies are headquartered in Nairobi. KenGen, which is the largest African stock outside South Africa,[30] is based in the city. Kenya Airways, Africa's fourth largest airline, uses Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as a hub.

Goods manufactured in Nairobi include clothing, textiles, building materials, processed foods, beverages, cigarettes.[citation needed] Several foreign companies have factories based in and around the city. These include Goodyear, General Motors, Toyota Motors, and Coca Cola.[citation needed]

Nairobi has a large tourist industry, being both a tourist destination and a transport hub.[citation needed]

Central business district and skyline

Nairobi has grown around its central business district. It takes a rectangular shape, around the Uhuru Highway, Haille Selassie Avenue, Moi Avenue and University Way. It features many of Nairobi's important buildings, including the City Hall and Parliament Building. The city square is also located within the perimeter.

Most of the skyscrapers in this region are the headquarters of businesses and corporations, such as I&M and the Kenyatta international Conference Center. The United States Embassy bombing took place in this district, prompting a new embassy building to be built in the suburbs.

In 2011, the city was considered to be about 4 million residents. A large beautification project took place in the Central Business District, as the city prepared to host the 2006 Afri-Cities summit. Iconic buildings such as the Kenyatta International Conference Centre had their exteriors cleaned and repainted.[31]

Nairobi downtown area or central business district is bordered to the southwest by Uhuru Park and Central Park. The Mombasa to Kampala railway runs to the southeast of the district.

Panorama View skyline of Nairobi

Upper Hill

Today, many businesses are considering relocating and /or establishing their headquarters outside the Central Business District area. This is because land is cheaper, and better facilities can easily be built and maintained elsewhere. Two areas that are seeing a growth in companies and office space are Upper Hill, which is located, approximately 4 km (2.5 mi) from the Central Business District and Westlands, which is also about the same distance, away from the city centre.

Companies that have moved from the Central Business District to Upper Hill include Citibank and in 2007, Coca-Cola began construction of their East and Central African headquarters in Upper Hill,[32] cementing the district as the preferred location for office space in Nairobi. The largest office development in this area is the Rahimtulla Tower, which is primarily occupied by British firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers. World Bank is also located in Upper Hill at Hill Park Building. Earlier on, they were located in View Park towers in the Central Business District. The International Finance Corporation - part of the World Bank Group focused on private sector development - is also located in Upper Hill at the CBA building.

To accommodate the large demand for floorspace in Nairobi, various commercial projects are being constructed. New business parks are being built in the city, including the flagship Nairobi Business Park. Nairobi is currently being considered by a company[which?] from the Middle East interested in building a high-rise headquarters in Africa.

Nairobi panorama, viewed from Westlands
A view of Nairobi from the Kenyatta International Conference Centre
  • See also:List of tallest buildings in Nairobi
Nairobi's tallest skyscrapers[33]
Times Tower 140 m (460 ft)
Teleposta Towers 120 m (390 ft)
Kenyatta International Conference Centre   105 m (344 ft)
NSSF Building 103 m (338 ft)
I&M Bank Tower 100 m (330 ft)
Government Office Conference Hall 98 m (322 ft)
Nyayo House
Rahimtulla Tower
Business district in Nairobi on a Sunday

Society and culture

Nairobi is a cosmopolitan and multicultural city. Since its foundation, Nairobi has maintained a strong British presence, and a lasting legacy from colonial rule. This is highlighted by the number of English-named suburbs, including Hurlingham and Parklands.

By the mid twentieth century, many foreigners settled in Nairobi from other British colonies, primarily India and parts of, what is now, Pakistan.[citation needed] These immigrants were workers who arrived to construct the Kampala - Mombasa railway, settling in Nairobi after its completion, and merchants from Gujarat. Nairobi also has established communities from Somalia and Sudan.[citation needed]

Nairobi has a diverse and multicultural composition, there are a number of churches, mosques, temples and gurdwaras within the city. Prominent places of worship in Nairobi include the Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Family, All Saints Cathedral, Ismaili Jamat Khana and Jamia Mosque.

Nairobi has three informal nicknames. The first is "The Green City in the Sun", which is derived from the city's foliage and warm climate.[34] The second is the "Safari Capital of the World", which is used due to Nairobi's prominence as a hub for safari tourism.[35] The third is "Nairobbery", due to the high crime rate.

There are a number of modern malls in the Nairobi Area, including: West Gate, Prestige, Village Market, Sarit Center, Junction, etc. These malls attract Kenyans from all walks of life, mostly for their theatres.

Literature and film

Nairobi Cinema

Kwani? is Kenya's first literary journal and was established by modern writers living in Nairobi. Nairobi's publishing houses have also produced the works of some of Kenya's best known and most respected authors, including Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Meja Mwangi who were all part of the post-colonial writing boom.

Many film makers also practice their craft out of Nairobi. Film-making is still young in the country but people like producer Njeri Karago and director Judy Kibinge are paving the way for others.

Perhaps the most famous book and film set in Nairobi, is Out of Africa. The book was written by Karen Blixen (pen name Isak Dinesen), and it is her account of living in Kenya. Karen Blixen lived in the Nairobi Area from 1917 to 1931 (the neighbourhood in which she lived, Karen, is named after her).

In 1985, Out of Africa was made into a film, directed by Sydney Pollack. The film won 28 awards, including 7 Academy Awards. The popularity of the film prompted the opening of Nairobi's Karen Blixen Museum.

Nairobi is also the setting of many of the novels of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, Kenya's foremost writer.

Nairobi has been the set of several other American and British films. The most recent of these was The Constant Gardener (2005), a large part of which was filmed in the city. The story revolves around a British diplomat in Nairobi whose wife is murdered in northern Kenya. Much of the filming was in the Kibera slum.

Most new Hollywood films are nowadays screened at Nairobi's cinemas. Up until the early 90s there were only a few film theatres and the repertoire was limited. There are also two drive-in cinemas in Nairobi.


Nairobi is the centre of the Kenyan music scene. Benga is a Kenyan genre which was developed in Nairobi. The genre is a fusion of jazz and Luo music forms.

In the 1970s, Nairobi became the prominent centre for East and Central African music. During this period, Nairobi was established as a hub of soukous music. This genre was born in Kinshasa and Brazzaville. After the political climate in the region deteriorated, many Congolese artists relocated to Nairobi. Artists such as Orchestra Super Mazembe moved from Congo to Nairobi and found great success.[36] Virgin records became aware of the popularity of the genre and signed recording contracts with several soukous artists.

More recently, Nairobi has become the centre of the Kenyan hip hop scene. The genre has become very popular amongst local youth, and domestic musicians have become some of the most popular in the region. Successful artists based in Nairobi include Jua Cali, Nonini and Nameless. Record labels include Ogopa DJs and Calif Records.

Many foreign musicians who tour Africa, perform and visit Nairobi. Bob Marley's first ever visit to Africa started in Nairobi. Acts that have performed in Nairobi include Wyclef Jean, Shaggy, Akon, Sean Paul, Wayne Wonder, Alaine, Ja Rule and Morgan Heritage.


Moi International Sports Center,Kasarani

Nairobi is East Africa's sporting centre. The premier sports facility in Nairobi and generally in Kenya is the Moi International Sports Centre in the suburb of Kasarani. The complex was completed in 1987, and was used to host the 1987 All Africa Games. The complex comprises a 60,000 seater stadium, the second largest in East Africa (after Tanzania's new national stadium), a 5,000 seater gymnasium, and a 2,000 seater aquatics centre.[37]

Coca-Cola National Stadium[38] formally known as Nyayo National Stadium is Nairobi's second largest stadium. Completed in 1983, the stadium has a capacity of 30,000.[39] This stadium is primarily used for football. The facility is located close to the Central Business District, which makes it a convenient location for political gatherings.

Nairobi City Stadium is the city's first stadium, and used for club football. Nairobi Gymkhana is the home of the Kenyan cricket team, and was a venue for the 2003 Cricket World Cup. Notable annual events staged in Nairobi include Safari Rally (although it lost its World Rally Championship status in 2003), Safari Sevens rugby union tournament, and Nairobi Marathon.

Football is the most popular sport in the city by viewership and participation. This is highlighted by the number of football clubs in the city, including Mathare United, AFC Leopards, Gor Mahia and Tusker FC.

There are six golf courses within a 20 km radius of Nairobi.[40] The oldest 18-hole golf course in the city is the Royal Nairobi Golf Club, founded in 1906 by the British, just seven years after the city was founded. Other notable golf clubs include the Windsor Country Club, Karen Country Club and Muthaiga Country Club. The Kenya Open golf tournament, which is part of the Challenge Tour, takes place in Nairobi.[41] The Ngong Racecourse in Nairobi is the center of horse racing in Kenya.[42]


A giraffe at Nairobi National Park, with Nairobi's skyline in background.
Nairobi National Park situated approximately 7 kilometers (4)miles South of Nairobi.
A pride of lions at the Nairobi National Park.

Nairobi is not a prime tourist destination, but it does have several tourist attractions. The most famous is the Nairobi National Park. The national park is unique in being the only game-reserve of this nature to border a capital city, or city of this size. The park contains many animals including lions, giraffes, and black rhinos. The park is home to over 400 species of birds. The Nairobi Safari Walk is a major attraction to the Nairobi National Park as it offers a rare on-foot experience of the animals.[43]

Nairobi is home to several museums, sites and monuments. The Nairobi National Museum is the country's National Museum and largest in the city. It houses a large collection of artifacts portraying Kenya's rich heritage through history, nature, culture and contemporary art. It also includes the full remains of a homo erectus popularly known as the Turkana boy. Other prominent museums include the Nairobi Gallery, Nairobi Railway Museum and the Karen Blixen Museum located in the affluent Karen suburb. Uhuru Gardens, a national monument and the largest memorial park in Kenya, is also the place where the first Kenyan flag was raised at independence. It is located along Langata road near the Wilson Airport.

Nairobi is nicknamed the Safari Capital of the World, and has many spectacular hotels to cater for safari-bound tourists. Five star hotels in Nairobi include the Nairobi Serena, Laico Regency (formerly Grand Regency Hotel), Windsor (Karen), Holiday Inn, Nairobi Safari Club (Lilian Towers), The Stanley Hotel, Safari Park & Casino, InterContinental, Panari Hotel, Hilton, and the Norfolk Hotel. Other newer ones nearing completion include the Crowne Plaza Hotel Nairobi in Upper Hill area, and others located along Mombasa Highway.

Nairobi is also home to the largest ice rink in Africa: the Solar Ice Rink at the Panari Hotel's Sky Centre. The rink, opened in 2005, covers 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2) and can accommodate 200 people.[44]

Shopping malls in Nairobi include; The Yaya Centre (Hurlingham), Sarit Centre (Westlands), Westgate Shopping Mall (Westlands), ABC Place (Westlands), The Village Market (Gigiri), Junciton Shopping Centre (Ngong Road), Prestige Plaza (Ngong Road), Crossroads Shopping Centre (Karen), and T-Mall (Langata). Nakumatt, Uchumi and Tuskys are the largest supermarket chains with modern stores throughout the city.

The Nairobi Java House is a popular coffee house and restaurant chain with multiple branches located around the city including one at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.

Other notable sites include Jomo Kenyatta's Mausoleum, Kenya National Theatre and the Kenya National Archives. Art galleries in Nairobi include the Rahimtulla Museum of Modern Art (Ramoma) and the Mizizi Arts Centre and the Nairobi National Museum.

Places of interest



Nairobi is served primarily by Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. It is the largest airport in East and Central Africa,[45] and handled over 4.9 million passengers in 2008.[46] The airport is a major transit hub for passengers flying to East Africa's natural attractions, and other smaller cities in East and Central Africa. The airport is situated 20 km (12 mi) from Nairobi's Central Business District. The airport directly serves intercontinental passengers from Europe and Asia. Recently, the airport was upgraded by the world aviation regulatory body, ICAO, and major plans are underway to expand the airport to accommodate growing air traffic and to cater for direct flights to far flung destinations such as the United States and Canada. Also, a debate is underway in government for a plan to add add a second runway at the airport. However, this idea has not yet been ratified and approved by the Cabinet of the Kenya government.[47]

Wilson Airport is a smaller and busy general aviation airport located in a south-central suburb of Nairobi. It handles small aircraft that generally operate within Kenya, although some offer services to other East, Central and North-east African destinations.

Eastleigh Airport was the original landing strip in the pre-jet airline era. It was used as a landing point in the 1930s and 1940s British passenger and mail route from Southampton to Cape Town. This route was served by flying boats between Britain and Kisumu and then by land-based aircraft on the routes to the south. The airport is now a military base.


A 25 seater Matatu in Nairobi.

Matatus are the most common form of public transport in Nairobi. Matatus, which technically means, "three cents for a ride" (nowadays much more) are privately owned minibuses, and the most popular form of local transport,[48] and generally seat fourteen to twenty-four. Matatus ama(or) mathree operate within Nairobi and from Nairobi to other towns. The matatu's destination is imprinted on the side of the bus, and matatus plying specific routes have specific route numbers. Matatus were easily distinguishable by their extravagant paint schemes, as owners would paint their matatu with various colorful decorations, such as their favourite football team or hip hop artist. More recently, some have even painted Barack Obama's face on their vehicle. They are notorious for their poor safety records, which are a result of overcrowding and reckless driving.[citation needed] Matatu drivers are pressured to make as many round trips as possible to maximize profits for their operator. Due to the intense competition between matutus, many are equipped with powerful sound systems and television screens in order to attract more customers.

However, in 2004, a law was passed requiring all matatus to include seat belts and speed governors and to be painted with a yellow stripe.[49] At first, this caused a furore amongst Matatu operators, but they were pressured by government and the public to make the changes. Matatus are now limited to 80 kilometres per hour (50 mph). In December 2010, the Government embarked on a policy to phase out matatus as a means of public transport. Consequently no new matatus are licensed to operate from January 2011 while the current ones will be allowed to live out their lifespan.


Buses are increasingly common in the city. The three bus companies operating the city routes are the traditional Kenya Bus Service (KBS), and newer private operators Citi Hoppa and Double M. The Citi Hoppa buses are distinguishable by their green livery, the Double M buses are painted purple while the KBS buses are painted blue.

Companies such as; Easy Coach, Akamba, Crown Bus, Coast Bus, Modern Coast, Eldoret Express, Chania and Mash Poa run scheduled buses and luxury coaches to other cities and towns.


Smartbus-Kenya is the latest bus operator in Kenya and serves Nairobi and the areas around it. Presently, the company operates buses to Kitengela, Kiserian, Rongai, and Ngong. Passengers have a smartcard which they must swipe in order to gain access to the vehicle. Passengers top up their smartcard and the fare is deducted from the amount of money in the account. The fare is determined by the point at which the passenger enters and the point at which the passenger exits the bus.


A steam train en route to Kisumu from Nairobi railway station

Nairobi was founded as a railway town, and the Kenya Railways (KR) main headquarters are still situated at Nairobi railway station, near the city centre. The line runs through Nairobi, from Mombasa to Kampala. Its main use is freight traffic, but regular nightly passenger trains connect Nairobi to Mombasa and Kisumu. A number of morning and evening commuter trains connect the centre with the suburbs, but the city has no proper light rail, tramway or subway lines. This proposal was passed early January and there will be construction for the first commuter light rail project north of Sub-Saharan Africa. A rail link to the airport is also planned.[50] Nairobi is also the junction for a branch railway to Nanyuki.

A train near Naivasha en route to Nairobi


Taxis are available in most parts of the city. They are costly in comparison to matatus and buses but are a safer and more convenient form of transport. They park outside most hotels, at taxi ranks in the city centre and at shopping malls.


Nairobi is served by highways that link Mombasa to Kampala (Uganda), Arusha (Tanzania). These are earmarked to ease the daily motor traffic within and surrounding the metro area. However, driving in Nairobi is chaotic. Most of the Roads are tarmacked and there are signs showing directions to certain neighborhoods. The city is connected to the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport by the Mombasa Highway which passes through Industrial Area, South B, South C and Embakasi. Ongata Rongai, Langata and Karen are connected to the city centre by Langata Road which runs to the south. Lavington, Riverside, Westlands etc. are connected by Waiyaki Way. Kasarani, Eastlands, Embakasi are connected by Thika Road, Jogoo Road and Outer-ring Road.

Highways connect the city with other major towns such as Mombasa, Machakos, Voi,(A109), Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret, Namanga Border Tanzania(A104) etc.

Nairobi is currently undergoing major road constructions in order to update its infrastructure network. The new systems of roads, flyovers and bridges would cut outrageous traffic levels caused the inability of the current infrastructure to cope with the soaring economic growth in the past few years. It is also a major component of Kenya's Vision 2030 and Nairobi Metropolis plans. Most roads now, though are well lit and surfaced with adequate signage.

Water supply and sanitation

94% of the piped water supply for Nairobi comes from rivers and reservoirs in the Aberdare Range north of the city, of which the reservoir of the Thika Dam is the most important one. Water distribution losses - technically called non-revenue water are 40%, and only 40% of those with house connections receive water continuously. Slum residents receive water through water kiosks and end up paying much higher water prices than those fortunate enough to have access to piped water at their house. In the middle of a severe drought the board of the Nairobi City Water and Sewerage Company was sacked July 2009 for "malpractices", following the publication of a report by Transparency International-Kenya and the Kenyan NGO Maji Na Ufanisi (Water and Development). The report had found cases of bribery for illegal connections, tampering with meter readings and diversion of water from domestic users to industries in five cities, with the highest incidence of bribery in Nairobi.[51]


Nation Center, headquarters of the Nation Media Group

Nairobi is home to most of Kenya's news and media organisations. The city is also home to East Africa's largest newspapers: the Daily Nation and The Standard. These are circulated within Kenya and cover a range of domestic and regional issues. Both newspapers are published in English.

Kenya Broadcasting Corporation is a state-run television and radio station, is headquartered in the city. Kenya Television Network is part of the Standard Group and was Kenya's first privately owned TV station. The Nation Media Group runs NTV which is based in Nairobi. East Africa Television Channel 5 is 24 hour music channel based in Dar es Salaam Tanzania and broadcasts in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. There are also a number of prominent radio stations located in Kenya's capital including KISS 100, Capital FM, East FM, Kameme FM, Metro FM and Family FM among others.

Several multinational media organisations have their regional headquarters in Nairobi. These include the BBC, CNN, Agence France-Presse, Reuters, Deutsche Welle and the Associated Press. The East African bureau of CNBC Africa is located in Nairobi's city centre, while the Nairobi bureau of the New York Times is located in the suburb of Gigiri.


There is wide variety regarding standards of living in Nairobi. Most wealthy Kenyans live in Nairobi but the majority of Nairobians are average and poor. Half of the population have been estimated to live in slums which cover just 5% of the city area.[52] The growth of these slums is a result of urbanisation, poor town planning and the unavailability of loans for low income earners.[citation needed]

Kibera is one of the largest slums in Africa,[53] and is situated to the west of Nairobi. (Kibera comes from the Nubian word Kibra, meaning "forest" or "jungle").[54] The slums cover two square kilometres[55] and are on government land. Kibera has been the setting for several films, the most recent being The Constant Gardener.

A middle-class Nairobi residential suburb, with the Central Business District in the distance

Other notable slums include Mathare and Korogocho. Altogether, 66 areas are counted as slums within Nairobi.[56]

Many Nairobi non-slum-dwellers live in relatively good housing conditions. Large houses can be found in many of the upmarket neighbourhoods, especially to the west of Nairobi. Historically, British immigrants have settled in Gigiri, Muthaiga, Langata and Karen. Other middle and high income estates include Parklands, Westlands, Hurlingham, Milimani, Spring Valley, Lavington, Rosslyn, Kitisuru, and Nairobi Hill.

To accommodate the growing middle class, many new apartments and housing developments are being built in and around the city. The most notable development is Greenpark, at Athi River town, 25 km (16 mi) from Nairobi's Central Business District. Over 5,000 houses, villas and apartments are being constructed at this development, including leisure, retail and commercial facilities.[57] The development is being marketed to families, as are most others within the city. Eastlands also houses most of the city's middle class and includes South C, South B, Embakasi, Buru Buru, Komarock, Donholm, Umoja [disambiguation needed ], and others.


Nairobi has experienced one of the highest growth rates of any city in Africa. Since its foundation in 1899, Nairobi has grown to become the largest city in East Africa, despite being the youngest city in the region. The growth rate of Nairobi is currently 4.1%.[58] It is estimated that Nairobi's population will reach 5 million in 2025.[59]

Year Population Growth
1906 11,500 0
1911 14,000 2,500
1921 24,300 10,300
1926 29,900 5,600
1929 32,900 3,000
1931 47,800 14,900
1939 61,300 3,500
1944 108,900 47,600
1948 119,000 20,100
1955 186,000 67,000
1957 221,700 35,700
1960 251,000 29,300
1962 266,800 17,800
1965 380,000 113,200
1969 509,300 129,300
1979 827,775 318,475
1989 1,324,570 496,795
1995 1,810,000 485,435
1999 2,143,254 333,254
2005 2,750,561 607,307
2009 3,138,369 387,808[60]

These data fit remarkably closely (r^2 = 0.9994) to a logistic curve with t(0) = 1900, P(0)=8500, r = 0.059 and K = 8 000 000. This suggests a current (2011) growth rate of 3.5% (the CIA estimate of 4.5% cited above would have been true in 2005). According to this curve, the population of the city will reach 5 million in 2025, and will be below 4 million in 2015.

Kibera Slum

New Apartment buildings being constructed next to Kibera

The Kibera slum in Nairobi, with an estimated population of 170,000 people, was thought to be Africa's second largest slum. However recent census results have shown that Kibera is indeed much smaller than originally thought.[61]

Most of Kibera slum residents live in extreme poverty, earning less than $1.00 per day. Unemployment rates are high. Persons living with HIV in the slum are many, as are AIDS cases.[62] Cases of assault and rape are common. There are few schools, and most people cannot afford an education for their children. Clean water is scarce and therefore diseases caused by related poor hygiene are prevalent. A great majority of people living in the slum lack access to healthcare.

The Government is addressing the problem, having initiated a programme to replace the slum with a residential district consisting of high rise apartments, and relocating the residents to these new buildings upon completion. The apartments are being built in phases in line with the Government's budgetary allocations, and a few apartments in phase 1 of the project have already been occupied.


Throughout the 1990s, Nairobi had struggled with rising crime, earning a reputation for being a dangerous city and the nickname "Nairobbery". In 2001, the United Nations International Civil Service Commission rated Nairobi as among the most insecure cities in the world, classifying the city as "status C". In the United Nations report, it was stated that in 2001, nearly one third of all Nairobi residents experienced some form of robbery in the city.[63] The head of one development agency cited the "notoriously high levels of violent armed robberies, burglaries and carjackings.[64] Crime had risen in Nairobi as a result of unplanned urbanisation, with a minimal number of police stations and a proper security infrastructure. However, many claim[citation needed] that the biggest factor for the city's alarming crime rate is police corruption, which leaves many criminals unpunished. As a security precaution, most large houses have a watch guard, burglar grills, and dogs to patrol their grounds during the night.[citation needed] Most crimes, however, occur around the poor neighbourhoods where it gets dangerous during night hours.[citation needed]

In 2006, crime decreased in the city,[65] due to increased security and an improved police presence. Despite this, in 2007, the Kenyan government and U.S. State Department has announced that Nairobi is experiencing a greater level of violent crime than in previous years.[66] Since then, the government has taken measures to combat crime with heavy police presence in and around the city while U.S. government has updated its travel warning for the country.

Following a grenade attack in October 2011 by a local Kenyan man with Islamist links,[67] the city faced a heightened security presence.[68] Fears spread over further promised retaliations by the Al-Shabaab group of rebels over Kenya's involvement in a coordinated operation with the Somalian military against the insurgent outfit.[67]


The Majority of schools follow either the Kenyan Curriculum or the British Curriculum. There is also International School of Kenya which follows the North American Curriculum and the German school in Gigiri.

Higher Education

Nairobi is home to several universities.

  • The University of Nairobi is the largest and oldest university in Kenya. It was established in 1956, as part of the University of East Africa, but became an independent university in 1970. The university has approximately 22,000 students.[69]
  • Kenyatta University is situated 16 km (9.9 mi) from Nairobi on the Nairobi – Thika dual carriageway on 1,100 acres (4.5 km2) of land. The university was chartered in 1985, offering mainly education-related courses, but has since diversified, offering medicine, environmental studies, engineering, law, business, agriculture and economics. It has a student body of about 32,000 the bulk of whom (17,000) are in the main (Kahawa) campus. Currently it is one of the fastest growing public universities.
  • Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) is a public university near Nairobi, Kenya. It is situated in Juja, 36 kilometres northeast of Nairobi, along Nairobi-Thika Highway. It offers courses in Agriculture, Engineering, Science, Architecture and Building sciences. The university has a strong research interest in the areas of biotechnology and engineering.
  • Strathmore University started in 1961 as an Advanced Level (UK) Sixth Form College offering Science and Arts subjects. The college started to admit accountancy students in March 1966, and thus became a university. In January 1993 Strathmore College merged with Kianda College and moved to Ole Sangale Road, Madaraka Estate, Nairobi.
  • United States International University - Nairobi is a branch of the United States International University, which has campuses across the world. The Nairobi campus was established in 1969. The university has accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, in USA and the Government of Kenya. It is located in a quiet west side location of Kasarani area north-central Nairobi opposite the Safari Park Hotel.
  • Daystar University is a Christian liberal arts university located in Athi River, an outlying town south-east of Nairobi, with a satellite campus on Nairobi's Ngong Road.
  • In 2005, The Aga Khan Hospital, Nairobi was upgraded to a health sciences teaching hospital, providing post graduate education in medicine and surgery including nursing education, henceforth renamed the Aga Khan University Hospital.
  • The University of Eastern Africa, Baraton (UEAB), located in Eldoret Kenya. It offers various degrees in a number of graduate and undergraduate programs in the fields of Business, the Humanities, Agriculture, Technology, Health Sciences and Education. Baraton University was the first private University to receive a Charter granted by the republic of Kenya on March 28, 1991. The University is also a member of the Inter-University Council for East Africa, The Association of Commonwealth Universities, and the Association of African Universities.
  • The Catholic University of Eastern Africa located in Langata suburb, obtained its "Letter of Interim Authority" in 1989. Following negotiations between the Authority of the Graduate School of Theology and the Commission for Higher Education (CHIEA), the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences was established three years later, culminating in the granting of the Civil Charter to CHIEA on 3 November 1992.
  • The Africa Nazarene University, located in Ongata Rongai, is a private chartered Christian university sponsored by the Church of the Nazarene International and it is a member of the worldwide family of Nazarene institutions.

Notable People

Nairobi is home to several notable people.

  • Wangari Maathai
  • Richard Leakey
  • Zain Verjee
  • Daniel Ndambuki
  • Aron Kamakil
  • Mbugua Kuria

Sister cities

United States Denver, Colorado (1975)[70]

Image gallery

See also


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