13th June 2011
Nairobi is young by Capital City standards, and it has the feel of a place in its teenage years, big and brash and excited but still not quite sure of itself, and certainly not happy about having to tidy its bedroom. Founded on a slightly elevated piece of swampy ground that happened to sit conveniently on the Mombassa-Kampala railway it started life as a humble supply depot in 1899. Named after a Maasai watering hole known as Enkare Nairobi (place of cool waters) the fresh water and a climate surprisingly familiar to the new European settlers encouraged rapid growth. Just six years after it was founded Nairobi became the administrative capital of British East Africa, despite in that time suffering an outbreak of the plague and a fire that completely destroyed the old town.
That Nairobi has landed abruptly upon the wild Kenyan savanna, rather than evolving slowly there can be felt as you survey the Acacia-punctured grassland of the Nairobi National Park from the raised teak balcony of the Ole-Sereni Hotel’s bar. The Nairobi National Park is the only place in the world where you can find a national park bordering a capital city. Sitting at the precipice, sipping at an espresso whilst separated from the stomping ground of wild Rhino only by slight elevation and a meticulously placed zen water garden, it is easy to feel like the inhabitant of the zoo rather than the visitor.