Nairobi Landing

Nairobi Landing

My Cleveland Zoo safari began with nine people arriving a day early and enjoying Nairobi and environs.

Nairobi’s climate this year has been strange but fortunate. While most of the rest of the country suffers from serious drought, it has rained steadily on the city for nearly 9 months. The last several months have been hardly more than drizzle, but it has brought with it a cold that would normally have been gone by the third week of July.

So it was cold and drizzly. But that didn’t stop anyone from getting right into touring.

After dinner at the excellent Tamarind seafood restaurant, the Wagners and Gilberts were joined by the Chelms and Antonaccis and Cheryl Steris the next morning on an excursion to Karen. It was a Saturday so I figured the traffic would be lighter, but I guess that’s no longer the case.

They did manage to squeeze the three attractions into a long morning: Kazuri Beads, Karen Blixen’s homestead and Giraffe Manor, but a good hunk of that morning was spent driving back and forth from the city.

In the afternoon the Kaspers and Wagners joined us all for my walking tour of Nairobi. The sun came out and we started at the Memorial to the August 7, 1998, bombing of the American embassy. I often start here because of where it’s located, rather than for what it is.

I consider the Memorial a bit too ideological. To begin with, it costs to get into the little park, albeit only Ksh 20/. If you want to use the john, that costs another Ksh 10/. The video, which costs Ksh 100/ to see, is packed with propaganda of how successful America is waging its war against terrorism. That so?

We walk from there down the government street past the Department of Education, Foreign Affairs and finally the Office of the President. This gives me the opportunity to discuss the top-heavy, convoluted and failing Kenyan government, a government which is currently stale-mated by the forced coalition that ended the violence after the last election.

But I don’t blame East Africans or East African culture as much as the failed colonial period. The British thrust a form of government on the East African countries that simply isn’t working; and the world powers entrenched corruption by vapid unaccounted “aid” as they sought favorable alliances during the Cold War.

From there we turn down towards Parliament, past the Kenyatta Memorial and then turn past the Basilica to City Hall. This gives me the opportunity to praise Kenyan youth, who I just wish would somehow own up to the fact that it is they alone who can bring Kenya out of the mess it currently finds itself. This is where the students often rioted.

We enjoyed tea at the Stanley beside the modern version of the Thorn Tree message center, and visited the Exchange Bar with its original 19th Century furnishings. This is the perfect setting to describe the era of White Mischief which defined colonial Kenya as a somewhat renegade somewhat rebel white civilization.

And the few nearby art galleries let me once again praise Kenyan youth, who in places as established as New York and Tokyo are defining contemporary art.

We walked past the city mosque, and I explained how East African societies were becoming more and more Muslim as the western world is perceived to be abandoning them.

I suppose I began my walking tours of Nairobi when it became ridiculously impossible to drive, because of the traffic. But it’s a great way for people adjusting to a new time zone to keep active and learn a lot of new stuff. It’s something I think everyone really enjoyed.