Nairobbery

8/15/05-8/18/05

after the difficult conditions, lack of showers, and dusty roads of Ethiopia, we were really excited to arrive in a much more modern country. we spent 4 days relaxing and recuperating in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Nairobi from everything we’ve heard, seems to be one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and because of this it’s earned itself the nickname “Nairobbery”. according to the guidebooks, other travelers, and the internet, this town should be avoided like the plague. crime is rampant, people get mugged, cars get carjacked, hotel rooms are broken into, etc etc. according to a recent survey, 37% of the people living in Nairobi say that they have been mugged in the last year! the guidebook warns to exercise extreme caution, even during the day, and says that under no circumstances should you walk around at night.. even if you are only going a few blocks.

any business in this town that is larger than a tiny convenience store, has armed security. every bank, mall, movie theater, hotel, office building, and even many cafes and restaurants have watchmen patrolling around. when leaving our hotel in the dark, the security would always offer to come with us… even if we were walking just across the street to catch a cab. with all of this, it’s pretty easy to be paranoid.. but to be honest, after a few days in the city, I really got the feeling that a lot of these warnings and precautions were a little over the top. of course, we spent all of our time in the center of town, and I’m sure the situation is completely different on the outskirts and in the shanty areas, but I never really felt in danger, and it didn’t seem like there were tons of sketchy characters about. overall, I definitely wasn’t ecstatic about Nairobi or anything, but I really would say it was horrible and I think that some of its bad reputation may be undeserved.

Nairobi is a really modern city. well, ok, I don’t mean really modern as in Tokyo or even London, but it is pretty modern compared to other cities in Africa and most of Asia. there are lots of skyscrapers, and most of the architecture in town seems fairly current. in some ways, just looking at the buildings, streets etc, it almost could be any medium sized town in America. after being in Ethiopia, it was really exciting to be in a town like this. we could get online! there was a variety of restaurants.. even with international cuisine! hot water ion the showers! and we were shocked to see that there was even a large supermarket! this was something super exciting and out of the ordinary for us. other than Japan, we really haven’t seen a modern supermarket since back home. even in Europe, people do most of their grocery shopping in small little corner stores, so to see a huge store w/ tons and tons of different groceries to choose from was exciting!

the one annoying thing about Nairobi was the touts. there are so many of them!! ugh. almost everyone who comes to Kenya is planning on taking a safari at some point, and safaris are big business here.. lots of profit to be made. because of this, every random guy on the street has a safari to sell. actually they have multiple safaris to sell, so if you turn down one, they will just try to sell you more. this makes it virtually impossible to walk through town. anywhere you go, you will be followed by people who badger you about safaris, and don’t leave you alone till you say no about 1 billion times. of course, as soon as they leave, another one will come up. it never ends. people literally just sit there and wait in front of your hotel, and then follow you from the instant you leave. sometimes, we’ve been followed, told the person to leave… and then after walking many blocks, and looking our shoulder to make sure the person is really gone, they’ll pop up later and you realize they’ve been stealthily following you. arrrggghhh!!

a couple of other things about town: traffic is insane and people drive like mad; it is much more expensive than we imagined it would be… not as pricey as Europe by any means, but definitely a step up from Asia; broiled chicken is *everywhere*; it seems like secretarial services are in high demand for some reason; English is the official language here, so it’s really easy to get by even if you don’t know any Swahili.

during our first day in Nairobi, I realized that my stomach was not yet fully ok. it would hurt on and off throughout the day and that night a had a fever. caryn also had been experiencing stomach issues since Ethiopia. so, our second day in Nairobi we saw a doctor. the visit was really quick. just a description of our symptoms, blood pressure and temperature check. that’s it. we were prescribed a bunch of medication that we had to take for 5 days, twice per day. the medication actually really sucked, and for the next several days, I felt all gross every time I took mine. ugh. at least it worked though, and five days later I felt good as new.

the best part of being in Nairobi though, was that on the 17th Joey arrived. Joey’s gonna be touring Africa with us for about a month which is a pretty good chunk of time! I actually was really surprised when he told us he’d be coming to Africa to visit. we’ve had a few people meet us on our trip, but I really didn’t think anyone would come meet us in Africa since it was fairly expensive to fly there from home. but he decided to come visit, and after spending a week in Egypt, he flew in to Nairobi. his flight arrived at 4:30 AM which really was the worst possible time to go pick someone up from the airport, but we were really psyched to be seeing him so we went down there. we hadn’t seen him in about 11 months by then, so it was really exciting and we spent a bunch of time catching up on what was going on back home and in each other’s lives.

another cool thing was that Joey brought me a bunch of cards and presents from home. it had been my birthday a few days before (aug 13th) and since we were in Moyale, a town with not all that much going for it, it was definitely an uneventful birthday. also, I didn’t have internet or phone access, so I couldn’t really talk to anyone from back home on my bday which sucked. well, several days later, when Joey arrived, he handed me a bunch of stuff that people from home had sent. it was *so* great to sit there and get to actually read birthday cards from people and open presents. it actually felt like a real birthday, and I was really really touched. also, all of it had been a total surprise… Jamie had told me that she was sending a care package, and I had been really looking forward to it, but I had no clue how elaborate and dope the package would be, nor that anyone else would be sending me anything, so when Joey dumped out a big pile of stuff on my bed, I was totally shocked. there’s something really cool about things that are handwritten, and although I’ve gotten emails from people while on the road, it was especially cool to get real cards, and see what people had written… and all of it definitely made me miss home… a lot.

after Joey arrived, we spent much of our time in Nairobi running errands and figuring out our safari situation. other than that, we went to the movies (Fantastic 4, which wasn’t all that). before the movie started , it said on the screen for everyone to stand while Kenya’s national anthem played… with large letters underneath saying that this “IS MANDATORY!”. I wonder if this kind of thing would go over in the US? also, we went out to Carnivore restaurant. this is supposed to be one of the highlights on Nairobi. it’s a huge restaurant, a little out of town, and their thing is that it’s all you can eat meat. we took a taxi to the restaurant, and it was guarded by tons of people with large guns… we began to wonder whether this place was likely to be attacked by terrorists.. or maybe by PETA. inside, you sit at your table, and after soup and salad, they just start bringing huge slabs of meat skewered on large swords to your table. they keep bringing it until you “surrender” and put down the little flag on your table. they had the usual suspects: beef, chicken, pork, lamb but also had more unusual things like ostrich, crocodile, and even camel! the crocodile wasn’t too good (tasted like fish), and the camel wasn’t great, but the ostrich was really delicious. surprisingly, despite the large variety, the beef was actually the best. go figure. although the food was pretty good, I cant say that it was the best meal ever. the sauces for the meats weren’t all that great… maybe that was my main issue. we had come there planning to eat until we were literally ready to explode, but ended up in the end only eating till we were full. all in all, it was good, but kinda pricey for what it was.

after 4 days in Nairobi, we were definitely ready to get a move on. the town wasn’t as bad as people said, but at the same time, it really didn’t have much to keep us wanting to be there either.

*v

4 thoughts on “Nairobbery”

  1. Hey Vlad!

    Just wanted to say that I have sooooo appreciated your RTW blog, and we read it almost everyday. Your detailed posts are really great, and have helped up in the planning of our own RTW trip. So, thanks! I hope the rest of your trip is amazing.

    Teresa & Justin

  2. Vlad, where’d you stay while in Nairobi? Did you stay in a cheap lodge or some place more upscale?
    I also found Nairobi’s reputation for being crime ridden a bit over the top, although one of my roommates(at the New Kenya Lodge) got mugged coming back from a movie that I’d seen the night before. Go figure.
    Did you happen to see Florida 2000(or some such name as that)? It was a nightclub, for dancing, that was pretty good.
    How about Tuskers? Did you throw back one or two of those?

  3. we stayed at the terminal hotel. after the rouigh buses in ethiopia, we figured we’d spend a little extra money and stay at a nicer place… well, i mean nicer than what we had been stayng at, so we shelled out 20$ per night for this place. to our surprise, it wasn’t any nicer really than other places, and i think the 20$ price tag was a bit much. oh well though.

    yeah, we went to florida 2000. pretty crazy! it seemed like it could be really fun, if it wasnt for the 80% hooker to 20% everyone else ratio!! yikes!

  4. hi! glad to hear that you guys are reading the blog! so, you guys rea leaving in january eh? ti bet you cant wait to get started! if yoou have any questions or whatnot, let me know. also, i looked at your itinerary.. you might want to consider adding in ethiopia.. it’s really an amazing country, and really cheap as well. you could possibly just continue north overland from kenya, see ethiopia, and then go overland to egypt from there. just a thought… good luck!!

    *v

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