The Green City in the Dark
Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is one of the most popular destinations in Africa. The place also known as the green city under the sun for its lush undergrowth and its serene environment derives its name from the Maasai phrase “Enkare Nairobi” which loosely translated means “cool waters”. Since the colonialists landed in Kenya over a century ago, the city has grown from a small rail port to Kenya’s capital and one of the biggest cities in Africa, boasting of a robust and vibrant business environment and people from different walks of life. Its diversity and vibrancy of culture is what makes Nairobi the city that never sleeps. The New York of Africa if you may
Each day, night gathers in this city and the watch begins tick. A whole flurry of activities goes on in the gleeful watch of the moon and the stars.
If you find yourself in Nairobi one of these fine nights, probably a Friday or Saturday night (oh Thursday is the new Furahiday (a corruption of word Friday by merging it with the Swahili word for happiness – furaha) then this is your guide to the city when the sun finally goes to bed after a long day.
First we have to get you somewhere, right? Moving around Nairobi at night can be a simple affair as it is a tricky one. The most popular means of getting from point A to B is by public transport via what are known as matatus. There are matatus that ply almost every route into and out of the CBD. They always have numbers depending on the route they are going to and if you miss that then there are touts standing at the door shouting atop their voices which route the matatu is headed. Just hop into one that is going where you want to and voila!
However, there are some routes that are not as accessible via public transport especially the leafy suburbs and that is where the cab/taxi services come in. These are the safest for moving around at night. You can access these services through companies that have mobile-based applications for getting their services like Easy Taxi or Uber and a cab driver is sent to pick you from your point of call to wherever your destination is. The average waiting time for a cab is 10-20 minutes and the charges vary depending on the distance.
There are also motorcycles which ferry people around but they aren’t as popular as the cabs and matatus especially since they are a tad expensive whist not offering the protection from weather hazards like the rains or the cold weather and they are prone to attacks by gangs at night. Also, if you are not a fan of speed then this is your option. However, they are common during the day as they easily navigate traffic-jam prone areas.
Cruising around Nairobi in a personal vehicle can be the most fun way to move around. These can be hired from car hiring service companies whose details can be found online such as 4by4 car hire services. A car hire for a night depending on the car type and the company will cost you between Kshs. 3500 on the lower side to Kshs. 10000 on the higher side.
The vibrant Nairobi life presents a variety of choices for where to go out and have fun. If you are with friends who are locals and/or know their way around then you are most possibly sorted out. If you are alone you can still have fun albeit unadvisable since you may be prone to things such as robbery. It is always advisable to have company while enjoying the Nairobi night life.
Bars and Clubs
Ha, these are the most probable and most popular destinations for anyone who wants to experience the Nairobi nightlife firsthand. Most of the popular clubs are located around the CBD along Tom Mboya Street and Moi Avenue or in Westlands. Other popular joints are found in Hurlingham, Karen and along Ng’ong Road. Some of the most popular bars and clubs include Brew Bistro, Skyluxx, Aqua, K1, Havanna, Gypsy, Tribeka and Black Diamond. Nairobians are known to go club hopping and may visit up to five clubs in one night in search of where the party spirit is. Most clubs stay open all night if you are the energetic kind of person then you can party all night. Most people choose to leave the clubs between 3am – 4am.
Nairobi night life is a fun filled with events ranging from concerts and gigs around the city. On one particular evening you cannot miss an event to attend ranging from free to heavily-paid for. Some of them may be corporate events while others may be indie-organized events that are open to all.
For the lovers of art you could go to the Kenya National Theatre for performances or head over to art galleries when they are open for shows.
If you are that kind of person that doesn’t thrive in the loud music and rowdy crowd that the clubs present then you could just head out into one of the restaurants in Nairobi that offer a whole range of cuisines from the local foods to the Chinese and Italian foods. Most of the restaurants open way into the night and you could pop in for a decent meal at a reasonable price.
Some of the most popular restaurants include Fogo Gaucho for their Brazillian cuisine, Chowpaty for the popular Indian cuisine, Talisman for their fusion of cuisines, Carnivore for the delicious roast beef popularly known as nyama choma and Habesha for their Ethiopian cuisine.
Fast food joints
The typical Nairobian loves fast foods and if you love fast food too then welcome home. If I had a dollar for every time I saw a fast food joint in Nairobi then Bill Gates would have nothing on me. Hahaha. The most popular fast food is a combination of fries (popularly known as chips. Yes just chips. Not potato chips. Just chips) and fried chicken found everywhere. Kenchic, KFC, Sonford and Altonas are some of the most popular for these. They are open at night and if you want to grab a bite then feel free to do so.
If you are looking for somewhere to rest afterwards then the city has a whole range of stars in the hotel business. This only depends on your pocket and the type of comfort you want. Villa Rosa Kempinsky and Sankara are some of the most popular up in the price range while the Laico Regency, The Intercontinental and Hilton follow closely.
Nairobi at night is a sight to behold. Stepping out into the night can be scary if it’s your first time but the city welcomes you with warm open arms. Viva Nairobi!
By Troy Onyango
First published in TAP MAG ISSUE 5