Monday, August 06, 2007


Oh, been long since I blogged but I just have to post this story about Nairobi from http://www.africaalmanac.com/top20townscitys.html

I have highlighted the most juicy part. Enjoy.

7. Nairobi, Kenya. The city of Nairobi has itself alone to blame for not being a better African city than it is today. It had all the opportunities in the past, the infrastructure, and (rare for Africa) decades of uninterrupted stability.

But despite its self-inflicted decline, it is still one of Africa's largest and most interesting cities.

More public facilities, more shopping centres with a wider variety of goods, more entertainment points with greater degrees of fun, csn be found in Nairobi than in any other city in East Africa, as well as the Horn of Africa and Central Africa.

Or as one Ugandan marketing manager visiting the city in 2001 remarked on its position as a major regional city despite the dscline: "Kenya is still Kenya."

Nairobi is the host city of several United Nations agencies as well as other international organizations. It serves as the location of a number of international news agencies' regional bureaus, and has more high-rise buildings than any city of any country in East and Central Africa.

Of the three East African countriee --- Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania --- Kenya's economy accounts for 60 percent, Tanzania's is at 25 percent, while Uganda's is 15 percent in size.

Nairobi shows this difference in size. It is one of the fastest-growing mobile phone markets on the African continent, has several dozen hotels, restaurants, and coffee shops, large supermarkets, has one of the largest fleets of public buses and taxi vans, yet they never seem enough.

Nairobi also has one of the most internationally-minded populations of any city in Africa. It is not a surprise to encounter a South African who has no clue that Nigeria is in West Africa and not a neighbour of Botswana in the southwest of Africa.

A typical West African urban dweller might find it hard to differentiate Malawi from Lesotho.

The Nairobi crowd tends to be well-informed on average, because of the fact that the country is heavily dependent on foreign tourism for national revenue, and also that Kenya has been host to numerous refugee populations from neighbouring countries.

What stands out most about Nairobi is the people.

All Kenya's neighbours tend to be traditional in outlook --- Tanzania to the south with Roman Catholic and Muslim-dominated populations, Ethiopia to the north and Eritrea to the north-east, mainly Muslim and Orthodox Christian, Somalia to the northeast, Muslim, Uganda to the west, just silghtly Roman Catholic-dominated, but also Anglican Protestant, and Sudan to the northwest, Muslim.

The societies are male-dominated, with well-defined, subsidiary roles for women, and a certain demure public behaviour expected of them.

Kenya and Nairobi in particular, has a different culture, where it appears that both men and women behave in a masculine manner.

All across the streets on a weekday are hundreds of thousands of these good-looking Kenyans walking briskly, the conversations revolving around the corporate and the pursuit of money. Pregnant women will casually disembark from a slow moving bus even before its reaches the stop, while holding another baby in their arms.

Open, cooperative and warm in manner, yet unsentimental, very direct and aggresive at the same time, is the Nairobi character. Kenyans freely and laughingly describe themselves as "rough" and "fast".

The taxis play unbearably loud club re-mixes of hit disco music, as pasengers sit unperturbed in silence.

Despite Kenya's relative high economic standards, public buses remain congested, with as many people seated as stand in the bus corridor, with few showing discomfort on their faces.

Life for them, it seems, is not life if it is not one of hustle and rough-edged. They seem to expect and be comfortable with that.

The Nairobi people are easy to approach and interact with, but this drive and their "rough" collective personalities can leave people from more traditional and polite societies feeling emotianally exhausted after some time.

Many visitors from the countries that neighbour Kenya often find this trait disorienting and even unmannerly.

However, it is this upfront and direct demeanor, the Tom Boyish yet sophisticatedly feminine trait among the women and girls, that makes for the exciting and rigorous city that Nairobi is --- loud street corner evangelists, charming female radio Disc Jockeys, the sizzle of the nightclubs and recreational centres, and sense of something happening all the time.


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