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Where to live in Nairobi

NairobiNairobi areas

City centre
Eastlands
Embakasi
Karen/Langata
Kileleshwa
Kilimani/Hurlingham/Ngong Road
Lavington
Muthaiga
Nairobi West
Ngong
Pangani/Eastleigh
Parklands
Riverside
Runda/Gigiri
Thika Road
Westlands

Nairobi


Description

Nairobi is a busy modern city of between three and four million people and it is the de facto commercial capital of East Africa. Most businesses are headquartered in the city centre or in the industrial area to the southeast.
Country and regional offices for the many international humanitarian organisations stationed here cluster in the leafy suburbs to the west. The United Nations compound is to the northwest.
These areas are also where most expatriates and well-off Kenyans have made their base, although some people choose to live further out, in the rural enclave of Karen/Langata 20 km southwest of the centre. The local Indian/Asian population is concentrated to the north of the city centre, while low and middle-income Kenyans and immigrants from surrounding countries generally live in the south and east.
There are also a number of slums including Kibera, home to an estimated one million people, which is located just south of Ngong Road southwest of the city centre, and Mathare off Thika Road to the northeast. These areas became flashpoints for violence and clashes with police in early 2008 in the wake of disputed presidential elections.
Other parts of the city affected by the unrest included the central business district (CBD) due to its proximity to Uhuru Park, the venue for anti-government protests, and the industrial area to the south.
The poverty gap in Nairobi is extreme and has given rise to a soaring crime problem, as well as to a booming private security industry; most high-income accommodation has 24-hour guards (called 'askari'), and tight surveillance.
There is a good choice of housing in a variety of styles – new-build apartments, bungalows, semi-detached or detached villas in their own plots of land – but rents, like almost everything else in Nairobi, are expensive.
For shopping there are plenty of modern shopping malls and supermarkets, especially in upmarket areas; basic items such as bread, milk, fresh fruit and bottled water can be bought easily and cheaply from locally run wooden shack stores called 'dukas' all over town.
In addition roads especially in the leafy suburbs are lined with nurseries selling all manner of local plants, which thrive in Nairobi's equable climate.
Nairobi is well served by a large network of buses and 14-seater Nissan minivans called 'matatus'; fares are cheap (usually Ksh30-50, with a Ksh10 surcharge during rush hour, when traffic is heavy), but matatus are often in poor condition, are driven fast and can be dangerous.
Taxis are plentiful but more expensive, and expatriates on long-term contracts generally buy their own car. (See also 'Relocating to Nairobi' in the articles section for further information.)
Text: Mike Pflanz and Laura Clarke, lauragclarke@gmail.com.

Useful contacts
Nairobi Areas
City centre
The city centre can be divided into two parts: the modern central business district (CBD), bounded by University Way to the north, Uhuru Highway to the west, Haile Selassie Avenue to the south and Moi Avenue to the east;...
Eastlands
This mixed-income African area due east of the city centre has expanded in recent decades. At its heart lies Buru Buru, built as a middle-income estate in the 1970s and 1980s and inhabited by Kenyan business people and p...
Embakasi
This area roughly 15 km to the southeast of the city centre includes Nyayo estate and Avenue Park. The former, dating from the late 1990s, is popular with professionals and entrepreneurs looking for a peaceful and very s...
Karen/Langata
Once home to “Out of Africa” author Karen Blixen, who lends the suburb its name, Karen is 20 km southwest of the central business district has the feel of a sprawling country village, with the newly opened Ka...
Kileleshwa
Kileleshwa is quieter and greener than Kilimani, Hurlingham or Ngong Road and more of the 1950s and 1960s bungalows, set in large mature gardens, have survived the modern property developers. However, there are also some...
Kilimani/Hurlingham/Ngong Road
These busy areas bounded by Dennis Pritt Road to the north and Ngong Road to the south host many of Nairobi’s new-build apartment blocks. These were largely constructed in the property boom of the 1990s, replacing ...
Lavington
Lavington is a green haven lying halfway between the busier areas of Hurlingham and Westlands. Here the few modern apartment blocks are unobtrusive and the lanes linking busier roads are lined with large houses and bunga...
Muthaiga
Four kilometres north of the city centre, Muthaiga is Nairobi’s long-established Beverly Hills; it lies along shady roads that wind through lush wooded hills and valleys with streams that turn into quick-running ri...
Nairobi West
Located due south of the city centre near Wilson airport, Nairobi’s second airport serving domestic and some international traffic, this area includes the estates of Nairobi West and neighbouring South C. The latte...
Ngong
On the slopes of the enchanting Ngong hills some 22 km southwest of Nairobi, Ngong is a striking mix of rich and poor. The land originally belonged to the Maasai tribe but in the early 1990s the traditional herdsmen bega...
Pangani/Eastleigh
Pangani, northeast of the city centre, has undergone major changes recently as many of its original Indian/Asian inhabitants have moved out to the more upmarket Kileleshwa, Westlands or Parklands areas and a new wave of ...
Parklands
Parklands, due north of the city centre, is traditionally an Indian/Asian zone. The area is dotted with mosques and Hindu temples and there is a hospital, a university and school named after one of its most illustrious b...
Riverside
Riverside is Lavington’s slightly more upmarket cousin, which real estate agents term “exclusive living”. Rambling 1960s or 1970s houses with large gardens lie along steep slopes dipping down to the Nai...
Runda/Gigiri
Separated from Nairobi city centre by the 2,500-acre Karura Forest and several low, wooded hills, Gigiri houses both the United Nations (UN) complex and the new United States embassy, which moved here after the terrorist...
Thika Road
Thika Road running northeast out of the city centre supports a number of very different estates over a large area. Mathare North, some 8 km out of town, is an all-African zone inhabited by manual workers and daily labour...
Westlands
Westlands is traditionally Nairobi’s social and entertainment centre for expatriates and wealthy Kenyans, a lively cluster of shops, restaurants, bars and nightclubs 3 km to the northwest of the central business di...
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