Nairobi, Kenya, Africa

Founded: 1899; Incorporated: 1903
Location: 500 km (300 mi) west of the Indian Ocean in Kenya's Central Highlands
Flag: Field divided into yellow and green quarters, with center circle featuring blue and white waves.
Motto: City in the Sun
Flower: Glorisa Superba (Kenya)
Time Zone: 3:00 PM Universal Coordinated Time (UCT-3) = noon Greenwich Mean Time (GMT)
Ethnic Composition: Kenyan African groups—Kikuyu, Luo, Luhyia, Kalenjin, Kisii, and Kamba; Asians (people who trace their origins to India and Pakistan), Europeans, and Somalis
Elevation: 1,680 meters (5,512 feet)
Latitude and Longitude: 1 ° 16'S, 36 ° 48'E
Climate: Tropical highland with sunny days, mild daily temperatures, and cool nights
Annual Mean Temperature: September to April maximum average daytime temperature 24 ° C (75 ° F) and minimum average nighttime temperature 13 ° C (55.4 ° F); May to August maximum average daytime temperature 21 ° C (70 ° F) and minimum average nighttime temperature 11 ° C (51.8 ° F)
Seasonal Average Rain: Heavy rains March to May; lighter rains November to December
Government: Mayor-council
Weights and Measures: Metric system
Monetary Units: Kenyan Shilling
Telephone Area Codes : 254 (Kenya country code); 2 (Nairobi city code)

2. Getting There

Nairobi is located in south-central Kenya, 140 kilometers (87 miles) south of the equator. It is well served by international airlines, and a regional road network links it to other major East African urban centers. Railways link Nairobi to Mombasa, Kenya ' s second largest city, on the Indian Ocean and Kisumu, the third largest city, on the shores of Lake Victoria.


Nairobi is connected by paved roads to Kenya ' s other major urban centers, such as Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Kisii, and Kericho. A paved road also links Nairobi to northern Tanzania ' s major tourist, agricultural, and commercial center, Arusha. Traffic jams are common leading into the city during the morning rush hour and leading out of the city after work hours.

Nairobi Population Profile

Population: 2,320,000
Area: 689 sq km (266 sq mi)
Ethnic composition: Kenyan African groups—Kikuyu, Luo, Luhyia, Kalenjin, Kisii, and Kamba; Asians (people who trace their origins to India and Pakistan), Europeans, and Somalis
World population rank1: 133
Percentage of national population2: 7.7%
Average yearly growth rate: 5.0%
Nicknames: City in the Sun; Nairobbery


  1. The Nairobi metropolitan area's rank among the world's urban areas.
  2. The percent of Kenya's total population living in the Nairobi metropolitan area.

Bus and Railroad Service

There are a large number of long-distance bus companies in Nairobi that provide transportation to most areas of the country. Long-distance buses also provide service to major cities in Uganda and Tanzania. In addition to long-distance buses, there are mini-buses with regular service to Mombasa and shared taxis to nearby urban centers including the Kenya-Tanzania border. Shared taxis are Peugeot station wagons that usually carry seven passengers. Often the minibuses and shared taxis leave when they are full and therefore do not follow fixed schedules. While the large buses often follow a schedule, at times they operate along lines similar to those of shared taxis and leave when full. Road transport can be dangerous. Many of the long-distance buses travel at night and, in addition to transporting passengers, carry cargo. There have been a number of horrific accidents in which large numbers of passengers have been killed or injured.

Nairobi railway station serves as the main point of departure for trains to and from Mombasa and Kisumu. There is also a direct Nairobi to Kampala, Uganda, train once a week.


The Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, about 13 kilometers (eight miles) southeast of the town center via the Mombasa Highway, is the main airport in East Africa. It offers flights to many destinations in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, as well as internal flights to Kisumu on Lake Victoria and Malindi and Mombasa on the coast. In addition to Kenyan airlines, Jomo Kenyatta International Airport is serviced by a large number of international airlines. Major airlines that fly into Kenyatta include Air France, Air India, British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Gulf Air, Japan Airlines, El-Al, and Pakistan International Airlines. African airlines that service Nairobi include Ethiopia Airlines, Air Tanzania, South African Airways, Air Madagascar, Air Malawi, Air Mauritius, Air Rwanda, Air Zimbabwe, Cameroon Airlines, Egypt Air, and Royal Swazi.

Wilson is Nairobi ' s other main airport. Located close to the Nairobi National Park, this airport caters primarily to smaller planes and charter flights. In terms of the number of flights, it is said to be busier than Jomo Kenyatta International Airport. Many charter flights to Kenya ' s game parks or coastal resorts fly out of Wilson.

Bus and Commuter Rail Service

Mass transit in Nairobi is made up of buses and minibuses. These can be a cheap, if not adventurous, way of getting around Nairobi. They are usually packed during the morning rush hours as people head to work and in the evening as Nairobians return home. However, at other times and on weekends the congestion is not bad. Commuters are not the only people who make use of mass transit: passengers need to be wary of pick-pockets. Kenya Bus Service (KBS) operates a large fleet of commuter buses that serve the city. However, the most important means of mass transit are matatus. Matatus are privately owned minibuses. Many are outrageously decorated (Minnesota Timberwolves, Dennis Rodman, Scud Missile), encouraged by competitions for most original design. Other characteristics of matatus include loud music blaring from the sound-systems and drivers who seldom obey traffic regulations. Although matatus are often jam-packed with people, the drivers always believe there is space for one more.

Taxi and Shared Taxi

Taxis are a more expensive but more reliable mode of transportation than the matatus. They come in all shapes and conditions, including some London-style cabs. Usually, they are not metered and, like most other things in Nairobi, their fares are negotiable. Shared taxis, Peugeot station wagons packed with people, operate on some routes and also take passengers to nearby towns.


Because traffic congestion is a major problem in downtown Nairobi, walking is the best way to get around the city center. The distances are short, and the streets are well marked.

City Fact Comparison
Indicator Nairobi Cairo Rome Beijing
(Kenya) (Egypt) (Italy) (China)
Population of urban area1 2,320,000 10,772,000 2,688,000 12,033,000
Date the city was founded 1899 AD 969 753 BC 723 BC
Daily costs to visit the city2
Hotel (single occupancy) $130 $193 $172 $129
Meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner) $52 $56 $59 $62
Incidentals (laundry, dry cleaning, etc.) $13 $14 $15 $16
Total daily costs $195 $173 $246 $207
Major Newspapers3
Number of newspapers serving the city 9 13 20 11
Largest newspaper Daily Nation Akhbar El Yom/Al Akhbar La Repubblica Renmin Ribao
Circulation of largest newspaper 813,300 1,159,339 754,930 3,000,000
Date largest newspaper was established 1838 1944 1976 1948
1United Nations population estimates for the year 2000.
2The maximum amount the U.S. Government reimburses its employees for business travel. The lodging portion of the allowance is based on the cost for a single room at a moderately-priced hotel. The meal portion is based on the costs of an average breakfast, lunch, and dinner including taxes, service charges, and customary tips. Incidental travel expenses include such things as laundry and dry cleaning.
3David Maddux, ed. Editor&Publisher International Year Book. New York: The Editor&Publisher Company, 1999.


Nairobi is home to many tour operators and travel agents. Excursions can be arranged to all parts of Kenya and to

Nairobi is the most developed city in East Africa. ()
visit Tanzania ' s impressive northern game parks. Most tour companies and travel agents can organize tours of Nairobi. Tours of central Nairobi will normally include visits to the Parliament Building, the City Market, and the National Museum. Trips to Nairobi National Park, the Giraffe Center, and the Karen Blixen Museum can also be easily arranged.

7. Government

Nairobi is the main administrative center for the national government. The mayor and the city commission are responsible for management of the city. Nevertheless, the central government is very strong, leaving the Nairobi local government with little power.

22. For Further Study


Kenya Web. [Online] Available (accessed February 5, 2000).

Living Encyclopedia for Kenya. [Online] Available (accessed February 5, 2000).

Nation Newspaper. [Online] Available (accessed February 5, 2000).

Government Offices

Kenya Embassy in Washington D.C.
2249 R. Street
N.W. Washington D.C. 20008
(202) 387-6101

Tourist and Convention Bureaus

Kenya Government Tourist Office
and Consulates:

424 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10017
(212) 486-1300

Dohery Plaza Suite 160
9150 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles CA 90212
(310) 274-6635


Nation Newspapers
PO Box 49010
Nairobi Kenya

Weekly Review Ltd.
PO Box 42271
Nairobi Kenya


Cohen, William, and E. S. Ohdiambo. Burying SM: The Politics of Knowledge and the Sociology of Power. Heinemann, 1992.

Denison, Isak (Karen Blixen). Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass. Vintage Books, 1989.

Donelson, Linda. Out of Africa: Karen Blixen ' s Untold Story. Coolsang List, 1998.

Finlay, Hugh, and Geoff Crowther. Lonely Planet Kenya. Lonely Planet, 1997.

Hauman, Mathew, and R. Van Eyndhoven. Africa Give me Your Eyes: Stories About Meeting People in Kenya. Source Books, 1997.

Hodd, Michael. East Africa Handbook. Chicago: Passport Books, 1998.

Hutton, J. Urban Challenges in East Africa. Nairobi: East Africa Publishing House, 1970.

Huxley, Elspeth. Nine Faces of Kenya. London: Harvil, 1991.

Lonely Planet. East Africa. Singapore: SNP Printing House, 1997.

McHugh, Kathleen. (ed.) Kenya, Tanzania, Seychelles. London: Fodo Travel Publications, 1990.

Mwangi, Meja. Going Down River Road. Heinemann, 1976. [Fiction]

Ngugi wa Thiongo. A Grain of Wheat. Heinemann, 1994. [Fiction]

Quick, T.L., (et al). Rhinos in the Rough: A Golfer's Guide to Kenya. Nairobi: Kenways Publications, 1993.

Robertson, Claire. Trouble Showed the Way: Women, Men, and Trade in the Nairobi Area 1890–1990. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1997.