En route from LHR to NBO
I arrived in Kenya early in the morning, after 14 hours of flight time plus another 7 hours of time difference. On some level the long trip seemed an appropriate way to underscore how far Kenya is from my life in New York.
A driver was waiting for me after I passed through immigration, holding a sign with my name on it. As we drove from one side of Nairobi to the other I had trouble keeping my eyes open, exhausted from the flight. Between mini-naps I glimpsed bits and pieces of the city. We traveled on crowded highways, and took what elsewhere I would have assumed were detours on dirt roads.
There’s a lot of construction going on here. Occasionally the signs have a bit of Mandarin on them, evidence that Chinese industry is making as much investment here as any other foreign country (if not more). The buildings change quickly from guarded Monsanto factories to apartment high-rises to small makeshift kiosks with Coca-Cola logos painted on the side. One moment we were passing a new shopping mall that wouldn’t seem out of place in middle America, and the next we were passing a tiny town of homemade corrugated metal homes.
Along the highway in Nairobi
All along the road people were walking and sitting and socializing. I noticed that almost all of the roads, big and small, had well-worn pedestrian paths running beside them. If this were rural Denmark, or even Vermont, I’d guess that they were recently built by some progressive local Government to inspire more jogging or bike riding. Here in Kenya, the paths look more like they are the bi-product of a population with a lot more people than cars, and a cultural predilection for transportation by foot.
When we arrived at the hotel, we were greeted at a gate by a security guard who asked to check the trunk (presumably for hidden explosives). The hotel was beautiful. It felt new and handsomely designed with a subtle mix of global contemporary style along with a dash of local flavor.
Tribe Hotel, Nairobi
The hotel had a pool, a spa, a good restaurant, cocktails, and wifi; it was like any equivalent hotel in any other major global city. Except that this hotel did not feel part of the city. Guests didn’t come and go as they pleased, wondering out to explore the city around them. Locals didn’t meet up in the hotel lounge after work. This hotel felt more like a secluded oasis for international travelers who each came to Nairobi for reasons related to the interests of other people and companies thousands of miles away, and reasons largely unrelated to the individual lives of the people in the city around them.
(Read Day 2: Nairobi to Kisumu)