Jackson Biko is our man about town…
Kenya is turning 50 this month. Before we uncork that Pinotage, let’s see how Kenya is honouring it. First, 50 million trees should have been planted by now, as promised by the National Tree Campaign. Also, a new paediatric wing should be up and running at the Kenyatta National Hospital, and a monument erected at the famous Uhuru Gardens on Nairobi’s Langata Road as part of the Government’s steering committee initiative. And to usher in this occasion at the stroke of midnight (11/12 December) the Kenyan flag will be raised at Uhuru Gardens and at the highest point of Mt Kenya.
But has the city aged? Can you feel those decades in the streets, bars, restaurants and in the vibe of the people? Chances are you can’t. Nairobi isn’t exactly Rome. But you can experience the city’s age if you go to the right places where you might relive (and walk in the footsteps) of some of the city’s journeys from pre-independence to post-independence.
One of the oldest bars in town is the Exchange Bar at the Sarova Stanley. It’s known for its single malts but also for it’s deep and rich history. It was the site of Nairobi’s first Stock Exchange (1954-1991); it took delivery of the first-ever order from the newly formed Kenya Breweries, makers of the famed Tusker. The decor hangs on a thin line of the modern and the pre-independence. Hang with it. To do this you have to have a Tusker at this gentleman’s bar to honour the country. Order it cold, please, the Kenyan way.
In Nairobi you’ll also find the most photographed house in Africa – the African Heritage House. It’s an architectural gem (made from mud), designed by Alan Donovan. Within it lies some of Africa’s most unique and amazing art. The house overlooks Nairobi National Park. To get the best of this house, book a room there and have breakfast, lunch or dinner at their rooftop restaurant surveying the park. The sundowners, as you sip your Margaritas, will weaken your heart. (www.africanheritagebook.com)
The National Museum of Kenya will be organising night tours of the museum for groups of ten people (www.public firstname.lastname@example.org) and also tours of the city (by day) dubbed the Historic Tours courtesy of Nairobi Gallery. Nairobi Gallery, and a national monument, was built in 1913 as the old PC’s office building where births, marriages and deaths were recorded.
This journey wouldn’t be complete without a cup of tea at Fairmont The Norfolk, opened in 1904. This was where all the new arrivals gathered, men with ambition and the money to back it. Men who were attracted by the romanticism of acquiring a piece of the colony or the thrilling hunt of big game. They fled the winters of the northern hemisphere in search of adventure and the liberation of the African sun. Be a part of this. Toast Kenya’s 50th, even if you are just having tea.