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5 October, 2018 00:00 00 AM

Cool Water City Of Africa

By Mohammad Mahmudur Rahman Niaz
Cool Water City Of Africa

Nairobi is the capital and largest city of Kenya. The name comes from the Maasai phrase ‘enkare nyrobi’, which means cool water. The area was an uninhabited swamp until a supply depot of the Uganda Railway was built there in 1896. After Kenya’s independence in 1963, Nairobi grew rapidly. As the city is situated near the equator, the differences between the seasons are minimal. Much of the city has dense tree cover and plenty of green spaces. Jomo Kenyatta International Airport connects the city by air to rest of the world.

As a part of my East Africa tour, I was in Nairobi in September of 2010. The day started by saying Fazr prayer at the Jamia Mosque, located on Banda Street. The mosque was founded by Syed Maulana Abdullah Shah around 1902. It is built in classic Arabic architectural style, with extensive use of marble and inscriptions from the Quran. It has three silver domes and twin minarets. There is a separate prayer hall for women. It also contains a library, a multi-purpose hall and a training institute where one can learn Arabic, computing and cloth-making.

Though English is used in business and academics, Swahili is the national language of Kenya. The ability to speak some basic Swahili, like ‘hakuna matata’, meaning no problem, can win interest of locals. By the mid 20th Century, many foreigners settled in Nairobi from other parts of the British Empire. The immigrants mainly came to construct the Kampala–Mombasa railway. Still, many Indian shops and restaurants are found in Nairobi. Nairobi is home to several universities and colleges. There are a number of churches, mosques and temples within the city.

After taking breakfast, I started for Nairobi National Museum following Harry Thuku Road. Though the streets of the city are wide, traffic congestion occurs in the morning and evening. The museum, located on Museum Hill, was built in 1929. There is an enormous statue of a dinosaur just at the entrance. Inside, everything is well explained and organised in different sections, like natural life, ethnography and the origins of humanity. History of Kenya’s independence is also well explained there.

The museum houses a large collection of artifacts portraying Kenya's rich heritage through history, nature, culture and contemporary art. There are displays of the cultures of various Kenyan tribes in the people section, located upstairs. The museum also contains dinosaur fossils found in Kenya. It also has the full remains of a homo erectus, popularly known as the Turkana Boy. Adjacent to the museum is a snake park, where anyone can get a chance to see many snakes, including cobras, black and green mambas and very large rock pythons.

Nairobi Botanic Garden is also located within the museum complex. The gardens are laid out into themed areas, named as Memorial Garden, Grass Garden, Quarry Garden, Orchid House, Wooded Garden, Children’s Garden, Herbal Garden, Succulent Garden and New Nairobi Forest. There is a nursery area for propagating rare plants. The main purposes of the gardens are education, conservation, research and recreation. With its landscape, beauty, serenity and indigenous plants, it is a heaven of biodiversity. While walking around this beautiful garden, I saw a map of Kenya made from recycled glass, scrap metal and an assortment of other materials. This artwork is known as Kitengela glass. Following the track, I enjoyed the colourful landscapes and came out of the museum.

I returned to city centre and reached my next destination, Kenyatta International Conference Centre. It is a renowned venue for conferences, meetings, exhibitions and special events. The centre is named after Kenya's founding father and first president, Jomo Kenyatta, who played a significant role in transforming Kenya from a British colony into an independent republic. It was opened to the public on September 11, 1973.

The 28-storey cylindrical building has a revolving restaurant and a helipad on the top. There are fountains on either side of the walkway along the main entrance from the City Hall side. Nicely arranged gardens along the square attract people’s attention. In the square, there is a large statue of Kenyatta. By purchasing a ticket, anyone can enter the building and go to the top floor. I was astounded to get a great view of the sprawling city from there. A mushroom-shaped amphitheatre with pale terracotta facade is located just next to the building. Its central plenary hall resembles the ancient Roman Senate. The city square is also located within the perimeter. Several five star hotels are within walking distance. Most of the skyscrapers in the area are headquarters of businesses and corporations. The Supreme Court and Maasai Market are located to the north of the square.

In late afternoon, I reached Nairobi National Park, established in 1946. Nairobi is one of the few cities in the world with a national park within its boundaries. It has an electric fence separating the park's wildlife from the metropolis. The park contains many animals, including lions, giraffes and black rhinos. It is also home to over 400 species of birds. Safari Walk is a major attraction of the park. I left as the sun was setting.

Here, I would like to mention the world famous Massai Mara National Reserve, located in Narok County, approximately 280 km south-west of Nairobi. People can see wild animals, like wildebeests, lions, leopards and cheetahs, roaming there freely. It is famous for the great animal migration, which takes place from mid-June to late November. During the hot and humid months, wildebeest herds search for lush and greener grass. In doing so, they cross the dangerous, crocodile infested water of the Mara River. August is the most consistent month to view the river crossing.

Meanwhile, at night, I walked along Kenyatta Avenue. It is the widest street in the city. Nairobi's night life is popular with tourists. ‘Nyama choma’ is a local term for roasted meat, which is very popular among the locals.

I visited a few souvenir shops. Kenya is a shopper’s paradise when it comes to finding unique items and souvenirs. The amount of ingenious creativity and originality is mind-boggling. A few items that attracted me most were ebony carvings, Maasai blankets, masks, Maasai shields and spears, baskets, Kenyan art, Kazuri beads and Kisii soapstone carvings. Ebony is a dense black hardwood; it gives a very smooth finish when polished. I bought a few ebony carvings and Maasai ornaments. The local currency is known as shilling (100 shilling equals around 1 USD).

Besides, Kenyan safari boots made of cowhide is famous. It is available in a variety of finishes and styles and stands up to the roughest treatment. Tourists’ prefer Bata’s hand stitched safari boots for hiking and gorilla trekking expeditions. I enjoyed my dinner at a KFC outlet and decided to call it a day. Obviously, it was a memorable and pleasant visit.

Giraffe Centre, Karen Blixen Museum, Uhuru Gardens and Nairobi Railway Museum are some other places of interest in the city. There are many hotels, shopping malls, coffee houses and restaurants, too. With a rare combination of natural beauty, wildlife, culture and city life, Nairobi offers an amazing vacation experience to anyone.n

The writer is a civil engineer and a

serving military officer.

Photos: Writer.

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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