Fix My Hometown

New Yorker Finds Life Is Tame In Nairobi

A busy road in Nairobi leads to the central part of the city, and a popular shopping mall. (Aliya Chaudry/YJI)
By Aliya Chaudhry
Junior Reporter
NAIROBI, Kenya – It’s funny how easy it is to
convince people that, living in Africa, you have a pet lion and ride an
elephant to school – or if you’re lucky, you get to take the giraffe.
It’s also funny how hard it is to get people
to understand that in Kenya, we have cars, malls, restaurants and houses with wireless
Internet access.
It seems like people outside of Africa are
ready to believe that we Kenyan residents race ostriches for fun on weekends.
They also would accept that our daily activities include hunting wildebeest,
playing with leopards and taming zebras. In reality, Kenya is not nearly that
I live in Nairobi, a big city, with around three
million people, located right in the middle of Kenya, away from the beach, the
savanna and the safari parks, bookended by the tea farms of Tigoni and Limuru
on one end, and Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on the other.
Though the city center is dense, packed and
fairly compact, the rest of the town isn’t. Like many other expatriates
residing temporarily in Kenya, I live in the suburbs, having moved here from
New York City.
Compared to Manhattan, the Nairobi suburbs often
feel like one of the most boring places there are to live.
Aliya Chaudhry /


A street corner in Nyari, a pretty neighborhood


in Nairobi with huge houses and gardens.


The suburbs in Nairobi are divided into
different sections. Some are very pretty, like Rosslyn and Gigiri, while some
are quite cozy, like Thigiri but at the same time there are humongous estates,
like Runda, while there are some, like Nyari, that just contain humongous
houses. These McMansion-like residences are a lot bigger than I thought they
would be, or even should be. Some are really new, and you can find some really
interesting houses that look like a combination of geometric shapes and there
are some fancy, pretty,  old houses, too.
Aliya Chaudhry /


A street in Nyari, a Nairobi neighborhood.

Even the apartments here are bigger than they
are in New York. The house may be a little too large, but the gardens are
normally twice that size. No house comes without a garden, and no garden is
unpleasant. Nearly every garden is filled with towering trees; avocado seems to
be popular.
Poinsettia and Bougainvillea, with their
vibrant and exotic flowers, have invaded almost every garden. African Lilies
and Jacaranda trees, both of which have small flowers in the same shade of
lilac, are fairly common.
Monkeys visit more often than on occasion,
especially when there is fruit on the trees. They don’t do much except sit in
the trees, but it’s quite shocking the first few times they come.
Though Nairobi lacks a lot of the benefits of
living in North America or Europe, it does offer enough for us temporary
residents to get by. There are enough malls or shopping centers like Westgate
and Village Market, with stores, really good restaurants and movie theaters.
Aliya Chaudhry /


Westgate mall in Nairobi, one of the newest and most popular shopping centers in Kenya.

There’s even an ice rink here, but that’s all
the way across town. The quality of food is really good, though, and seeing
movies is a great way to pass the time. Clothes shopping isn’t a strong suit,
however. The quality, variety and pricing of clothes stores here is not too
good, so most of us buy our clothes over the summer, when almost everyone goes
back home.
Security here is bad – enough to make even a
teenager nervous. In Nairobi, teenagers don’t get nearly as much freedom as their
peers in some parts of the world, like suburban Europe or America.
Most parents are wary about going out at
night, and twice as cautious about letting their children out alone in the
evening. As a consequence, we always need to be accompanied, either by an adult
or a sufficient number of teenagers, and all events or outings with friends need
to be planned in advance. You can’t just walk over to your friend’s house,
though most people I know just don’t walk to places since they prefer to go by
The weather is probably the most interesting
aspect of Kenya. As a former New Yorker, it’s actually quite unsettling for me.
The amount of greenery and lack of concrete alone was a little uncomfortable at
first, but the weather just seems unrealistic.
It doesn’t get too hot or too cold here – the
most you need is a sweater. There’s no snow, but the rain can become quite
harsh in October and March.
Living amongst all the temporary residents,
diplomats and international citizens, it doesn’t feel like I’m in Africa. It
almost feels like living in the suburbs of a European country, minus the
sidewalks – and a lot of the other benefits of Europe.
So even though it’s not ideal, Nairobi is not
nearly as bad as it might seem to the uninitiated.

1 Comment

  • Ya true not like europe but..nairobi is gonna get there soon…thankx nice post aliya…should get me to take you to some nasty places around have some local beef roast and see how the youth spend their time …get to sample some down to earth food get a feeling of a diffrent life from newyork…