Friday, 26 February 2016

Nairobi, Nairobi, Oh how I love thee Nairobi!

Nairobi, City in the Sun
Kenyatta International Conference Centre, the tallest building in Nairobi then.
I love Nairobi. People who haven't been there for many years and go back say they couldn't live there again, but not me, I could live there in a heart beat!

Nairobi, the capital of Kenya is where I lived and grew up for 20 of the most formative years of my life. We moved there from Dar-es-Salaam to be closer to family. Most of my dad's family lived in Nairobi. Mzee Jomo Kenyatta who had fought the British with the Mau Mau became Kenya's first President in 1963. He ruled till 1978 when he died. The second President was Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi and he was President from 1978 to 2002.

Mzee Jomo Kenyatta - Kenya's 1st President (1963 - 1978)
He is also the father of the current President, Uhuru Kenyatta.
Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi - Kenya's 2nd President (1978 - 2002)
My first memory of living in Nairobi is balancing on a curb and twirling around in a yellow dress and flat burgundy pointy shoes at the our family's Plums Hotel.

We would spend the first 12 years of our life in Nairobi on Woodvale Grove in Westlands. We lived in an big old colonial-style house. A gas truck would come and fill up an outdoor gas tank every month (I still remember that gas smell when the truck came!) and that's how we got hot water. We didn't have showers, we bathed with buckets of water and I remember having hot water coils we would dip into the buckets to heat up the water. There was a dirt front yard that we loved riding our yellow 'Chipper' bike on (one bike to share between the three of us). Kidia Bhai and Mwangi were staff at the hotel and lived in the 'servants quarters' at the back. Kidia bhai's daughter, Teresa was about the same age as me and we climbed the a frangipani tree in our yard together.

Woodvale Grove - the street where we first lived in Nairobi. The house is gone, a bank in it's place.

Frangipani - we climbed the tree and then made buttons out of these flowers.
Our earliest neighbours in the early 70s were Chiro a middle-aged Italian man who lived in the back, Wendy the stripper, Erie the air hostess with East African Airways, Dotty and Julie. Our neighbours on the other side were Frida, her sister, Lydia and their children Kathleen, Hubert and Otto. They had a big orange tree in their yard. I don't ever remember eating those oranges, may be because they were more like lemons! We would talk to our neighbours through the big open window that was about eight feet off the ground and that my sister, Farah one day fell out of and had to have stitches on her head! When those neighbours left, Maria, a Russian mum, her boyfriend David and their daughter, Julietta moved in and opened Kalinka, a clothing store. It was a sign on things to come as that entire residential street we lived on including all the houses in the neighbourhood became retail stores!

In the mid 70s, this lovely English lady Jean, her husband Lawrence and her young son Bradley moved in next to us. We loved the way they spoke. Instead of "we were going" they said "we was going." They had a little red Mini Morris. We would play with Bradley after school every day and Jean taught my mum how to make pancakes! After they left, a couple with three little boys moved in.

My mum had an Irish friend, Sheila married to Dr. Gabri who would drop her sons Kiran and Sean to school in the morning and then come over with her youngest son Indraj for tea and a chat. These two friends would talk and talk and talk! Poor Indie, not sure what he did! Sheila also had a little blue Mini Morris.

If you have ever lived in Nairobi, mutumias were an integral part of your life. They were door-to-door sales people. They purchased vegetables in the morning and carried these heavy bags all day long (usually straps over their heads) and would come and sell them at your door. You'd know they were coming because they called out loudly as they approached your house, yelling out all they were carrying that day. You'd haggle with them for what you wanted. I don't know how they carried such heavy bags day in and day out and we had the audacity to nickel and dime them or rather 'shilling them'!

City Park was a lovely park in the Parklands. We went there a lot when we were kids. I remember a gazebo, lots of wooded areas and a plant nursery at the entrance. The other large green space in Nairobi was Uhuru Park which was situated just outside of the centre of downtown where the gatherings for special political occasions took place including Madaraka Day (June 1st), Kenyatta Day (October 20th), Jamhuri Day (December 12th). There was a large pond where you could go boating and there were photographers all over the park who would take professional photos of you in the park for a fee. There were also stepped hills that we loved rolling down as kids. There is also the Arboretum which was close to the State House, the official residence of the President of Kenya which is a beautiful green space and where there is a wooden Girl Guide building that smelled old and musty and where we went to buy our brownie badges and other Girl Guide stuff.

Uhuru Park
In Nairobi, the postman didn't come you to you. You went to your post box to pick up your mail. This was our Post office box in Westlands, P.O. Box 14620, Nairobi, Kenya.

This was #16 Hirani Flats where my grandmother lived. They were Ismaili flats at the time, built just for Ismailis to live in. There were others too; Old Highridge Flats, New Highridge Flats and Parklands Flats.
The big green field in the middle was a fun place where all the kids in the flats would gather and play. There were some grouchy neighbours who complained to my grandmother about the noise we made!
My friends Shezmin  Nanji and Yasmin Thawer lived in the same flats on the other side.

Nairobi is a City filled with colour from all the gorgeous tropical flowers!

There were no washers and dryers. 
The servants as they were called in those days hand washed the clothes and dried them on a line.

The three Jamatkhanas (Ismaili mosques) in Nairobi
Town, Parklands and Pangani. There used to be a fourth one, Eastleigh.

Thank you for sharing Day 7 of 50 with me!


  1. Thanks for sharing Minaz, been to Nairobi now so on my next visit i will take some pics for you.. if you ever moved back.. not sure how Karim would cope with the driving! Lol.

    1. Karim wouldn't drive, he'd take matatus! He'd be hanging out the windows but at least he'd be listening to the best music!

  2. Minaz my dear you have a memory of an elephant!Xxxx.All the details!.I just love the pictures! Did your Mom have them or did you have them.

    1. Rashida, I didn't have time to consult with my mum on this post, so I did it without research and after talking to her for five minutes found out I got a few things wrong! My sisters and my mum have amazing memories, just like my grandmother! The research is half the fun of doing this blog!

    2. Rashida, I didn't have time to consult with my mum on this post, so I did it without research and after talking to her for five minutes found out I got a few things wrong! My sisters and my mum have amazing memories, just like my grandmother! The research is half the fun of doing this blog!

  3. I haven't been to Nairobi in years! Think it's time to head back for a visit.

  4. I would love to go to Nairobi with you as a personal tour guide. It sounds better than an all inclusive vacation. Love the sense of community depicted in this post. It really speaks to the values you hold dear today.

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  6. Sheila Gabri, wife of Dr. Ravi Gabri was also my friend and I would love to be able to talk to her again. Do you have any contact details for
    her? I lived in Lavgington, Nairobi from 1975 to 1981 and have fond memories of Kenya. I am due to visit in April 2019 and it would really make my hoiliday special if I could meet up with Sheila again. I will be staying in Westlands. Kind Regards, Patti Sherratt