Nairobi City – Kenya
Nairobi, city, capital of Kenya. It is situated in the south-central part of the country, in the highlands at an elevation of about 5,500 feet (1,680 metres). The city lies 300 miles (480 km) northwest of Mombasa, Kenya’s major port on the Indian Ocean.
The city originated in the late 1890s as a colonial railway settlement, taking its name from a water hole known to the Maasai people as Enkare Nairobi (“Cold Water”). When the railhead arrived there in 1899, the British colonial capital of Ukamba province was transferred from Machakos (now Masaku) to the site, and in 1905 Nairobi became the capital of the British East Africa Protectorate. From about 1900 onward, when a small Indian bazaar was established at Nairobi, the city was also a trading centre.
Nairobi was founded in 1899 by colonial authorities in British East Africa, as a rail depot on the Uganda – Kenya Railway. The town quickly grew to replace Mombasa as the capital of Kenya in 1907. After independence in 1963, Nairobi became the capital of the Republic of Kenya.
The earliest account of Nairobi’s history dates back to 1899 when a railway depot was built in a brackish African swamp occupied only by a pastoralist people, the Maasai, the sedentary Akamba people, as well as the agriculturalist Kikuyu people who were all displaced by the colonialists
As a governmental centre, Nairobi subsequently attracted a stream of migrants from rural Kenya that made it one of the largest cities in tropical Africa. It was declared a municipality in 1919 and was granted city status in 1954. When Kenya gained independence in 1963, Nairobi remained the capital. The new country’s constitution expanded the city’s municipal area; the enlarged municipality is an independent unit administered by the Nairobi City Council.
Nairobi is the principal industrial centre of the country. The railways are the largest single industrial employer. Light-manufacturing industries produce beverages, cigarettes, and processed food. Tourism is also important. The city is located near eastern Africa’s agricultural heartland, and a number of primary products are routed through Nairobi before being exported via Mombasa. Nairobi also plays an important role in the community of eastern African states; it is the headquarters of important regional railways, harbours, and airways corporations.
Nairobi is the largest city and capital of the modern state of Kenya as well as the former capital of British East Africa. Nairobi was originally a camp for the engineers constructing the Uganda railway from Mombasa to Lake Victoria in 1899. Later that year, the railway headquarters was moved there and the settlement began to take on the responsibilities of a territorial capital. Soon afterwards European-owned businesses sprang up and by 1900 there was a significant Indian community and bazaar. As a consequence of the growth, the Masai peoples occupying the site were removed by British colonial officials. The suitability of the town’s swampy location was called into question by plague outbreaks in 1901 and 1904 but Nairobi’s prominence with Kenya was assured when plans to construct a new capital were deemed unrealistic and Nairobi was officially made capital of the territory.
Nairobi’s colonial years were marked by racial inequality. Legislation limited the ability of native Africans to own property and created a “pass system” by which their movements in the capital were tightly controlled. Both Indians and native Africans, with the exception of domestics, were confined to certain neighborhoods by both restrictive covenants and the placement of facilities, such as hospitals, which catered to specific ethnic groups. Segregation, with natives excluded from many hotels, restaurants and the like, was also common. Natives were also forced to endure British paternalism which ranged from lectures on etiquette to the state discouraging native owned businesses ostensibly to prevent them from duping one another. The tension created by these policies frequently triggered unrest in the city including most notably the Mau Mau movement of the 1950s.
In 1963, the nation of Kenya, with Nairobi as its capital, gained independence from Great Britain. The newly independent Nairobi continued to grow at a breakneck pace, more than doubling its population from about 340,000 in 1963 to over 800,000 by the 1980s. Post-independence Nairobi retained its cosmopolitan ambiance with distinct European, Asian, and native African neighborhoods despite the end of segregation. In addition to being the seat of the Kenyan Government, Nairobi also plays host to international bodies such as the regional headquarters of UNICEF.
Post-independence Nairobi has also seen its share of troubles. Political demonstrations, often with religious undertones, are not uncommon. One such demonstration on July 7, 1997 was aggressively dispersed by the police. On August 7, 1998, the United States Embassy in downtown Nairobi was destroyed by a bomb planted by Al-Qaida which caused extensive damage and over two hundred deaths. In 2007, the disputed presidential election produced a wave of political violence in the capital.