Views & Threats – Nairobi, Kenya

Some places you visit exceed all your expectations, some places leave bad memories & not much else. Due to a number of unfortunate experiences, Nairobi in Kenya is a city that left me with the latter. Quite a number of these bad experiences happened in one day.

 

I had read about a really good restaurant at the top of the Kenyatta International Conference Centre so my brother & I decided to head there for lunch. Having had a bad experience with a scam artist taxi driver in Nairobi during a previous visit, we decided to stick with using Uber rather.

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The Kenyatta International Conference Centre (ICC) & something out of the Jetsons to the right of it

After an uneventful trip to the KICC, we made our way through the two security checks & after dealing with an extremely flirtatious lady serving in the Kenyan Army, we got into the tower itself. The amazing restaurant at the top didn’t exist. We did, however, get to the very top of the tower. We were lucky to have been there on a clear day & the view was absolutely amazing. I have a thing for views & I liked this one.

 

We had a good look around & noticed a Maasai market a street or two from the KICC & I vaguely remembered reading somewhere that it was quite a big one. We went down the tower, had a good lunch & made our way towards the market. I wasn’t expecting our day to go so badly so quickly. I have to point out that we were both born & raised in African countries & we have both spent plenty of time in markets in numerous African countries; we are by no means rookies when it comes to these types of places.

 

We were approached before we even entered the market. Guys calling themselves managers were hounding us, touching us, feeling our hair & trying to get information out of us. The goods they were selling were beautiful & I would have loved to spend money there, but I took one look at my brother’s face & I knew he had reached his limit. With people rubbing up against us, breathing on us & trying their best to separate us, we made our way towards an exit. As we got to the exit, a few guys started threatening us because we hadn’t spent money as well as trying to find out what hotel we were staying at to come find us later.

 

Our plan all along was to walk from the KICC to our hotel, but we didn’t expect the area to be as populated & run down as it was. We made our way to our hotel & had to walk through a number of crowded areas including what seemed to be a major bus station. The touching & feeling started with the bystanders. People walking with us, almost massaging us, tugging our backpacks & wanting to know things from us. At one point, my brother was walking ahead of me & out of nowhere someone grabbed me & pulled me behind a stationary bus. I pushed away with all the force I had & ran to find my brother again.

 

I know there are some beautiful areas & aspects to Kenya & I know many travelers fall in love with the country & it’s people every year. I, however, will struggle to find reason to go back. I think this is a brilliant example of how different people experience the same place. I do believe it is better to try something & know than to not try & always wonder. So I am still incredibly grateful I got to spend some time & have my own experiences in Kenya.

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Amazing Kenyan comfort food: Ugali fries with some great Tusker’s beer
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128 thoughts on “Views & Threats – Nairobi, Kenya

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    1. As safety should be. The important thing is to remember is to be safety conscious – walking from the KICC to our hotel with our backpacks was not being safety conscious. Nairobi (or as my brother calls it, Nairobbery) is a place that I will bypass in the future. If you’re going to other parts of the country, make sure all your transfers are with a reputable company & you do extensive research on the safety of the exact areas you plan on visiting.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. I had an equally bad experience in Nairobi, Dan, so I understand how you feel. I do however enjoy your philosophical view; ” I do believe it is better to try something & know than to not try & always wonder”.

    Thanks for some useful input

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This also caught my eye. I am a single traveling mom but felt I should be more adventurous yet there’s that need to maximize what I have saved for a trip, unfortunate experiences excluded. Thanks for that reminder, Dan! Love reading your stories. Keep it up! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  2. My Parents have been to Kenya and had some similar stories to tell, but despite they also fell for the nature and in the Massai village, which in the end is very artificial and for tourists I would believe, they have met a lot of smiling and friendly people.
    Their hearts also melted while seeing kids there and they came back with mixed feelings. But the bigger the city, the worse threat …
    Probably something each of us should experience to get our own perspective, but definitely good suggestions for the future! and I love the Nairobbery word actually! 😉
    good read!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the compliment! It’s quite scary to hear how many people have had bad experiences here & funnily enough, Wikitravel rated Nairobi as an up & coming travel destination for 2017. I haven’t even gotten started on the taxi drivers or how bad the traffic is in Nairobi😂 But as I say, I’m glad I can now think back on my own experiences & my two trips to Nairobi taught me so much & I grew so much as a traveler. Thanks for reading & showing support😊

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Hey Dan,

    Thanks for reading our little blog. We like yours too and think you’re brave travelling in Africa. We’re just tooling around SE Asia which is pretty darn sweet and comfortable. Good luck with your future travels,

    All the best

    Kristen & Bill
    ( the dislocated hippies)

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’ve researched Kenya and Tanzania separately. I’ve heard other stories like yours so it’s put me off a bot. I’ve travelled a lot in India which is a walk in the park compared to parts of Africa. Haven’t written it of yet though.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As you’ve mentioned, parts of Africa are a bit of a challenge & sometimes more costly especially in comparison to India. I would strongly discourage spending time in Nairobi & rather swiftly move on to other destinations in Kenya. I absolutely love Africa & it’s beauty so don’t write it off just yet. Do your research, stay aware & stay safe & it will be worth it in every way.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello, please try Uganda as well and compare. But take care, do not put money and Credit/Debit cards, travel documents in your wallet. Easy to get snatched.

        Otherwise, welcome to Kampala city of bodaboda(motorcycle taxis). Sit firmly on bodaboda. Ask for Matooke (Plantains) & beef,chicken,fish or goat.

        Charcoal Grilled pork an matooke or casava is yummy.

        Paul Okia
        http://www.tourismobserver.com
        http://www.tourismobserver.WordPress.com

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Thank you for your support on my blog. As a matter of fact, I have been drawn to visiting Uganda & I actually spoke to someone about it this week. Thank you for your tips, I’ll need them when I visit😊

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I like your blog and definitely also don‘t prefer Nairobi. But yes, go to Uganda. Such a splendid country. I have already been there twice and only took great and heart-warming memories home. I will surely write about my experiences. So many stories to share actually. Happy planning!

        Liked by 2 people

  5. It feels nice,to me, to see you loved the food here even on your critic perspective. I’d advise you visit the rest of the country ( if you haven’t ) there’s too much you’d love.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for reading! The food was amazing & it actually baffles me that Kenyan cuisine is not more popular. Like you say, the rest of the country has more to offer & I’ve heard amazing things about certain parts of the country😊

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I’m sad to hear that Nairobi has become such an uninviting destination. I traveled around Kenya in 2009 with two friends and we had heard all the stories about “Nai-robbery”, but we luckily had a safe and enjoyable time in Nairobi, the Masaai Mara and Mt. Kenya region. One of my 2 travel mates even took a local train to Mombassa alone for a few days and had a great time there with no problems. Mind you, we were all seasoned travelers who had lived aboard in the developing world for many years.

    Sometimes, it’s just bad luck or a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but it sounds as if the market you visited should be clearly avoided by tourists, no matter the color of their skin. Doing online research prior to a trip should involve talking with locals about places that should be avoided in their hometown since this info can change rapidly. Enjoy your travels!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read! I have heard many people go on about how great other regions if the country are, just that Nairobi is unpleasant.

      The research you suggested by talking to a local is such a brilliant idea – I usually only speak to a local once I arrive at the destination.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. It’s refreshing to read actual recounts of travel destinations, even if they are disappointing for you as the traveler. So many places are like this, including India, which is both the best and worst place I have traveled to, depending on the day (a dude selling bracelets punched me in the face as I wouldn’t look at him).

    Liked by 2 people

      1. It was just outside of the red fort in Agra so I just kept walking into the site where the hawkers are not allowed. I was by myself with a guide and before getting to Agra he said “the hawkers are very pushy and aggressive best not to give them any attention because even if you say no thanks they know they have your attention and will try harder. Also I apologise now as I cannot stop them as they will know me as I come back all the time with tourists and if I stop them trying to sell to you they will remember me and attack me”. So that said in advance I wasn’t surprised when it happened.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. This is so bizarre for me to read because I had such good experiences with hawkers in India, but like you said – wrong place, wrong time. I’m sorry that happened to you, hopefully you never experience anything remotely similar again.

        Liked by 1 person

  8. It seems to be one of those cities that people either love or hate, I’ve been a couple of times now and prefer staying in the Karen suburb. Not as busy and felt safer than other parts of the city, while still being close enough to Uber or get a taxi to all the main areas! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I wouldn’t say love, I mean it’s basically just like any capital city haha! I just haven’t had a bad experience there yet to dislike it. I’ve been a few times just because it’s a cheap hub to fly into form the UK 🙂 The rest of the country is much nicer and the people more welcoming – I only ever stay in Nairobi for a couple of days either side of my trips!

        Liked by 2 people

  9. I’m sorry about your experience in Nairobi…not great at all. I can certainly vouch for Uganda and have at times been the only ‘Mzungu’ woman in a market place yet have not felt threatened at all. I do think however that wherever one travels sadly the cities areas do attract an element where you have to be aware of your surroundings at all times. As relaxed as I feel in most areas here in Uganda I am never too complacent. Come and visit…it’s a beautiful country!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I totally get this. I felt hounded whilst in India, where people took away personal space to touch, grab, follow and stare. It made me feel very uncomfortable. The only place I’ve been to that I wouldn’t be in a hurry to go back to. I hope the rest of your trip was better.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. ” I think this is a brilliant example of how different people experience the same place.”
    This sentence is so true! I know there are definitely places I have loved and others have hated (ad vice versa) due to our own experiences there. Glad you got out unscathed!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Exactly! I often find that if I build up too much of an expectation for a place, I get very disappointed & often those are places other people love. With this situation, it was slightly different though. Glad you enjoyed reading this 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  12. Wow! I’m so sorry you had a bad experience in Nairobi. I think as a foreigner in Kenya, it’s always advisable to have a local contact to help you get around. Also, a lot of people might try to take advantage of you so if a deal sounds too good, think twice. If you ever decide to visit again, I hope it will be much better and safer!

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Absolutely scary! I’m glad your both wise to stick together and get through it. Cultural difference or no cultural difference that’s not the way to behave towards visitors. That sort of thing will affect their tourist industry, I for one will think twice about going to Kenya, being a girl that would be so freaky!!

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Wow. I am sorry to hear about your experience. We had similar experiences in Morocco. After weeks around the country we were so shaken we left the country early. I believe we all have cultures which fit us better than others and traveling allows us to learn what we like and don’t like. We can also be in the wrong place at the wrong time which happened when I was violently robbed in my hotel room in St. Lucia once.
    Thank you for sharing your experience.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I really love how you’ve put it – “we all have cultures which fit us better than others”

      You sound like you’ve had quite a few really horrible experiences, good for you on not throwing in the towel all together & still maintaining such a positive attitude!

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Sorry you got robbed in St. Lucia. I believe traveling and touring is not just about seeing good things. It does involve nasty and bad experiences which may include physical harm and loosing property.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. Sounds scary. I don’t know if I could deal with random strangers touching me. I need my 5 foot bubble of personal space. Do they do that because they recognize you are tourists or is that a part of their culture and do it to anyone? Anyways very interesting read. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read it. I don’t know exactly why we got touched like that, my first thought is that physical we we looked very different – my brother having blonde hair & blue eyes on top of that. I think it was either pure curiosity or a way of flustering us so we’d give them money.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. This sounds just like what you would see in the movies. This also reminded me of an experience I personally had in my own country in another state though. The worst thing was it happened outside one of the most famous temples of India. And it didnt stop there. The touching, pulling and tugging continued inside the temple too. I have not had the courage to go to the place again despite the urge to go back , just to have a different experience. Kenya is a country my brother always wanted to visit. Your story might deter even the hardest souls I guess !

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh it happened at the Jagannath temple which is in Puri district of Orissa. It is the most famous temple of Krishna in India and is also one among the Char Dham circuit. After a work trip I had an evening with nothing to do, so me and my assistant(a guy) hopped on to a bus and took off to the temple. I wasn’t aware of it’s notoriety beforehand else I would never have ventured alone. Getting manhandled and molested outside and inside a temple is the most horrible experience one can ever have. The sad part was my assistant wasn’t spared either and those hooligans actually forced him to part with money too. Sad, right?

        Liked by 2 people

  17. Hey Dan, It is sad that you had such a bad experience in Nairobi. I wish I could say it is not true but that’s the reality in Nairobi. KICC and masaai market is at the centre of Nairobi, it therefore attracts all sorts of people. The best advice as a local is to use a reputable tour company for organised trips and also shopping experience. There are other markets similar to Masaai market within Nairobi. Do not write it off yet, do your due diligence and you will experience the best there is in Nairobi. Let me know if you want suggestions for your next trip.

    Liked by 2 people

  18. I’m a Kenyan and I’m sorry you had to go through that, but one bad experience in the city doesn’t mean that ours is a bad country! There’s no country that is flawless, just ask your fellow travellers.

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I would love to see more of Africa. Haven’t been anywhere in ‘real’ Africa yet (South Africa, Morocco etc. only). This stuff is good to know. Wouldn’t put me off, but tells me I need to do a lot of research and be careful.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. I’m so sad to hear you had such a bad time in Kenya, I’ve never been myself, but in my head it was such a beautiful place, but I guess like you said, we all need to make our own experiences…

    Liked by 2 people

  21. I would like to visit Kenya one day, but I will make sure I accompany my Kenyan friend. She said she would take me to see her family whom would, in her words “Treat me like a queen”. I never knew it looked this beautiful as it does in your photo. What ever happens to be, I will take the experience and be thankful that I was able to travel to a new place.Hopefully if you ever return again, your experiences will be much more pleasant.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Loved it! We (my family) stayed at Governors Camp for a few nights – beautiful spot. Great drives around the land a few times a day watching incredible animals hunting, playing etc. Wouldn’t hesitate to go back! Have you been?

        Liked by 1 person

  22. Scary is the word, but glad you have the courage to experience and share the wisdom around. Rightly said, different people have varied perceptions of the same place based on individual experiences. Point to take back home, SAFETY FIRST !

    Liked by 1 person

  23. I am so sorry for your terrifying experience in Kenya. I am a Kenyan and I believe that what happened to you was unfortunate it is always good to travel with a local trust me the experience will be totally different.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Wow! That sounds sooo scary. If I ever visit Kenya, which I do want to, I think I’ll have to go on a tour to make sure I am safe. Where in Africa did you grow up? Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Interesting story to share, I only lost my temper once in Africa, some dude in Zambia who just wouldn’t go away from me and he became mad because he saw I wasnt interested in what he was trying to sell to me, after that he got annoyed and didnt like that I was in a hurry ( I forgot something important at the hostel ) and didnt want to talk to him who was following me. I then stopped and yelled out very loud that from all tourists in town I am the only one who doesnt talk to nobody ! (Offcourse this aint true but damn it ) he after that shit his pants or I dont know what happend but finally he left. The only time this happend that I just had enough and reacted in that way, was the only option and it worked

    Liked by 1 person

      1. only the countries that are on my blog, if you click on Africa in the menubar you will see I’ve only been to 8 countries. This year in may I have done 6. There are still soem countries I would like to do there, Ethiopia is one of them, I read your post about it

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  26. Hey, Dan, sad to hear that you had a tough time in Nairobi. Indeed as you said abit more research would have helped, such as the fact that there is no restaurant at the roof of Kicc :). All the same navigating the Maasai market in Nairobi is an art, even for the locals, having an insider give you tips on this might have helped. That said, I empathise with your experience and sad that it left a bad taste in your mouth, Nairobi is not all that bad as you experienced it, would love to show you around, next time if you happen to stop by, I would be happy to be your personal ‘guide’ 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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