Nairobi, Kenya: Impressions, Food, and Accessibility

Updated: Apr 13

I hope everyone is enjoying spending more time at home and keeping away from catching the Coronavirus. To help put some variety in your newsfeed, let me share with you about my recent layover in Kenya.

I had the pleasure of spending 24 hours in Nairobi, Kenya recently on a long layover. It was my first time seeing that city. I was surprised by the tall buildings and just how much more developed than I had previously imagined. On the morning I arrived into Nairobi, there was a marathon going on. My graduate school classmate who lives there later informed me over lunch that the first lady of Kenya was trying to fundraise to allocate more funding for health care. According to my friend, while the first lady was trying to fundraise for health care funds, her husband, the President of Kenya is squandering it with corrupt activities.

Politics aside, I found the Kenyan people in Nairobi to be very hospitable and friendly. Everyone I interacted with spoke English. The food was delicious. I had local Kenyan food which consisted of ugali (made of maize flour), cabbage, and Nyama Choma (roasted beef). For dinner, we went to a trendy Ethiopian restaurant and the food was also very tasty.

One thing that was very noticeable in Nairobi was communities were very gated. Apartment buildings were gated. Restaurants were gated. I didn’t stay long enough to know why, but my friends said it was very normal to have high security and gates you have to pass through to enter restaurants or apartment complexes. The friend that I stayed with lived in a very good neighborhood, so perhaps it was more high security than other areas.

Even though Nairobi was more developed than I thought, it was still very hard to get around for someone who uses a wheelchair like me. The mass transportation (which is mainly the public buses) is not accessible at all. The buses do not have ramps, but the bus waiting areas are also inaccessible and difficult to get to as well due to the incomplete infrastructure and nonpaved surfaces.

The easiest and most budget friendly way to get around is Uber. There are a couple of other local shared ride apps but their prices are about the same as Uber. I didn’t want to download numerous foreign apps so I just purchased a local SimCard with 1 GB of data at the airport for $300 Kenyan Shillings ($3 USD). I turned on my data and used Uber whenever I needed to go somewhere. It only cost one to a few dollars per trip to go everywhere I wanted to go. I normally wouldn’t purchase a phone plan for just a long layover, but the Uber function was crucial to helping me get around. And both the phone plan and the Uber rates were so reasonable that it would’ve been a definite loss (especially economically) if I didn’t opt for that path.

My 24 hour layover was much too short, so I will definitely be coming back to Nairobi, if not for anything else than definitely for the people. Let me just give you one example of how kindhearted the Kenyan people are. While we were eating dinner at that trendy Ethiopian restaurant the night before, the wheel on the right side of my wheelchair exploded. There was a tear on the outside of the tire and it did look like it was about to pop at the seams. But I was still surprised by the loud popping sound that came out, because that had never happened to any of my wheelchairs before. I was just glad we were not at an airport or movie theater when it happened. It would’ve caused some chaos given the current extra precaution around exploding sounds. Anyways, with that said, I had a punctured tire and I was still not going to be home for another two days. My Uber driver, not knowing I had a punctured tire, offered to wheel me all the way from the parking lot to the place where I needed to enter the airport. The distance was actually quite far. Since it was around three in the morning, there were only a limited number of entrances for people going to the airport for departures. These kind gestures happened often enough where it really gave me a good impression of the Kenyan people.

Nairobi, I hope to be back again soon!

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