Welcome to another edition of “I Love My Neighborhood”, where I ask expats from across the globe to share the joys of local life they’ve found in their corner of the world.
If you’re just joining in now, check out the other cities that have been covered so far here.
Today sees the series head to Africa for the first time thanks to Emily, an American living in Nairobi. Her blog, which I first discovered when I read her post about almost being robbed on a bus, is an insightful peek at life in Kenya (a country I know very little about) as well what it’s like to be a trailing spouse.
Emily: Why I Love Kilimani
I believe I have the honor of being the first expat in the series to write about an African city. Hurray! Nairobi can be intimidating, but my neighborhood of Kilimani is a great place.
When my husband and I moved to Nairobi, we didn’t have a lot of input into our housing situation. Because Nairobi is– well, to put it bluntly– unsafe, my husband’s company preferred to find us a secure apartment in a safer neighborhood, rather than let us bumble around trying to find something ourselves. We now live in Kilimani, a neighborhood in Nairobi that we love!
Many of the safer areas of Nairobi are far out in the suburbs. In those neighborhoods, you need a car to get anywhere. Between the terrible traffic and the plethora of car-jackings, a car is just not something I wanted to deal with.
Luckily, we’re in Kilimani, where you really don’t need a car! Unlike the suburbs, Kilimani is still in the city, just a few kilometers away from the Central Business District. As a result, Kilimani is denser, and therefore very walkable. I love being able to walk to so many fantastic restaurants (see below), to the market, to the movie theater, or to a friend’s house.
As an added bonus, most Kilimani streets have sidewalks, which is not something that you’ll find throughout Nairobi. When you’re dodging crazy bus drivers and trying not to fall in the open gutters, a sidewalk is a real bonus.
It’s close to the city center
For the low, low price of 20-30 Kenyan Shillings (25-35 cents US) you can easily take a bus into downtown Nairobi. If it’s not rush hour, the ride will be less than 15 minutes. (If it is rush hour, then good luck to you. Maybe you’ll get to your destination before dawn.) I frequently go to the city center (not during rush hour) because there are several parks and museums there, and it’s where I can transfer to another bus to get anywhere in the city.
Obviously, there are plenty of Kenyans in Kilimani, but there’s also a huge expat population here. Several embassies and international schools are located nearby, which makes Kilimani quite the melting pot. We’ve been fortunate enough to meet people from Australia, Iran, France, Ghana, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. in our neighborhood.
There are tons of great restaurants
I love food, which is perfect because Kilimani has some of the best restaurants in Nairobi. (Seriously, I’m not just saying that because I live here.) Because the neighborhood is so diverse, the food is diverse too. In the past few months alone, I’ve eaten Egyptian, Ethiopian, Italian, Nigerian, and Lebanese food. Of course, there are plenty of places serving local Kenyan food, too. I also chow down on the street food in the neighborhood, especially the fresh fruit and mandazi (fried dough). Mmmm…love fried dough.
As I said earlier, Nairobi is not especially safe, or at least not safe when compared to nice neighborhoods in Western cities. But safety is all relative, isn’t it? And Kilimani is fairly safe, all things considered. I feel comfortable walking around during the day by myself. My husband and I will sometimes walk together after dark, which is something you can’t do in many neighborhoods here. I sleep well at night knowing that my apartment is secure, and I’ve never had anything truly dangerous happen to me here. In a country where terrorist attacks, kidnappings, and car-jackings occur on a weekly basis, it’s nice to live somewhere safe-ish.
About the author: Emily has lived in Africa, the South Pacific, and three states in four years. She pays the bills by writing for various educational companies, but she’s happiest when writing about travel. Emily and her husband live life on the go, and they are currently in Nairobi, Kenya. Emily writes about travel, and life as a trailing spouse at One Trailing Spouse. You can also connect with her on facebook and twitter.
All photos courtesy of the author.