I Love My Neighborhood: Kilimani, Nairobi

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!

It’s walkable

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.

It’s diverse

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.

It’s safe-ish

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.

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  1. What a cool neighborhood! I have to say that it’s not what I pictured for Nairobi. And the food pictured (I’m thinking maybe Ethiopian?) looks delish!

  2. What a super cool quartier! I love that you have included Africa in your neighbourhood series. :) That is awesome. I visited Kenya when I was a child, and always wondered what it would be like to live there since one of my elementary teachers had lived in Nairobi as a British expat. It was really cool to learn more about it in this post. :)

    x Milsters


  3. Whoa that food looks awesome! I wish I could get a platter in Germany that colorful, but no way!

  4. Looks like a fascinating place to visit. I love the portion sizes of their food!

  5. Absolutely fascinating. Sounds like a great little oasis to live. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Hi Emily! I thought you were in Hurlingham. Great to be reminded of Kilimani. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Why do you people always portray Nairobi to be so bad and unsafe, it is not all that…..

  8. Priscilla says:

    Hi Emily! Really enjoyed reading your post. I’m not sure if you’re still in Kilimani – but I’m planning on moving there in a few weeks. I was wondering if you had any recommendations or people you could put me in touch with to find housing? Thanks so much!

    • Hey Priscilla,
      I’ve been back in the U.S. for about a year and a half now, and unfortunately many of my contacts in Nairobi have also moved on. I don’t have any recommendations for you right now, but if I think of anything, I will let you know.

  9. It was a laugh cause I “DID” get robbed on the bus, and this was posted 4 years ago! Not much has really changed I must say, Great post and thanks for sharing!