When did Maasai name Enkare Nyrobi, which means "a place of cold waters," change to current name "Nairobi"?
The new settlement was named after the Maasai name Enkare Nyrobi, which means "a place of cold waters," although there was no permanent African settlement since the place was grazing land and a livestock watering point. In 1896, a small transport depot was established at the site to keep provisions for oxen and mules.
In October 1898, Arthur Frederick Church, a 30 year old assistant railway engineer was dispatched by George Whitehouse, Uganda Railways Chief Engineer, to provide a town layout for the railway depot at ‘Nyrobi’.
From the railhead, Church planned two streets just wide enough for turning three axle oxcart wagons. These would become Victoria Street (today's Tom Moya street) and Station Road renamed Government Road in 1901 after the government took control of the town (Moi Avenue).
Off Station Road, he planned ten avenues along which houses for subordinates grade railway men would be sited. Along the rise which bordered the flat land, referred to us “The Hill “, Church sketched in a half-dozen sites for upper-grade houses to be accepted by senior railway men.
Along Victoria Street, Church marked out thirteen commercial plots, which be called ‘the European Bazaar' and, away in the distance, he cited the Asian trading area now called Biashara Street.
Needless to say Church's plans were based on railway requirements, not for any civic convenience and on 30th November, 1898, his
master plan for the layout of Nyrobi was approved by George Whitehouse and dispatched to London . The spelling of ‘Nyrobi’ was changed to ‘Nairobi’ on the instructions of Whitehouse on 3rd
Oct 1899 (By Stephen Mills & Brian Yonge).
Recollections by Grace Udall (Mrs Wilkinson)
When we came to East Africa in 1908 we were rowed ashore in little boats from our ship, then we scrambled with our luggage on to trolleys which were pushed along the track by Africans, singing on the downhill stretches and puffing and grunting on the uphill bits. Thus we arrived in Mombasa.
In the train we found ourselves covered in layers and layers of red dust as we slowly chugged our way up country, climbing steadily as the engine gobbled up tons and tons of wood fuel.
It seemed as if the whole of Nairobi had come to the station to meet the train. The hustle and bustle of white-robed people shouting at the tops of their voices, the rickshaw men grabbing your luggage and making off with it. the great Ali Khan with his riding boots and long whip there to take Government officials in his open wagon drawn by a span of mules - all this made a colourful and exciting stage in our journey. We hired two rickshaws and trotted off along the dirt road, with huge gum trees on either side, also a few corrugated iron buildings, and more than a few ruts in the way. This was Government Road (now Moi Avenue I. After what seemed hours we arrived at our new home in Second Avenue. Parklands, a small corrugated iron house on stilts. Three Africans greeted us. and so began our life in a new and raw land.
When we went to visit friends for afternoon tea, my brother and I were dressed up in white starched cotton with lace edging. Off we set, often with the sun blazing straight into our eyes, and as we grew hotter and hotter we dripped all over our beautiful white dresses. The rickshaw men were dressed up too in their ‘livery’. Each, household vied with the next in rigging out its rickshaw team.
My father had a bicycle, and when the telephone failed between Nairobi ar.d Ruiru he would set off at night to cycle the 20 miles there and back, with several papyrus swamps on the way, where hippos and crocodiles wandered across the road. Once, when he got to Ruiru, he found the water no longer running into the power station; a hippo had been sucked broadside across the grille above the intake and got stuck. Eventually it had to be shot, and then a long wait occurred until it became bloated and so water-borne, and was ignominiously towed away.
One year the rains were long and heavy and the roads got worse and worse. Government Road in particular had great potholes in it. The Public Works Department set to work to repair it, digging up long stretches. Then they disappeared, and the road became almost impassable. My father and several other citizens went into the town one night and under cover of darkness planted the road up with banana trees, cabbages and sugar-cane, to the amusement of all next morning. The PWD came and repaired the road soon after.
A colourful ceremony which took place in those early
days was the weighing of the Aga Khan in gold at the Aga Khan Club opposite the City Park. Everyone wore gorgeous saris and turbans. The Aga Khan, a portly gentleman, sat on a huge weighing scale,
and bars of gold were added on the opposite side until very slowly the scale lifted him off the ground, when a big cheer went up. I remember dancing at the ball held in the evening, where the Begum
wore a sari with real diamonds scattered over it.
The City Park, which was beautifully laid out with flowering trees and plants and green lawns, was formally opened by the Duke and Duchess of York, who were on a visit to Nairobi, while my father was Mayor. It was a great day.
Nairobi’s First Thirty Years by Dorothy Myers
Nairobi: National capital and regional hub by R. A. Obudho
Nairobi ..A Jubilee History 1900-1950 by James Smart.
Dorothy Myers is a Chartered Town Planner who worked for nine years with Nairobi City Council.
Historical Photographs: East Africa Railways Corporation, United Nations University..
On the more recent volcanic outpourings from the Rift Valley twenty miles to the west has developed a region of well-defined ridges and valleys running roughly east-west, drained by the tributaries of the Athi River system. To the south and east is an area of more mature landscape, of gentler slopes and much lower rainfall. Not far south of Nairobi, the streams start to be seasonal only. Early travellers spoke of the deep rich red soil and forested slopes of the highlands, which contrasted with the drier treeless plains below.
The site of what is now greater Nairobi straddles a physiographic, climatic and ethno-graphic area which has been of major significance throughout the growth and development of the city.
The general area was a boundary zone between pastoralists—the Masai—and sedentary sedentary cultivators—the Kikuyu. In the 1880s and '90s, the Kikuyu had been moving gradually southwards from Murang'a, and Masai control had been declining somewhat—possibly due to an outbreak of smallpox in the 1880s. Nevertheless the swampy watering places at the foot of the forest slopes, of which Nairobi was one, remained the territory of the Masai.
JUST OVER A CENTURY AGO, THERE was no town of Nairobi. Lion and rhino roamed freely where modern streets and buildings now provide a centre for the commerce and administration of Eastern Africa. A great city has arisen where once the explorers, the missionaries and administrators—“the grey company before the pioneers”— p itched their lonely camps, and along the route they marched now speed the shining cars of a new age.
Gedge, Jackson, Lugard. These were some of the men who passed through the Nairobi plain.
Ainsworth, Wilson. Tomkins, Martin, administrators and hunters.
Macdonald, Pringle, Austen, Twining, soldiers and surveyors.
Sclater and Smith, roadbuilders and engineers.
MacQueen, Andrew Dick and John Boyes, adventurers, traders and artisans.
Tucker, Poultney and Fisher, missionaries and teachers.
The plain on which Nairobi now stands was part of the “no-man’s-land” to high adventure; the unconsidered wilderness that stood between the Queen’s peace and Uganda, the country to which they carried the Flag and the Faith.
To them, Nairobi was unnamed, the swamp at the edge of the Kikuyu uplands, the last camp before the tiny outpost known as Fort Smith in Kikuyu which offered the first civilised comfort after weeks on safari. The wild plain inhabited only by herds of game and myriad birds, where the Nairobi River dispersed itself into a green swamp was a numbered camp, so many days march from the Coast. For the Reverend Fisher it was the “twenty-fifth march from the Coast.” Beyond, the forest concealed the savage Kikuyu, and the traveller risked painful death from poisoned arrows or spikes stuck into the undergrowth.
There were no inhabitants except the nomadic Masai who, from time to time, built their manyattas on the higher ground. They knew it as Nairobi “the place of the cold water” and sometimes their young warriors blooded their spears on lion at the edge of the swamp and achieved manhood.
In 1887 the trading and other activities which had been going on for a number of years throughout East Africa were formalised by the founding of the Imperial British East Africa Company. The trading capital of a large area to the east of the Rift Valley was at Machakos, administered from about 1889 by Colonel John Ainsworth. But the main sphere of trade was Uganda, the boundary of which was very much further east than at present.
It was for the protection of that route that various forts were set up along the way, including one established by Captain (later Lord) Lugard in 1890 at Dagoretti (a) on the fringes of Kikuyu country a few miles west of Nairobi. He chose the site especially for its location in between the Kikuyu and Masai areas, having in mind also its good water and fuel supply.
NAIROBI c. 1903. After the arrival of the Railway…Source: McVicar 1968.
Although a favourite Masai watering place, Nairobi itself had never been a popular campsite for the early caravans due to its dampness and mosquitoes. Rather
they had chosen to camp on the northern side of the river on the edges of the forest, probably somewhere around what is now Parklands.
Lugard's first camp did not last long. It was evacuated after a few months when the occupants feared a Kikuyu attack. The attack came and the station was
wiped out. A Major Smith returned two years later with greater strength to establish another station a little to the north. This one proved more enduring, since by this time, due to greater military
force and political manoeuvring, the British had managed to create a situation which was more favourable to their continued residence. The name of Fort Smith is still found in that part of greater
In the meantime, north of the Nairobi swamp several villages had been j established. The Masai had recently been experiencing hard times due to famine and
disease and had become partly dependent on the Kikuyu for food; a Masai village was established in what is now Parklands. Later they moved further south again beyond the Mbagathi
By the mid-'90s two more Masai villages had sprung up, one on the site of the present Muthaiga Club and the other towards the Mathare River. Some Somalis had
settled near the present Ngara Road and a few Kikuyu around what is now City Park on the fringes of the forest country. A market had started to the west near Dagoretti and another one near what is
now the junction of Ngara and Limuru Roads. Of the Dagoretti market, an early settler said:
The human traffic coming from Ngong was a wonderful sight, comprising mostly Masai women bringing their wares to exchange for all kinds of native food, beads,
ironware, Americani cloth, etc. Fort Smith in those days literally hummed with natives from all parts of the country. Of the other market, an old Kikuyu said: The market was started just after the
Europeans came. Kikuyus brought maize, posho, beans and potatoes to the market from one side and Masai came with goats and cows from the other A Colonel Sclater began the construction of a new road
to link the Dagoretti/Fort Smith area with the road from the coast. Parts of the alignment retaining the same name are still in existence well north of the city centre. It crossed the Nairobi River
at a point roughly at the present junction of Juja and Ring Roads.
On reaching Dagoretti, an open land which the Kikuyu, Kamba and Maasai used as a market area (great market = tha guriti in Kikuyu) he found it a good place to
build a station/fort where caravans proceeding inland, to Uganda could rest and get fresh supplies.
Waiyahki, son of Heinga was a peace-loving but brave Kikuyu chief who ruled in the Dagoretti (Ngongo Bagas) area of Kiambu about 10km west of Nairobi. In
October 1890, a British officer called Captain Frederick Lugard was travelling to Buganda on behalf of the IBEAC surveying a new route there as part of the British efforts to secure British
predominance there against perceived hostile German interests after the partition of East Africa.
Nairobi: National capital and regional hub
R. A. Obudho
Timeline of Nairobi
History of Nairobi
Nairobi: National capital and regional hub (East Africa Literature Bureau)
Click on photo to enlarge
Nairobi was Never Meant to be a City
In 1899, the railway line construction from Mombasa to Lake Victoria found a good midway watering point that soon became a busy village called Nairobi (from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nyirobi, meaning “the place of cool waters” ). It quickly grew into a large town to become the capital city, despite no seaport or major river or mining industry around it.
Names of major Nairobi landmarks in Colonial Kenya on the left, and their present day names:
1. From Duke Street to Ronald Ngala Street
2. From Victoria Steet to Tom Mboya Street
3. From Government Road to Moi Avenue
4. From College Road to Harry Thuku Road
5. From Bazaar Street to Biashara Street
6. From Salisbury Road to Princess Elizabeth Way, and then Uhuru Highway
7. From White House Road to Haile Selassie Avenue
8. From Coronation Avenue to Harambee Avenue
9. From Jan Smuts Avenue to Taifa Road
10. From 46 Victoria Street to Campos Ribeiro Avenue, and then Luthuli Avenue
11. From Sixth Avenue to Delamere Avenue, and then Kenyatta Avenue
12. From Hardinge Street to Kimathi Street
13. From Stewart Street to Muindi Mbingu Street
14. From Sadler Street to Koinange Street
15. From York Street to Kaunda Street
16. From Kirk Road to Nyerere Road
17. From Malik Street to Monrovia Street
18. From Gulzaar Street to Moktar Daddah Street
19. From Jeevanjee Street to Mfangano Street
20. From Ministry of Works Headquarters to Harambee House
21. From Connaught Road to Parliament Road
22. From Queensway to Mama Ngina Street
23. From Kingsway to University Way
24. From Sclater Road to Waiyaki Way
25. From Fort Hall Road to Muranga Road
26. From Doonholm Street to Jogoo Road
27. From Native Stadium to City Stadium
28. From Grogan Road to Kirinyaga Road
29. From Saldhana Road to Sheikh Karume Road
30. From Hussein Suleiman Road to Tubman Road
31. From Khan Road to Kumasi Road
32. From Reata Road to Accra Road
Information above courtesy of "The People" of November 27 - December 3, 1994;
Mayence Bent and The New Stanley Hotel
In the book “Nairobi A jubilee history 1900-1950” by James Smart, it states as follows on page 19 :
Municipal Notice No.3 issued in March 1901 assessing the annual rentals, gives us an accurate picture of the first businesses conducted in that street.
Firstly, there was Rossenrode, MacJohn & Company who built a hotel which was rented at some time by Tommy Wood as a tearoom.
T.A. Woods later built the White House in Government Road, when it was developed and a Major Ryne took over the whole of the old hotel, a portion of which was used as a Masonic Lodge.
Central Hotel on Victoria Street (now Tom Mboya St.) , Naiorbi. Circa 1902. This Hotel was later renamed to the present Stanley Hotel.
The Stanley Hotel was originally opened in 1902 as the Victoria Hotel, four sparsely appointed rooms above Tommy Wood's general store, where Mayence Bent (née Woodbury) ran the store and its post office, and also worked as a dressmaker and milliner. Mayence had taken the job at the store in 1898 after moving to Nairobi with her husband (and step-brother) William Stanley Bent, and their daughter Gladys. Mayence would bring fresh butter and vegetables from her husband's 40-acre (16 ha) farm in Kikuyu for the hotel's guests. In 1904, after a disagreement with Wood, Mayence entered into a business arrangement with a farmer from Sotik, Daniel Ernest Cooper, and opened the first Stanley Hotel.
New Stanley Hotel (1913)
That first Stanley Hotel was a two-story wooden building with 15 beds. In 1905, a liquor license was granted to D. E. Cooper for the hotel. Later that year, a fire destroyed much of Victoria Street (now Tom Mboya Street), where both hotels were located. Mayence quickly moved her tenants to an unused rail-road building on Government Road.
W. S. Bent declared insolvency in 1908 (and again in 1913).Soon after, Mayence married Frederick Francis Tate, brother of James William Tate and Dame Maggie Teyte. D. E. Cooper moved back to Sotik in 1909, dissolving his partnership with Mayence. In 1912, Fred Tate purchased two plots of land and had a new hotel designed by architects Robertson, Gow & Davidson, and built on Delamere Avenue.This building had 60 rooms in three stories. In 1913, with the new hotel's completion, the original site was sold to ex-postmaster Daniel William Noble. The Tates had originally planned to transfer the "Stanley Hotel" name to the new location, but Noble sued and won the use of "Old Stanley Hotel". Thus the "New Stanley Hotel" was born.
New Stanley Hotel (c. 1950)
During the first World War, Fred Tate served as a lieutenant with the local forces. Soon after he returned, he was struck with blindness and general paralysis. In 1926, he and Mayence moved to London, leaving the hotel to be run by Albert Ernest Waterman, his wife Florence Annie, and their daughter Ruby. In 1932, after six years in London, the Tates returned to Nairobi for the opening of the New Stanley Long Bar. Fred Tate kept busy with the constant appraisal of the hotel's guests, and the minutiae of things such as the daily menu. After Fred's death in 1937, Mayence's interest in managing the hotel's affairs waned.She eventually sold the hotel to Abraham Lazarus Block, a Jewish Lithuanian entrepreneur, in 1947, although she still maintained a financial interest. Mayence later moved to Hove, Sussex, where she died in 1968 at the age of 99.
Abraham Block's involvement with the Stanley Hotel had started not in 1947, but in 1903. One of Block's earliest business transactions in Nairobi was a deal with Mayence Bent involving having new mattresses sewn for the Victoria Hotel. Block had originally fled from his homeland of Lithuania to England to escape religious persecution. Seeing that living in London "was taking him nowhere",he soon followed his father, who had fled to South Africa, and later fought in the Second Boer War. Block, convinced that Kenya was a "New Zion" for Jews, travelled to Nairobi via the Post steamer Feldmarschall and overland by train. Soon after arriving, Block met Mayence, who informed him of her need for mattresses. He hired R. A. de Souza to sew covers, hired labourers who were loitering around Tommy Wood's general store to stuff them with residual grass which had been previously cut for railroad clearing, and, when stronger needles were needed to sew the heavy cloth, constructed them from bicycle spokes.
A Yorkshireman called Mr Tommy Wood who arrived in Nairobi in 1900 started a general merchant in Victoria street, nearby was Mr Frank Bullows who ran an
ironmongery of sorts and sandwiched was the original Stanley Hotel whereby many of the Railway workers bought their meals and drinks at this restaurant.
From that description it is clear two story Victoria Hotel located on the corner was a different building to the original Stanley Hotel.
A man from Yorkshire called Mr Tommy Wood who arrived in Nairobi in 1900 started a general merchant in Victoria street, nearby was Mr Frank Bullows who ran an ironmongery of sorts and
sandwiched was the original Stanley Hotel whereby many of the Railway workers bought their meals and drinks at this restaurant.
From the above-mentioned description, it is clear two storey Victoria Hotel located on the corner was a different building to the original Stanley Hotel.
The Norfolk Hotel
Creating a tradition destined to endure was the Christmas present that Major C.G.R Ringer gave to Kenya and Nairobi (Nyorobi) The Maasai called it Enkare Nyorobi, the land of cool waters but the Kikuyu name for the land seems to have never made it to the history books. Some say without the Norfolk Hotel there would have been no Nairobi, it was here that all new comers with wealth arrived. Hotel was established in Dec 1904 on Christmas day, by Major Ringer the proprietor, hotel has 34 bedrooms and two cottages for married couple and much much more. Lions lurked in the papyrus swamp, the first men and women who landed in Nairobi considered the brackish swamp land perfect. The area was picturesque, with hills in the horizon and rivers crisscrossing the plains. The land was not suitable for farming, and certainly not for settlement, but it was perfect for grazing. For the Maasai and the Kikuyu, the plain was also a meeting ground, cutting between the highland farming community in Central Kenya and the nomadic community in the Rift. The letter further reminds Churchill of the 1902 recommendation to move the city “to some point on the hills.” Sadler told Churchill this was a critical point in Nairobi’s history; that his predecessor had said: “…when the rainy season commenced, the whole town is practically transformed into a swamp.” But the Board decided instead only to try to drain the swampy bazaar area. In 1898, a 25-year-old man called John Ainsworth had disembarked from a ship at the Port of Mombasa. He was an employee of the colonizing company called Imperial British East African Company, ambitious to make a career for himself in the new lands. Before that year ended, he travelled from Mombasa, up to the then capital city of Machakos, and into the tin shack town called Nyrobe. He built his house at Museum Hill to found the colonial administration, much to the chagrin of influential railway builders. Eager to make the swampy plains work, he planted Eucalyptus trees on the swamp to drain the water. Ainsworths legacy remains to date, with most of his efforts being the only reason why more and more parts of the swamp could be occupied.
The hustler who helped build Nairobi, one block at a time
The tiny Baltic state of Lithuania is perhaps the last place one would expect to derive the success story of a Kenyan dynasty.
But it is from the wintry climes of this ancient land “spread like a counterpane across the cold plains of northern Europe” that Abraham’s People, a new book, begins an intriguing story that straddles a people’s persecution, an individual’s triumph and the taming of marshland that was to become Kenya’s capital city.
Exploring Africa with Martin and Osa Johnson.
When did Electricity Come to Nairobi?
WHEN DID ELECTRICITY COME TO NAIROBI
"November 1906 the company chose to use the first fall on the Ruiru River below the Fort Hall road, some 18-½ miles by road from Nairobi. A bungalow for the engineer was erected near the site of the works and the task of damming the river was undertaken. The engineer James Ernest Bedding was appointed to be in charge of the Ruiru generating station. He lived there with his wife Elizabeth Hannah Deakin and two daughters, Elsie and Eileen. But Elsie died at Ruiru aged eight, of inflammation of the brain. Bedding later joined the Thika Sisal Company.
The Ruiru dam, which was of concrete, was placed about 30 feet upstream of the fall, and was 200 feet long, 10 feet at the centre, on a base of 14 feet. It was difficult to get the supplies and materials to the site on East Africa’s then-primitive roads. The dam had to be built before April, as a temporary dam and diversion of the river would not withstand the floods caused by the rains at the end June. But the work was finished in good time."
Mikhail Kuzi Historic Kenyan Video
DRAUGHT AND RIDING ZEBRAS
Because of their resemblance to the familiar horse, there has always been great interest in taming and training zebras as riding and harness animals. In the 1760s, French naturalist Buffon belived that zebras could replace horses and there were rumours in Paris that the Dutch had already trained a team of zebras to pull a cart. Eccentric aristocrats around the world had zebr-carts at various times in the 19th Century. These photos are from the late 19th century and early 20th century.
East Africa Cities and Towns
Cities and Towns
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Hilarious Origin of Names of Towns and Locations in Kenya, Click below
Why was Ukambani town named after a Sultan?
Stories behind Nairobi’s street names
ESCPADES OF JOHN KAMAU - A KENYAN JOURNALIST
An art of digital emotions from me to you.
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Interesting photos of around modern Nairobi, Kenya:
Nairobi /naɪˈroʊbi/ is the capital and largest city of Kenya. The city and its surrounding area also form Nairobi County. The placename "Nairobi" comes from the Maasai phrase Enkare Nairobi, which translates to "cool water".
A Walk Through Pangani and Ngara
Nairobi Colonial Film
Travelogue of everyday life in Nairobi, Kenya, concluding with the ceremony granting the town the status of a city.
Meru's oldest business that is still thriving, 100 years on
Various Kenyan Cities and Towns
The Kisumu Town Clock was built in memory of Kassim Lakha who arrived in East Africa in 1871 and died in Kampala in 1910. It was erected by his sons Mohamed, Alibhai, Hassan and Rahimtulla Kassim.
Kisumu in Photos
Kenya Wildlife Services
KISUMU DALA EVENTS
Click on Photo for more on Kisumu
BACKGROUND OF KISUMU CITY
A LOOK AT KENYA THROUGH THE YEARS – PictureBlog 1914 – 1990s
JACKO AFRICA SAFARIS
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Welcome to JACKO AFRICA SAFARIS - your gateway to the world of classic travel in the most wild and un-touched parts of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Seychelles, and Southern Africa. A safari in this region can take you over open savannah plains whilst passing snow-capped mountains, or through dense tropical forests and end up on a deserted island beach.
Tiny chapel that keeps art, History alive through ages
Church built by Italian prisoners of war interned in Kenya during second world war.
By: Karam Bharji
For more than five years, between 1941 and 1947, when 21,500 British citizens lived in Kenya, they were vastly out-numbered by the 55,000 Italian prisoners of war, spread over eleven prisoner of war camps.
Of these, only one, Camp No. 360 at Ndarugu, that held some 10,000 prisoners, has miraculously escaped sub-division and new constructions. It was “discovered” by Mr. Manos in 2007, with the church and the monument built by the prisoners almost intact. In 2011 they were gazetted by the Government as “monuments of the history of Kenya”.
Invasion of Italian East Africa
1941 - 16 May 1941
In East Africa, the earlier picture of conquering Italian troops was no longer seen in early 1941. Although the Italian Viceroy Duke Aosta had taken Sudan, Kenya, and British Somaliland early, by
this time the Italian troops were demoralized from their countrymen's losses in North Africa.
Italian Prisoner of War Mail from East Africa
St. Theresa's Cathedral Tabora, Tanzania built by the Italians prisoners of war in 1940-45