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 Mboya 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
- 1900 - Incorporated as the Township of Nairobi
- Native Civil hospital opens.
- The Nairobi Club established
- 1904 - Norfolk Hotel opens.
- Jamia Mosque construction started.
- Royal Nairobi Golf Club founded.
- 1907 - British Government House built.
- 1909 - East Africa and Uganda Natural History Society established.
- 1912 - Theatre Royal opens.
- 1913 - Muthaiga Country Club founded.
- 1914 - Shri Vankaner Vidya Prasarak Mandal established.
- 1918 - Punjebhai Club formed.
- 1919 - Nairobi Political Association formed.
By...Odhiambo Levin Opiyo
What is in a name?
The Duruma Chief Mazera, gave his name to "the place of Mazera" or Mazeras where he once lived. In the earlier caravan days Mazeras was known as "Ganjoni" or "the place of ruins" owing to its being frequently attacked by the Masai.
Mariakani is also of Duruma origin. The word, which means the "place of quivers", is derived from the native tradition that the Duruma and the Wakamba warriors met at this place in embattled array. The Wakamba were defeated and, as they fled, they discarded their arrows covering the battle field with them.
"Maji-ya-Chumvi" was originally known as "Gulugulu" which among the Mijikenda was the name of a local stream. The name was later changed during the Swahili slave caravan era to its present version which means "salt water".
"Samburu", between Mombasa and Voi was called "Kirauho" by the Mijikenda and the name "Samburu" was coined by slave caravans to denote
the last waterhole (except a small one which existed at Maungu) before Voi.
A story is told that the Swahili caravans were urged on to the Maungu and Voi waterholes by the Duruma herds shouting "Sambiburi", which may be taken to mean "Buzz along! buzz along!"
Mackinnon Road is, of course, named after Sir William Mackinnon, who played a leading role in the early development of the country.
"Maungu" means "a back" in Swahili. It is, however, thought possible that this word is a corruption of "Mayungi" which means water lilies found in the waterhole on a nearby hill. The proper name for the station according to some historians should be "Marungu", the Taita name for the hill.
According to many Wataita Voi should be called "Ore" . The name Voi is a Ki-gunya/Bajuni word for gruel; the story being that the stream at Voi often dwindled to a mere trickle and, on this account, only a small amount of gruel could be cooked by the Wa-Gunya/Bajuni slave raiders who normally hurried to Mbululu, the camp after Voi.
"N'di" is a Kikamba word for a "mortar" derived from the resemblance to a mortar of a rock close to the station.
"Tsavo" is a Kikamba word for "slaughter",. However, the word has no connection with the slaughter of numbers of Indian coolies in the days of construction of Uganda Railway. In fact, it relates to the erstwhile devastations of the Masai.
"Mtito-Andei" is, of course, "Mtito-wa-Ndei" or "The Forest of Kites". The Masai are said to have constantly laid in-waiting in a nearby forest with intent to attack the Wakamba, following which many were killed. The kites remained in the surrounding forests and fed on the corpses. After wards, the local river and station were both known as "Mtito Andei".
"Masongaleni" or more correctly "Mithongoleni" means the place of poisoned sticks. The word is derived from the poisoned sticks stuck by the Wakamba round their shambas to prevent bush buck from eating their produce.
To the Wakamba "Kibwezi" was always known as "Kivwetse" which is said to have been derived from a former Scottish Mission in the vicinity. In the Mission garden was a volcanic rock which, after a series of seismic movements, split and caused an underground stream to flow above ground near Kibwezi. Το the faithful ones, science is often cold and ungodly; but there can be little doubt that the godly believed that the Mission padre struck the rock with his rod, in much the same way as did Moses of old thereby causing water to flow.
"Makindu", which is taken from the name of a nearby river was formerly known as "Kiumbi" (Kikamba for "the one by himself"). In Swahili, however, Makindu means "palm trees". Therefore, according to some historians the place should more correctly be known as "Makinduni"- the place of palms.
Formerly, it is said, this stream was a dry river bed with a series of disconnected pools of water. thus resembling a man who is alone and silent "Kiumbi!" Seismic disturbances similar to those that caused Kibwezi to flow overground started a permanent stream which caused the palms to grow.
"Sultan Hamud" is named after a Sultan of Zanzibar. Hamud bin Muhammad, to mark his visit to rail head at this point (Mile 248) in 1898. In the company of the Sultan was the notorious historical figure and slave raider, Tippu Tib, whose name was derived from the sound made by his guns.
The full name for "Kiu" is "Kilima Kiu" which is Kikamba for "the black mountain". The old caravan road wound around the Kiu hills which were dark, sombre and forbidding, providing no light patches.
"Konza's" original name was Machakos Road. From here a road went to the place of Masaku an early Wakamba Chief. The place of Masaku (Machakos)
"Em-Bagasi" or "Mbagathi" is the Masai name of the stream that crosses on the Nairobi-Ngong road and which flows through the Nairobi National Park to the east. It is interesting to note that the Ngong Road was originally built out of the pro ceeds of a 15,000-rupee fine inflicted by the Masai paramount Chief Lenana on certain turbulent young warriors of his tribe the "elmoran".
Meet Nairobi's First Midwife
Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji'un (: إِنَّا لِلَّٰهِ وَإِنَّا إِلَيْهِ رَاجِعُونَ)…
Credit and thanks to … Rizwana Hetal
Our great grandmother.
Rumana Imtiaz Ladha Skauser Rashid
What a remarkable woman. So proud we are part of her. This is nation newspaper in 1979 when this article was written.
Dhadiama, I remember her from a very early, young age and this great lady was and is very close to my heart too, watching her matriarchy figure walk the corridors of the house in Haji Road, Pangani, Nairobi
This lady had fantastic memory and was never ill from what I can recall in the time that I had known her, nobody ever argued with her, she was in control of all situations.
So many prominent figures looked up to her. I remember a bit about her family she had two sons (if memory serves me right).
Ahmed was one of her son, from her other son was Sidiq, Umar, Ramzan and daughter, Safia....
She was well known amongst all communities, no matter what religion or background one was from, she travelled far and wide to help many ethnic women and others with deliveries in her early days and carried on for many years thereafter , in and around Nairobi.
Love to know more about her history, if any one can help……
Sunday Nation.... 21st January 1979
How I Keep House in Kikuyu.
BY MRS. FRED SNOWDEN, OF RAILHEAD, KIKUYU, EAST EQUATORIAL AFRICA.
KEEP house among the “Waks.” Now, “ Waks ” is not the name of a family such as the Browns, Joneses, or Robinsons who live next door to one in England or
America, but an abbreviation for the Wa-Kikuyu, or interesting inhabitants of Kikuyu, in East Equatorial Africa, among whom I have now been living for three long years. I am sitting writing these
lines in the quaint bungalow of which I give a photograph on this page.
Not so very long ago lions used to walk round it at night, but of course the progress of the Uganda Railway is changing these interesting phases of life. But what a place for any ordinary woman to keep house!
I seldom see a white stranger, am hundreds of miles away from shops of any kind, and, indeed, thousands from one worthy of the name. My very servants, as you will see, are reclaimed savages, and my life is as different from that of my European sisters as could well be imagined.
How many of you, I wonder, know of Kikuyu and its locality? Not very many, perhaps, except those among you who have relatives or friends out here. Unlike the southern portion of this vast continent, it has not been boomed on account of its gold-fields or made famous by a Raid. Still, Kikuyu has a future in front of it; it is a fertile and picturesque region some 330 miles from the coast and about midway to Uganda. The Uganda Railway, by the way, starting from Mombasa, has now reached here, and will make Kikuyu its future head-quarters.
Ah ! and what a change that will mean. For one thing, the natives will then begin to know the coined rupee, whereas, until a week or two ago, our currency consisted entirely of beads, brass wire, and calico—very bulky, it is true, but still a very interesting method of barter, from a woman’s point of view.
As you may suppose, I found it ever so strange at first to buy a lot of sweet potatoes, a quantity of Indian corn, a huge bunch of bananas, and the like—all for a couple of strings of funny little beads, or a “hand’’(not quite half a yard) of common calico. Then, again, instead of going to the butcher’s shop, you run out with a blanket and bring back a sheep or a goat. And, oh ! what a space the trade goods take up. And the number of porters required to carry them, each load weighing not more than from 6o lb. to 65 Ib., for porters are careful, conservative creatures, given to grumbles and strikes.
I find my servants quite delightful now, but, of course, they were very strange to me when I began housekeeping. First in importance comes the cook, and after him the kitchen-“maid ”; then the upper and under house-“ maids.” All my civilized sisters, who are perpetually running backwards and forwards to the registry offices with fees, would be amazed if they could realize what excellent servants these tutored savages make — always provided that they have clean and honest instincts, in the first place.
Of course, they require training, these excellent fellows. Not one of the group a short time ago knew the right end of a fork or the use of a dish. Now, however, they pride them-self enormously on their work, and if one of their number makes a blunder of any kind he is promptly called a “goi-goi,” or know-nothing, by his fellows, and generally treated with a magnificent contempt. It is comical, too, the way they look down upon their naked compatriots, who are, of course, immeasurably inferior to them now—mere low niggers. They are not “Waks,” by the way, for these four servants of mine came from the remote and mysterious district of Kilima-Njaro.
The Wa-Kikuyu, I regret to say, are almost impossible as servants, so attached are they to their alarmingly scanty “costume ” of red earth and grease. I don’t want to dwell upon this, but it is obvious that a great change must take place in the attire of the average Wak before he can graduate as a decent and respectable house-boy.
My servants are kept pretty busy, for—strange as it may seem — we have quite a number of visitors and callers, who require
refreshments, of sorts. Do not be alarmed if I present to you three of our most interesting and typical visitors in my next snap - shot, which was taken on my own veranda. The tallest man of the
three, looking at himself in the hand-glass to see if his dress is both elegant and becoming and agreeable to the white lady, is a local chief of considerable importance.
His great weakness, I am sorry to say, is a mirror, and the very first thing he asks for when he comes to see me is my favourite hand-glass, with which he inspects himself complacently, as we see him doing in my snap-shot.
The sons of big chiefs, too, occasionally drop in, for they appear to spend their time trotting about with a spear and visiting their friends, mainly black friends. Round their necks they wear numerous strings of coloured beads, whilst their bodies are smeared with red earth and grease in a rather alarming and warlike manner. The ear-rings of these gentlemen are also peculiar. The lobe of the ear is cut at an early stage of the dandy’s life, and a huge block of wood wedged in.
Please don’t think I am exaggerating when I tell you that I have seen an empty jam-pot carried in the lobe of the ear, the ear itself having grown right-round the impossible “ decoration ” ! The wearer of this last was considered an enormous swell. Then again, through the top of the ear are stuck several spikes of wood. Armlets and bracelets of wire twisted round to a depth of 4inch or 5inch complete an all-too-scanty visiting dress.
Of course one is called upon to entertain these visitors, and equally of course this entertaining takes the form of astonishing the native with the wonders of the white man. My next two snap-shots show how this is done in our far- away homestead. In the above photo, you will see a Swahili headman, all in white, bending over a good-sized musical-box, whilst on his left is an old chief with an expression of benignant resignation. He was formerly the greatest scoundrel for hundreds of miles round a perfect terror, in fact, defying even the white man’s power. He is positively covered with scars, obtained in fights with his neighbours far and near. However, he is on visiting terms with me now, and he likes to squat down near my musical-box and listen to the quaint thing playing white man’s music all on its own account.
An even greater wonder than the musical- box is the telephone, which I sometimes rig up in our garden, in order to introduce its marvels to the chiefs who drop in from time to time. Talking about our garden, I may mention that I found it absolutely necessary to in-close it with railings in order to protect it against our black neighbours’ sheep and goats, which contracted a disgusting habit of grazing upon our English vegetables. So you see we are troubled with neighbours even in this remote locality. In this garden we have English vegetables of all sorts— peas, beans, lettuces, beetroot, cabbages, tomatoes, etc. Naturally, then, on sitting down to a dinner of roast duck, shot "in the swamp close by, it is easy to forget that we are in the heart of Darkest Africa, particularly when that same duck is garnished with green peas and apple sauce—the latter tinned, unfortunately. All other provisions — tea, coffee, sugar, flour, salt, and other household commodities—have to be brought up-country from Mombasa. Formerly this was a long and tedious business, but now every day it becomes easier through the rapid progress made by the railway. Our letters, too, which a couple of years ago took a month to reach us from the coast, now arrive in three days.
Our house is comfortable enough, but of course it has its drawbacks, and it suffers, as everything does in this country, from the ravages of the all-devouring white ants. Houses of any kind only last a few years in this part of the world owing to these destructive insects. A typical native house is shown in the next photograph, and in front of it you will see some native ladies taking afternoon tea quite in the best European style. It may not really be tea they are drinking, mind you, but still the idea is the same, and it shows you that other civilizing institutions are progressing in Kikuyu beside the Uganda Railway.
These villages are usually built in thickly-wooded spots, and the houses are made of planks of cedar 4ft. high and 2ft. broad, placed lengthwise so as to form a circular, beehive shaped dwelling whose entrance is simply a hole formed by the omission of a couple of planks.
Of course, the women do most of the work in these villages, and the accompanying snapshot shows a woman of Kikuyu grinding native seed. She is not a prepossessing person, but still she looks robust enough for the work. The system is something like this: a hole is dug to form a basin or mortar in the trunk of a fallen tree, and then the seed is beaten with a long, heavy pole.
There can be no doubt that the natives of these parts are beginning to “know things”. There passed my door the other day a young Wa - Ki -kuyu, dressed up in the war attire of a Masai brave. As he passed I called out to him and asked him to wait a moment while I “ snapped ” him with my camera “ Yes, if you’ll pay me,” was his indignant reply; and I was obliged to retire within discomfited, marvelling exceedingly at the advance of civilization in these parts.
By way of recompense I dressed up one of our own servants—who looks obviously ill at ease with that spear— and painted nice greetings and things on his shield. I thought in this guise he might carry some pretty little message from these wilds out into the “ Wide World.”
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;
Reasons Behind Naming of Nairobi Streets
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.
Nairobi Town Jamatkhana: A journey through time
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."
Nairobi and District
Nairobi and District printed by the East African Standard, Ltd 1940’s. The extract below was designed by Agnes Bompas and issued by the Municipal Council of Nairobi, Kenya
SOME years ago Sir Edward Grigg, then the Governor of Kenya, said that the standards of a community—its aspirations and its achievements—were indicated by its public buildings. Good buildings, he said, have an important influence on the outlook of the people. They mould the characteristics of citizenship; they mean the difference between pride and poverty of ambition. There are few things more arresting in Kenya than the modernity of Nairobi, the suggestion of purposeful confidence, and the strength of youthful vigour. At times it surprises the men and women who have seen Nairobi develop during the last twenty years; and it is deeply impressive to visitors who reach Nairobi for the first time from the great plains stretching eastwards to the Indian Ocean, or drop down from the African airways. The Capital of Kenya is the most remarkable town in Central Africa. It has no
Cover design by Agnes Bompas.
parallel among the Capitals of the world. Its growth has been almost as rapid and spectacular as the early strides of Johannesburg; its virility is exceeded, perhaps, only by Tel-Aviv in PALESTINE.
In the closing years of the last century there was no Nairobi worthy of a place on any map. Great game-infested plains spread out from the foothills of Ngong, from the lip of the Rift Valley. Raiding Masai warriors descended upon the Kikuyu, entrenched in their scattered villages behind a screen of forest. Lions sought their prey among the vast herds of zebra and antelopes; from the snow-crowned dome of Kilimanjaro to the glaciers of Mount Kenya savagery ruled over Africa. But the heralds of civilization had blown their trumpets. Winding up from the beaches of Mombasa the Uganda Railway was approaching step by step through Nature’s Zoo, invading the home of the wild things, and with it, when it reached the gateway to the wind-swept highlands, came the pioneers who made history, building in the wilderness a worthy centre for their race.
Racing at Langa Langa October 8th 1951
Another batch of images from the 'Happy Valley Album' of racing at the Langa Langa circuit in Nakuru, Kenya. The images were all labelled in their album and I have reproduced these comments next to each picture.
12 Stunning High Quality Photos of Kenyan History
The black bass flag flies straight out in the strong northwest monsoon wind. A dozen sets of pale-blue sails whip and crackle, and a dozen Enterprise racing
dinghies tug t their painters at the home-made oil-drum and plank jetty. Mixed among the impatient boats are half a dozen meet-lined Fireflies, their sails fluttering like butterfly wings; and some
of the little Herons and a few handicap oats are either moored or already out on the water.
The club with the sign of the black bass is 314 miles 5v road) from the sea and under five miles from the centre t Nairobi city, on the road to Langata. It is
a sailing club— the Aquasports Club of Nairobi—5,500 feet above sea- level, where those who love messing about in boats meet every week-end of the year, even through the month’s laying-up, to sail
and tinker, to race, to paint, varnish and pair, and at the end of the day to gather in the snug club-house they built themselves for something to soothe parched throats.
My sailing before I came to East Africa had been done in at magnificent stretch of water in Chichester Harbour, here the sou’wester can whip up a tidy sea and
wind that ill capsize the stoutest dinghies and break the strongest ar. It is a haven studded with little islands where the i-birds call sadly and raucously, and with sandy beaches lich are paradise
out of season and almost impossible to t on to in high summer. You can sail for miles on the lie tack and run or reach for half an hour on end.
In a modern dinghy the planning (when the bows of the boat; out of the water, the water astern flattens out, and there is a true sensation of speed) has to be experienced to be believed. There are at least eight sailing clubs in Chichester Harbour, with class meetings and regattas on every week-end of summer and the sound of the starting cannon is always somewhere to be heard.
From this paradise for dinghy sailors I came, as others had done before, to Nairobi, and reckoned that except for coast holidays, my sailing was over for a few
years. That is until I happened to knock up, one Christmas, a little cockleshell of a dinghy for my seaside holidays and, returning from them, thought it might be fun to see how it sailed on the
Nairobi Dam. And that was my introduction to some of the keenest, most exciting sailing I have ever had.
They accepted my little boat tolerantly, though it sometimes got in their way and was nothing to look at. They knew, I’m sure, though they never said so, that
before long I would get on to proper boats. I did, by-way of a touchy little double-chine job with fifty square feet of sail I built myself and raced, for at that time the Dam had half a dozen of
this particular handicap class. Then I graduated to Fireflies, my present and I think lasting love, which my son and I have raced this past two years, and which has given us so much fun and
When you see the Dam, you are apt to wrinkle your nose the first time. It is muddy-looking, it is small, it is almost bare of trees and the sparse grass fights
the rock that shows through the scarce soil. It is nothing to look at. Yet towards the end of the day when the white egrets are flapping their way home to the ten-foot-high reeds on the other side
from the club-house, when the wind has dropped and the frogs start croaking, when the sun goes down over the Ngong Hills, then Nairobi Dam has a great deal about it.
Those of us who sail on this mile-long, pear-shaped area of water (it belongs to Nairobi City Council), whose 425 million gallons of water can be like glass in
the sluggish, between-monsoon periods, or whipped into small waves and even white horses at peak-monsoon times, take some risks for our sport. They say there is bilharzia to be caught in the Dam, and
sometimes when you capsize or are paddling about at the water’s edge to launch your boat from the shore you cannot help thinking about those nasty little wriggling worms that can pierce your skin and
give you the disease. Yet I believe no one at the club has caught bilharzia so far!
We have chaps in the club who are among the best sailors in Africa. One of them is an airline pilot who, so it is said, keeps up his sailing with shares in
boats at Aden and Bombay where he sometimes calls. We have veterinary surgeons, electrical engineers, civil servants of all kinds, accountants, printers, doctors (one well-known practitioner lost his
trousers during a capsize, unique among Aquasports folk), school-
masters, policemen, prison officers, soldiers, airmen, all sorts of people with all sorts of skills. They are matched by their womenfolk, many of them hardy types in spite of not looking the least bit tough, who regularly sail with their husbands or boy-friends, are cursed at, often soaked, always wind-blown and sunburnt, sometimes clinging to their upturned boats; but they sail the boats themselves at our twice-a-month ladies’ races and do so with distinction.
You can hide nothing on the water. The merest whisper, unless there is a gale blowing, can be heard by people in boats yards away. “Get that . . . jib-sheet
in!” is a common enough, if un-gentleman like, injunction to many a woman- crew during races, but no one turns a hair. And the races are run according to a most complicated (and common- sense) set of
rules, laid down by the Royal Yachting Association, so that everyone has an equal chance. Mind you, some are better “sea-lawyers” than others, but remembering there are five seriously contested races
every week-end, it isn’t all that often a white handkerchief is seen fluttering from the stays of a protesting dinghy. Perhaps this is because the protest meetings after racing take up a lot of time
which could be better spent chatting or drinking in the club bar.
Nearly 200 people and fifty boats provide the sport at the club. It is fair to mention that there is also a motor-boat and hydroplane section, as well as one
for anglers and another for water-skiers, although we sailing folk naturally believe it is sailing that matters. Every so often other clubs from up-country or the coast visit the Dam and sail against
the Aquasports folk. Then the officer-of-the-day, in his special vantage point fifteen feet above the club-house, has plenty to do, while youngsters help him hoist the right flags for starting and
ring the bell for the ten- and five-minute warnings, and the starts. Then there is much jostling as the boats try to pick the best position to cross the starting line and there are loud shouts of
“Starboard!” as the better- placed ones shout for right of way. You miss the sea-tang, of course, and the liveliness of the tides and currents, the cold winds and the summer sun of Britain.
But there are compensations, for in our climate you need never wear anything except shorts and “tackies”, unless you are fussy. If you do go in, then the water is warm and you are sure to be within easy reach of the rescue boat. There is no close season except the one month the club sets aside to give boats and men a respite, for nowhere else can there be eleven months a year of racing, punishing to everyone even though there is so much opportunity to gain experience.
You miss the long evenings of the English summer, too, when you might be sailing back up the Emsworth Channel on the flood with the sun setting to port of you and the gulls and peewits calling. Still, why grumble? The giant Goliath herons, the darters, the little wag-tails, the king-fishers, the odd flamingo and ibis, the lily-trotters and the terns of the Dam have their value, too, along with the Hindus chanting at festival time by the Dam’s edge, or the distant rhythm of drums from an African ngoma coming across the murkv Dam in the evening time, as the tropical sun sets and the club-house lights shine out gaily.
Beautiful Scenery of Parklands Area in Nairobi Kenya: Westlands, Ngara, City Park & Diamond Plaza
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