History of Nairobi

Nairobi is the capital and largest city of Kenya. The city and its surrounding area also form the Nairobi County. The name “Nairobi” comes from the Maasai phrase ‘Enkare Nyrobi’, which translates to “cool water”.

The area Nairobi currently occupies was essentially uninhabited swamp until a supply depot of the Uganda Railway was built by the British in 1899 linking Mombasa to Uganda. The location of the camp was chosen due to its central position between Mombasa and Kampala. It was also chosen because its network of rivers could supply the camp with water and its elevation would make it cool enough for residential purposes for not only the thousands of Indian laborers who came to Kenya seeking to be employed to work on the railway line, but also for the British settlers. With such an apt location, it had soon grown big enough to become the railway’s headquarters.





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Kenyan History

~ Learning about Kenya Through History


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. 

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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.



Nairobi: National capital and regional hub (East Africa Literature Bureau)

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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.


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."


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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

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East Africa Cities and Towns

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Hilarious Origin of Names of Towns and Locations in Kenya, Click below

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Why was Ukambani town named after a Sultan?



Stories behind Nairobi’s street names


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The Birth of a City – A photo essay on the history of Nairobi


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Interesting photos of around modern Nairobi, Kenya:




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;


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Nairobi /nˈrbi/ 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.


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Elspeth Huxley's Thika

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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




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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.


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”.


Emanule POW 69305 Italy Prisoner of War Free Mail 28/07/1943 P.O.W. E.A.C. Camp 352 Naivasha Postcard to ADRANO CATANIA, Italy with violet boxed sl P/W Middle East 043. Italy Censor.

Invasion of Italian East Africa

19 Jan 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

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