Welcome to My Place . . . Nairobi

Maggie Coughlan shares her top tips for the best places to visit in the east African city

Maggie Coughlan climbing Mount Kenya. The Bantry, Co Cork, native has been living in  Kenya since 2016

Maggie Coughlan climbing Mount Kenya. The Bantry, Co Cork, native has been living in Kenya since 2016

 

Maggie Coughlan is from Bantry, Co Cork. She arrived in Kenya in 2016 after living in Australia for four years. She is a criminology researcher by profession, but at the moment is volunteering with Peace Within Prison Yoga, a non-government organisation that is bringing yoga to Kenyan prisons for the first time.

Where is the first place you bring people to when they visit Nairobi?
Nairobi National Park is a must for anyone who is visiting. You can see four of the big five inside the park (rhino, buffalo, lion, and maybe a leopard if you are really lucky) and get a great view of the city, too.

Nairobi National Park is a must for anyone visiting the city. Photograph: Getty Images
Nairobi National Park is a must for anyone visiting the city. Photograph: Getty Images

As well as this, I always bring people to the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage on the park’s periphery. The baby elephants waddle around being fed from massive bottles of milk and play in the muck. They even come close enough that you can pat them – you can’t come to Nairobi without patting a baby elephant.

A giraffe spotted against the Nairobi skyline. Photograph: Getty Images
A giraffe spotted against the Nairobi skyline. Photograph: Getty Images

The top three things to do there, that don’t cost money, are ...
Visiting some of Nairobi’s brilliant small art galleries. Banana Hill gallery and the Kuona Trust display an amazing range of local and international art. You can visit the artists at the Kuona Trust which is pretty cool.

Nairobi isn’t big on free things to do, but there are definitely things on the cheaper side that are well worth spending a few euro on. A walk through Karura Forest is always lovely and you can spot dik-dik (small antelope) and the Vervet monkey along the way. The bird walk organised by Nature Kenya is also amazing. Kenya has so many beautiful birds that are easy to spot, so I’d definitely recommend this for nature lovers.

A grilled meat restaurant in Nairobi. Photograph: Getty Images
A grilled meat restaurant in Nairobi. Photograph: Getty Images

Where do you recommend for a great meal that gives a flavour of Nairobi?
Nyama Mama in Westlands serves up contemporary Kenyan food. They do a great selection of barbecued meat and side dishes inspired by the love of meat and ugali in this country. The goat ribs are super, as are the ugali chips (ugali is a maize dish, a bit like polenta).

The Nairobi city skyline. Photograph: Getty Images
The Nairobi city skyline. Photograph: Getty Images

Where is the best place to get a sense of Nairobi’s place in history?
The National Museum is where to get to know Kenya’s history. It’s a great place to learn about the cradle of mankind which east Africa is so famous for. Learning about the evolution of man in this part of the world has been one of the highlights of living here so far.

Bring home some Masai handcrafts from a visit to Nairobi. Photograph: Getty Images
Bring home some Masai handcrafts from a visit to Nairobi. Photograph: Getty Images

What should visitors save room in their suitcase for after a visit to Nairobi?
You can’t go past a Masai market without having a browse. Whether it’s art, a carved wooden giraffe or just some very colourful flip-flops, the markets held around the city every week are a great place to pick up a piece of Kenya to bring home. I recommend getting some brightly coloured kanga print trousers – you may never wear them in public outside of Kenya, but they are so comfy.

  • If you’d like to share your little black book of places to visit where you live, please email your answers to the five questions above to abroad@irishtimes.com, including a brief description of what you do there and a photograph of yourself. We’d love to hear from you.
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