By Tropenmuseum – Wikimedia

A quick history of Nairobi


Nairobi is the capital and largest city of Kenya. The name is from the Maasai community in Kenya meaning a place of cool waters.

There is a river, by the same name, that passes through the city which is however polluted.

Before Nairobi became a city, the area was swampy and uninhabited. It slowly developed from being a supply depot of the Uganda Railway in 1899.

The Railway was built by the British to link Mombasa to Uganda. Nairobi was the central location between Kampala and Mombasa.

The location also had a good water supply as well as a cool climate. Residential houses were later built for the Railway workers both the British and Indians.

Indians had migrated to Kenya to work for the then British protectorate.  

With such developments, Nairobi grew big enough to become the railway’s headquarters.

Nairobi’s current population is 4 million people making it one of the most populated cities in Africa. while its metropolis has a population of 9.3 million people.

Nairobi Pre-Independence

Nairobi in 1899 Photo By Kenya National Archives – Wikimedia

Before the construction of the Kenya-Uganda Railway, the area now known as Nairobi was occupied by three Kenyan tribes.

The Akamba, Maasai and Kikuyu farmed and grazed their animals on the vast land.

They were later displaced after the British came to colonize the country making it a British East Africa Protectorate.

The region soon became the centre for coffee, tea and sisal industries. Nairobi was part of the white highlands since it was very fertile and had a favourable farming climate.  

White ranchers soon replaced the Maasai herders who were forcibly evicted from the land.

The British then built a railroad from Mombasa to Kisumu linking it to Uganda. This was to facilitate easy transportation of goods from the port to their other protectorates.

1896 was when the British, with the help of Indian migrants, built the railway. A camp and railway depot were built in Nairobi area in 1899.

It soon became the railway’s headquarters and developed into a town.   

There was a plague in the early 1900s which led to the reconstruction of the town. The original buildings were burnt down to put an end to the plague.

By 1905, Nairobi was well developed that it was made the capital city of British East Africa before that Mombasa was the capital city.

Nairobi expanded and also became an administrative town. Tourists also started flocking the region for big game hunting and safaris.

Luxury hotels and lodges were built for the tourists. Expats also migrated to the town for government positions.

Nairobi Post-Independence

By Antony Trivet – Wikimedia


After Kenya gained independence in 1963, Nairobi grew rapidly putting pressure on the city’s infrastructure.

The city hosted the 5th Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1975.

Nairobi is now the headquarter to several international companies and organizations such as UNEP, UN, Embassies and consulates, Google Africa, Nairobi Securities Exchange.   

It also has the Nairobi National Park with a large game reserve, the only park within a city. The city’s skyline is dotted with modern skyscrapers. There are modern malls, chic cafés, and luxurious residential apartments.