Nairobi, the capital city of the Republic (1670 metres above sea level and 700 km2) has since 1899 grown from a simple Uganda Railway construction camp named "enairobe" in Maasai language (meaning a place of cold water in reference to the cold waters of Nairobi River) to the modern centre of commercial, financial, manufacturing and tourist destination in eastern Africa. It replaced Mombasa as Kenya's capital in 1907 and became a city in 1950. Today, the city population stands well at about 4 million. Both the Great North Road (Cairo to Cape Town) and the Trans-African Highway (Mombasa to Lagos) pass through the city.
Its mean annual temperature is 17°C and the mean annual rainfall is 1,080 mm. Rains come in March to May and the end of October to December. June, July and August are generally cool.
The city is famous for its satisfying hospitality to visitors, with its wide-ranging classes of high standard hotels, offering international cuisine, in-building shops and a great variety of evening entertainment. Prestigious buildings like the Kenyatta International Conference Centre (KICC - 27 storeys), I.C.E.A., Hilton Hotel, Hotel Intercontinental, Lillian Towers, Co-operative House, NSSF Building, Fedha Towers and Nyayo House have sprung up in the city since independence.
Most tourists to Kenya only spend one or two nights in Nairobi, time which is often spent in shopping, searching out Kenyan mementoes and gifts to take home. There are soapstone carvings, wonderful ethnic jewellery, many wooden carvings, colourful cloth kanga and kikoi. Most hotels have souvenir shops. African Heritage shops (downtown and on the airport road) have a broad selection and good displays. Leave behind your valuables, but take your humour, patience and bargaining skills and have fun. Downtown Nairobi is full of souvenir shops.
Main entertainment centres include: Bomas of Kenya, with exhibitions of African traditional dances and culture, plus Alliance Française, Goethe Institute, Italian Cultural Centre, Japan Information and Culture Centre, National Archives, International Casino, National Museum, public parks and gardens, and many cinema theatres.
Other sightseeing options are: Karen Blixen Museum, the house where Karen Blixen from "Out of Africa " fame lived, the National Museum, famous for Leakey pre-history discoveries and tribal artifacts, Utamaduni, an upmarket craft centre in Langata, Kazuri Beads, original ceramics in Karen, and the Craft Market and Undugu Co-op store in the Westlands area.
The second largest town in the country, with a population of about 600,000, and the official gateway to the country by sea. It has a history dating back to more than 2,000 years, when the Persians, Arabs, Greeks and Romans visited the East African Coast and carried out trade between the Coast and the Mediterranean Lands. It is built on what was formerly an island, separated from the mainland by a narrow channel until a causeway was built at the beginning of this century, connecting the island with the mainland. Both the sea-farers from the Persian Gulf, the Indian Sub-continent, the Cape of Good Hope and the land-lubbers from the African continent met at Mombasa Island to enjoy its calm beauty, once described by Winston Churchill (1908) as “alluring and delicious”.
For a period of over 1,400 years, since the great geographer Ptolemy marked the town of Mombasa on his “World Map” of A.D. 150, until the island was seized by the Portuguese who built Fort Jesus, there to signify their reign on the East African Coast, Mombasa was the hub of commerce and communications between Eastern Africa, the Middle East and the Far Eastern countries. The Portuguese were, however, driven out of Mombasa by the Arabs, who ruled the Island until the arrival of the British in 1873. The British stopped the dreadful slave trade, and eventually established orderly government and development facilities like the Uganda Railway, Kilindini Harbour and several tourist facilities along the Coast.
Mombasa’s tempo of development continued. Missionaries built churches, and Indians and Muslims established temples, mosques and bazaars. After independence in 1963, the up-country African communities brought with them a rich wealth of business experience, which expanded the town as a commercial and tourism nerve centre at the Coast. The old section of the town with its old-fashioned houses, carved doorways and shops fringes the old dhow harbour, with Fort Jesus dominating the entrance. This section is characterized by narrow streets and passages. There is the Customs House, a fish market and shops which sell carpets, chest, brassware, souvenirs and colourful clothes. Various African traders sell curios and antiques in the shops and on the sidewalks. A museum has been established within Fort Jesus, displaying ancient artefacts of the coastal life. Shops in Digo Road and Moi Avenue in the main town offer excellent shopping facilities. A significant landmark in Mombasa are the “Mombasa tusks”, built in 1952 to commemorate the visit of Queen Elizabeth. The town offers various night entertainment facilities, night clubs and bars, casinos and cinemas. Various town hotels offer a wide choice of Arab, Chinese, Indian, Pakistan and European styles of cuisine for all tastes.
From the Island, visitors can make short trips to many of the nearby beach resorts, where the attractions of Mtwapa Creek with dhow trips and waterskiing offer the biggest recreation. Deep-sea game fishing is usually organized from the town, before visitors move north to explore the marvels of the North Coast. Before setting off to the North or South Coast, it would be worth visiting the Wakamba carvings show-room at Changamwe to see the displays of magnificent wooden wildlife carvings, or visit the traditional villages of the Giriama tribe at Rabai.
It is a port city in western Kenya at 1,131 m. It is the third largest city in Kenya, the principal city of western Kenya, the capital of Nyanza Province and the headquarters of Kisumu District. It is the largest city in Nyanza Province and second most important city, after Kampala, in the greater Lake Victoria basin.
Kisumu literally means a place of barter trade, "sumo". Attractions in the city include Kibuye Market, the Kisumu Museum, an impala sanctuary, a bird sanctuary, Hippo Point, and the nearby Kit Mikaye and Ndere Island National Park. Kisumu is served by Kisumu Airport, with regular daily flights to Nairobi and elsewhere. Plans to expand the airport in anticipation of increased trade, brought about by the recreated East African Community of Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, are already in high gear, with works expected to be complete within the next decade.
Lake Victoria ferries operate from the port, linking the railway to Mwanza and Bukoba in Tanzania, and to Entebbe, Port Bell, and Jinja in Uganda.
Kisumu Museum, established in 1980, has a series of outdoor pavilions. Some of the pavilions contain live animals. For example, one pavilion contains numerous aquaria with a wide variety of fish from Lake Victoria, along with explanatory posters. Another pavilion contains terrarium, containing mambas, spitting cobras, puff adders and other venomous Kenyan snakes. Out of doors, the museum has a few additional exhibits, including a snake pit and a crocodile container. Other pavilions show weaponry, jewellery, farm tools and other artefacts made by the various peoples of the Nyanza Province. Additionally, there are exhibits of stuffed animals, birds and fish. One pavilion houses the prehistoric Tara rock art, which was removed for its own protection to the museum after it was defaced by graffiti in its original location. The museum's most important and largest exhibition is the UNESCO-sponsored Ber-gi-dala. This is a full-scale recreation of a traditional Luo homestead. Ber-gi-dala consists of the home, granaries and livestock corrals of an imaginary Luo man, as well as the homes of each of his three wives and his eldest son. Through signs and taped programs in both Luo and English, the exhibition also explains the origins of the Luo people, their migration to western Kenya, traditional healing plants, and the process of establishing a new home.
Kisumu is the location of the Kisumu Impala Sanctuary. Measuring just 1.03 km2, the sanctuary is one of Kenya's smallest wildlife preserves. As its name suggests, it is home to a herd of impala. Some hippos, as well as many reptiles and birds, are also present. Additionally, several caged baboons and leopards who faced difficulties of one sort or the other in the wild are held in cages there.
Hippo Point is a 240 ha viewing area on Lake Victoria. Despite its name, it is better known as a viewing point for its unobstructed sunsets over the lake than for its occasional hippos. Hippo point is near the village of Dunga, a few kilometres south-west of the town. The village also has a fishing port and a camping site.
Kit Mikayi, a large rock with three rocks on top, is located off Kisumu Bondo Road towards Bondo. Kit-mikayi means “Stones of the first wife” or “First Wife Rocks” in Dholuo, the Luo language. It is a weeping rock; it is believed that Mikayi (literally, "the first wife") went up the hill to the stones when her husband took a second wife, and has been weeping ever since. It has become a popular local pilgrimage site for Legio Marians, a religious group, who come to the rock to pray and fast for several weeks at a time.