Monday, July 17, 2006


My Nairobi: National Geogrpahic peers into the soul of an African City

"This is the tension that best defines Nairobi: to try (and often fail) to live within the world-views of our traditional nations; to try (and often fail) to be seamless, Western-educated people; to try (and often fail) to be Kenyans—still a new and bewildering idea."

Binyavanga Wainaina

Having recently visited Nairobi for the first time, I was struck by the complexity, vitality, warmth, and frenetic energy of this African capital. A city of contrast, movement, beauty and suffering Nairobi has installed herself into the chambers of heart and mind. I find that I still dream of her often bumpy and convoluted streets, walled complexes, traffic jams, matatu, markets, and proud people.

I was so lucky during my visit to be welcomed into homes, businesses, art centers and family gatherings. Nervous for my first visit outside the U.S. and Europe I scheduled a day-long stop in Zurich. But within hours of arriving there I was seriously bored and wished I'd flown directly to Kenya. On arrival I found a city seemingly on the verge...with a crackling energy and hopefulness that was addicting and catching. I sense an optimism rising in Kenya and I plan to be part of it in the future. If my opinion matters at all, I'd recommend Nairobi as a first stop in Africa.

So, it was with great pleasure that I received an email from my friend Pete Tideman, my guide and travel mate in Kenya, of a National Geographic feature Inventing a City. Check it out for yourself.

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