Save to List: Mutua Matheka’s Nairobi

A world’s worth of recommended spots from our global community
words – mutua matheka
location – nairobi, kenya

At boom saloon, we’re incredibly privileged to collaborate with a community of hundreds of talented creatives all around the world, stretching from Ecuador to Egypt, China to Canada, Austria to Angola. Our strong relations have afforded us a wealth of insider insights into the best places to visit, eat and stay, all around the world. Now, we want to share this information with you as we work with our community to map the world and share their best recommendations of how to enjoy destinations both near and far. Our version of a city guide, delivered interactively and in real time – curated for all to enjoy and presented as a savable Google Map for our members to save and bookmark a wealth of future adventures.

For Kenyan photographer Mutua Matheka, a former architect, Africa’s misrepresentation across mainstream media has long been a driving force within his work. “If you Google ‘Nairobi,’ a lot of images will be of Kibera, which is the largest slum in Africa,” he says. “It is ours. It’s not something that I’m trying to refute. But Kibera is not 90 percent of Nairobi… The worst of Africa has been photographed for so long,” Matheka explains. “I am not interested in photographing that.”

Speaking of his hometown, and building upon his previous work with ‘Unscrambling Africa,’ Matheka says, “Nairobi has a vibrant and familiar culture to most who travel here because of how metropolitan the city is. This makes most people easily feel at home but, at the same time, offers some unique experiences that may be fundamental for any first time visitor to the city – or even repeat visitors like me. Here are my recommendations for seeing the best of the city, through the eyes of someone lucky enough to call her home.”

01_KICC rooftop 

Providing the most central, highest view in the city, this rooftop is iconic – and of personal interest to me as it is a view that birthed my love for photographing cities and, specifically, documenting Nairobi for over 10 years now. However, while going there, I’d suggest a leisurely walk around the city centre to get a sense of the vibe of the city. Kenyatta Avenue is the street with some of the oldest buildings in the city; not to be missed.

 

02_Art tour

With the vibrant art scene in the city offering many exhibitions at different galleries, it can be easy to feel spoilt for choice. I find myself going back to the following galleries and art spaces for the best experience: Kuona Arts and Go Down Arts is where you get to see art and interact with the various artists that work there, if you can find them! Circle Art, The African Arts Trust [right next to it], Nairobi Contemporary Art Institute and One Off Gallery are amazing spaces that always have something worthwhile showing.


03_Nairobi National Park

For any wildlife lovers, Nairobi happens to be the only city in the world with a park inside it – not a zoo, a park. I know this is too often a cliché used to market Nairobi, but the park is really an amazing experience – it’s so close to other locations, it’s almost criminal not to visit. Best to go at sunrise [or late afternoon] before it’s too hot to increase your chances of seeing a lot of wildlife.


04_Blankets & Wine

For any music lovers, Blankets & Wine is the largest music festival and it happens every quarter, so you could plan your visit with this in mind. There’s a lot of alternative music shows happening all the time, though, so no matter when you come, you’ll most certainly always have your share of live Kenyan music shows.

 

05_Maasai Market

One of the largest markets for curios, jewellery, fabric and more things that say you’ve been to Nairobi. Maasai Market moves to a different location every day of the week so be sure to check before you go to make sure you find the market at the right location. Haggling is always welcome, even if not encouraged. Better practice before you go to up your haggle game to a level better than mine [which is nonexistent].


06_Kiembethu tea farm

One thing Kenya is known for is our excellent tea and now you can visit a tea farm in the outskirts of the city, in cool and forested Tigoni. You can learn about tea from the farmers, see tea in the farms, learn how they select it, process it and how to make the perfect Kenyan tea. Lunch is part of the farm tour so make it a half day trip out of the city for the best experience.

 

07_Railway museum

If you’re a train geek, or history geek or just a museum lover, the Railway Museum is a delightful playground where you can see all the old engines and carriages and trains from the 1950’s. The National Museum is also a great visit that’s a 10 minute drive from the Railway Museum – so you might as well enjoy them both on the same day.


08_Nature Trails

For the nature lovers, I didn’t forget you. Karura forest is one of the best places to go to touch some grass and play in the greenery. Run or bike in the forest and, if you venture far enough, you may even get to the waterfall in the park. A great place for a picnic, games or just to sit and look at the sky. Another location of notable mention is the Nairobi Arboretum for a similar but different vibe.

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