Vishwa’s Nairobi

Vishwa Shah was born in Mombasa, Kenya, but has been based in Nairobi since the age of six. The current University of Illinois student has traveled all over the world, but, for Vishwa, nothing compares to the quiet beauty of Kenya’s capital city. “It is a fertile, hilly Eden in which I could live and die and live in again,” she says. Enough said. Here are a few of Vishwa’s favorite things about the “Green City in the Sun.”

Follow Vishwa’s story on Twitter @vishwa__shah

Nairobi is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is my home of course!

August is the best time to visit my city because it’s in the midst of the most perfectly moderate weather — and you get to see the Great Migration!

You can see my city best from the top of the brand new Times Tower, the tallest building in East and Central Africa. But really, the city is so hilly and elevated that you can get a remarkable view from just about anywhere.

Locals know to skip markets with inflated prices and check out truly local markets instead. These markets may be hidden in the Triangle Market near the Sarit Centre or even in “Old Town” in Mombasa. With the use of bargaining and the knowledge of Kiswahili language, you can get the best deal and not be ridiculously over-charged!

The Triangle Market/Westgate Masaai Market is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs.

In the past, notable people like Karen Blixen, Joy Adamson, and Louis Leakey have called my city home.

My city’s best museum is the National Museums of Kenya on Museum Hill Road. Here you can learn about immigration, wildlife, and how the country has changed and developed over the years.

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s to leave an hour early; there is no such thing as beating traffic in Nairobi.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is Spring Valley, Karura Forest, and the best is the Nairobi National Park.

My city really knows how to celebrate Barack Obama’s presidency because his father is a native of Kenya.

You can tell if someone is from my city if he or she has a Kenyan accent coupled with a cosmopolitan outlook.

For a fancy night out, I go to Gigiri for dinner (try Mediterraneo) or go to Westgate Shopping Mall, which may not be open at the moment due to the unfortunate recent terrorist attack.

Just outside my city, you can visit world-class natural areas like Masaai Mara National Reserve and Lake Nakuru, Tsavo East, and Amboseli national parks. The absolute best time to visit Masaai Mara is in August during the Great Migration, a mass migration of wildebeest and zebra across rivers and thousands of miles of savannah that must be seen to be believed.

My city is known for being dirty, but it really deserves its nickname: “The Green City in the Sun.”

The best outdoor market in my city is the Triangle Market near the Sarit Centre or the Masaai Market at the Village Market.

My mother’s kitchen is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and Artcaffe is the spot for late-night eats.

To find out what’s going on at night and on the weekends, check out 6am Kenya. My recommendation? Head to the Tree House Club or the ever popular Gipsy Bar.

My city’s biggest sports event is anything related to the Premier League in England. Watch it at Super Sport.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I window shop at the big malls.

To escape the crowds, I…there is no escaping crowds!

If my city were a celebrity it’d be Djimon Hounsou because he is African, rugged, and beautiful.

The dish that represents my city best is mandazi and Tusker is my city’s signature drink.

The most random thing about my city is how many different cultures and ethnicities are represented here.

Multitudes of flowers and plants blooming out of dust and waste could only happen in my city.

In ALL of the seasons, you should eat, swim, watch animals, and bask in the beauty of this magical city.

In the warm season (from October to May), you should go swimming, eat at outdoor restaurants like Tapas, Artcaffe, and Java Coffee House, and shop around at the Village Market.

In the cold season (from June to September), you should visit the national parks (make sure to bring warm clothes!) and the Giraffe Center, enjoy the indoor Sarit Centre, or walk on the trail in Karura Forest.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss the David Sheldrick wildlife sanctuary. And, of course, visiting the savannah for a few days of animal watching.

The best book about my city (that I’ve read) is Born Free: A Lioness of Two Worlds by Joy Adamson or Love, Life, and Elephants: An African Love Story by Daphne Sheldrick.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind isHakuna Matata” from The Lion King.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because you can find an ancient human and animal world intermingled with a booming cosmopolis. Nairobi really is the “Green City in the Sun!”