9 Real Estate Landmarks in Nairobi that tell Kenya’s History in an Interesting Manner

Several real estate landmarks in Nairobi accord our capital city world class status through their sheer grandness; imaginative architecture and the enterprising brilliance of Kenyans abound in them. 

There are terrific landmarks here that house major, local and international businesses in various industries like hospitality, finance, agriculture, sports, local and international public services among others. And there others that define our heritage acting as major tourist attraction sites.

These qualities give Nairobi splendour, picturesque and panoramic flavour which coupled with its strategic position and reputation as a business hub makes it a major African city and by extension a global metropolis. In fact, Nairobi is the only African city or capital that hosts any of the United Nations specialised agencies as The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) The United Nations’ environmental affairs branch has its headquarters in Gigiri in upmarket Nairobi.

Few of these real estate landmarks on their part give the city a historical flavour as earlier mentioned telling the larger history of the Kenyan nation in black and white from its very formative years when the modern day Kenya was known as Kenya Colony and was part of The British East African Protectorate that also included neighbouring Uganda after the British Imperialists established their colony in East Africa in the 1895. 

Fewer even tell the history of our beloved Kenya with such a rich, eloquent, nostalgic tone and quality as the architectural wonders found South of Kenyatta Avenue. 

The word Kenya originated from a pronunciation error 

Incidentally, our country’s name is ingrained in a linguistic error as it arose from a futile effort to pronounce the name of another key physical feature that is inextricably intertwined with our motherland’s history and constitutes an integral part of our social, geographical and cultural heritage. 

We got it from a mispronunciation of the word Kirinyaga (Gikuyu word for the mountain of God) when a preeminent German explorer Johann Ludwig Krapf pronounced Kirinyaga as Kiinyaa. Thus, Africa’s second highest mountain which is approximately 138 Kms North East of Nairobi would henceforth be known as Mount Kenya– the physical landmark that later gifted the country her name. 

Sincerely, you cannot divorce the Agikuyus’ holy place and the country’s name benefactor from our illuminating history and political affairs. More than half a century after the British imperial explorers had named the country for the mountain; the latter would again play an instrumental role in our protracted yet absorbing history on 12th December, 1963 the day of our independence from the British. 

The Union Jack the symbol of the British colonialism and oppression in Kenya came down on the eve of the material day and the newly independent nation’s flag-which by all means should be designated as The Shield and The Spears to emphasize our heroic struggle for independence and that we jealously defend our sovereignty-went up. 

The legendary mountaineer Kisoi Munyao hoisted the new nation’s symbol of sovereignty and nationhood at the peak of Mt. Kenya at midnight and the people ruptured into enormous joy of freedom and self-rule. 

On a light one could be forgiven or easily get away with this less-flattering, mischievous and perhaps bleak observation: Maybe the enormous leadership mistakes and their far-reaching ramifications hampering our country’s progress are innate, inborn and insurmountable as they are traceable way back to the very birth of the nation and perhaps we are helpless and hapless to rectify them. That we can only resign to our fate. 

The most striking real estate landmarks In Nairobi that tell Kenya’s history

Many Kenyans are familiar with the Southern part of Kenyatta Avenue (formerly Sixty Avenue and later in 1932 Delamere Avenue in honour of the pioneer settler Lord Delamere). 

It is a section many walk through or do so severally or at least once in their engagements in Nairobi or specifically this part of the city that bursts with life, beauty, and commerce. Yet many hardly notice or are unaware that some of the buildings and other landmarks they passively bypass define the very Kenyan nation and these real estate marvels are glorious with intense and thrilling history, memories and tales about our motherland Kenya.    

They carry enduring, envious and gripping Kenyan history from back in time. Regrettably, this remarkable treasure remains largely undiscovered, untaught and undocumented. In short, we are yet to tap into the huge potential or opportunities its preservation holds and may herald for the nation and its people. 

Steadfast preservation and consequent imaginative harnessing of this rare resource could open hitherto unforeseen doors and may become a key public asset with a godsend income earning opportunity for some Kenyans. 

You will definitely find the following 9 real estate landmarks most striking and rich in Kenya’s history in this part of the city in the sun.

  1. The Cemetery at the corner of Bunyala Road and Uhuru Highway

The Cemetery offers a great beginning for a walk into the capital’s history. It is divided into three sections. The first section is the resting place of the British colonialists. It is for the most part subdued and unattended. In these washed-out tombstone rests the antiquity of the infamous British Empire’s fateful yet advantaged, virtually all of them killed in their ace years. There is the tombstone of Sir Donald’s Stewart who served as the British Crown’s Commissioner for the British East Africa who passed on in 1905. 

There are two explanations for his untimely, perhaps premature end. The superstitious one: The legendary Nandi Orkoiyot Koitalel arap Samoei who led his community’s resistance against the British was apparently a seer from the feared Talai clan. His invisible powers dispatched the imperialist in to the next world. 

The colonialists can never internalise this and their matter-of-fact formal explanation says it is pneumonia that claimed his life. And just nearby, there is the spot of Charles Ryall. He came to East Africa on the turn of the 20th century with a mission to accomplish: Kill the man-eater lions of Tsavo in Taita Taveta County. Poor boy! He was rather killed by the weird lions apparently after falling asleep along the railway line.  

Then we got the burial site of the first Zionist settlers in Kenya. They too arrived on a mission: To create a Jewish State in Uasin Gishu which was then part of the British Uganda. Here we got a tombstone with a famous name incised in it: Ettel Block who was the matriarch of a famous and enterprising Zionist family that once owned Nairobi’s Norfolk. 

You cannot help but chill at the prospect that had Theodor Herzel the brains behind modern political Zionism accepted the British’s offer of 1905 to create a Jewish State in Uasin Gishu-then part of UgandaUS President Donald Trump would have recognised Eldoret not Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in December 2017. 

Finally, there is the Nairobi South War Cemetery. Here you will discover the resting site of around one hundred and fifty five fatalities of the First World War and two of the Second World War. 

 

 

  • Nairobi’s Former Theatre District

 

This is on parliament Road on your way to the legislative arm of the Kenyan Government-the National Assembly.  

Two outstanding theaters have interchangeably adorned this part of the city but both have since exited the artistic scenes owing to some other wicked, selfish and shortsighted considerations.

Donovan Maule Theatre: It opened in 1958 but sadly it has long been demolished.

Phoenix Players: It replaced Donovan Maule but it is also no more regrettably. 

Professional Centre Restaurant: It was a magnet for theatre goers in the heydays of theatre enthusiasm and you can have a juicy steak there even now. Its illustrious proprietor Mike Doughty is no longer there but a few of his workers are still around. 

 

  • Cathedral Basilica of the Holy Family

 

Here is the towering seat of Vatican spiritual influence in Kenya. It was originally put up in 1904 but was later replaced by the current structure in the 60s. Dorothy Hughes who was among the first female architects in East Africa designed it. Evidently, she could take care of both the angels and the heathen for she also designed the flying-saucer-shaped New Florida Night Club on Kenya’s infamous red light district-Koinange Street. 

Alas, it was brought down some years back by haters of architecture and Dorothy Hughes might be turning in her grave. Apparently, she was charitable to the ladies of pleasure than the men of cloth and you would be forgiven for finding the Basilica a bit less gratifying than its competitor for souls of men. 

 

  • Kenyatta International Conference Centre 

 

It was the tallest building in Nairobi in 1974 when it was put up. You are bound to encounter some Soviet-style Kiosks on the ground floor that in the past were fond of selling KANU Art and paraphernalia (the building was run and owned by the Jogoo Party until Mwai Kibaki became president in 2003 and the government repossessed it). Make a good effort to buy a ticket for the roof at the reception. If you get an express elevation, it will convey you up to the twenty seventh storey. 

Lounge for a spell on the two lower berth viewing platforms above the deserted orbiting restaurant. Then ascend to the helipad to enjoy a couple striking, if not dizzy perspectives of the Ngong Hills and 360-degree panorama of the often-expanding city. 

Enjoy a sumptuous lunch at the only existent Chinese restaurant in the centre of our capital city, the Tin-Tin, meaning lunches only, at the underside of the Kenyatta International Conference Centre

The exquisite restaurant was founded by James Tin. He fled the marauding Japanese soldiers as they marched in the China-ruled Hong Kong in Second World War and came to Mombasa in 1940 accompanied by his wife doting Anna. This 42-year-old restaurant is run by the Tin dynasty even today. 

  1. The Supreme Court and Judiciary Museum 

Sir Herbert Baker a preeminent British imperial architect designed the building in 1935. So reputed was this architect that he is also credited with the designing of the Union Buildings-the official residence of the President of South Africa– in Pretoria the South African capital and the South African House in the Trafalgar Square in London in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island (The U K). Again he co-designed most of the Government buildings in New Delhi India with Edward Lutyens when the India subcontinent was also under the British Crown.  

The Judiciary Museum takes visitors serially through the history of our country. Here the dread and blue walls give way to bright lights and yellow walls ushering you into the country’s post-independence period. The retention cells, no less the one for capital offenders, are a grim reminder of the political prisoners who endured this place. 

It is rumoured that Kenya’s foremost freedom hero Dedan Kimathi was held here in the capital offenders cell after he was convicted and sentenced to death by the British colonialists before they eventually hanged him and incinerated his remains at an undisclosed location to ensure Kenyans never used his grave as a shrine for inspiration to sustain and continue the freedom agitation. That was in August, 1987. 

  1. August 7, Memorial Park 

This one reminds you of a very painful and dark chapter of our history. It is built on the tract of the American Embassy and the Ufundi House which were destroyed by al Qaeda on August 7, 1998. A poignant remembrance of the two hundred and eighteen victims of this tragedy has been established here and there is a little museum as well. 

  1. St. Peter Claver’s Church 

On Racecourse Road lies this beautiful Catholic Church. Some even find it more enchanting than the Basilica itself. It was built in 1922 and was the first Catholic Church to serve blacks in Nairobi. Yet it is best remembered as the church of Tom and Pamela Mboya’s “wedding of the decade” as it was graced by many local and international dignitaries in 1962. 

 

  • St. Peter Claver’s School 

 

It is just across the road from St. Peter Clavers’ Church. It is famous for being the first school in Nairobi to admit black children. This came against the backdrop of the colonial government’s efforts to bar such kids from the city. 

 

  • Sri Guru Singh Sabha

 

On Uyoma Street you have to discover the Gurdwara or temple of the Sikh farmer caste. It is a remarkable edifice, which grabs your eyes luxuriantly when you look eastwards from the Kenyatta International Conference Centre’s helipad. 

It was consummated in 1963 and houses the largest concavity in the country. Inside the spiritual leaders are charming and friendly and they will amiably and amicably allow the visitors revel in admiring the interior of this concave shaped artifact that is splendid in gypsum and cyan. Some visitors won’t fail to flatteringly observe that this architectural marvel is Kenya’s humble equivalent of the Pantheon in Rome Italy-perhaps they are right. 

Conclusion: Some Nairobi Real Estate Landmarks tell Kenya’s rich History

What pretty and absorbing Kenyan history some of Nairobi’s real estate landmarks tell! A historian cum travel writer with a superior eye for detail could write quite a number of interesting chapters if not a fascinating book about our beloved motherland from the perspective of our capital city’s architectural marvels. 

In particular, a thoughtful tour and an interrogative study of some buildings and other artifacts South of Kenyatta Avenue could reveal scarce yet informative and amusing accounts about men and women, events and institutions of yore that helped shape the future of our motherland Kenya. 

We could reap immensely if only we preserved this peerless history of our beloved Kenya and harnessed this unique heritage to maximise on its full potential. 

Indeed, Nairobi would not only be a sunshine city and capital but also a historical and an international learning hub. 

These ancient real estate landmarks could even inspire more Kenyan creativity and imagination on the part of our architectural progress. And this would in return give rise to more enchanting real estate development. We Kenyans owe this fundamental responsibility not only to ourselves but also the posterity. Talk of domestic tourism at its best! 

 

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