Aside from learning that Nairobi is hardly ever scorching hot (as opposed to what Hollywood would have you believe), the second biggest surprise for many of my friends and relatives outside of Kenya has been learning how developed Nairobi is. There are of course plenty of obvious signs that Kenya is a developing country but the skyline of downtown Nairobi is not one of them. Boasting plenty of high-rise buildings and skyscrapers, downtown Nairobi has all the appearances of a proper metropolis. But like most things that are over a hundred years old, it has gone through significant changes over the years, evolving from an uninviting swamp to a burgeoning cosmopolitan. Starting earlier last month, the Alliance Francaise of Nairobi has been hosting the "Nyrobi* in Pictures" (*as it was once spelled) photo-text exhibition, a chronology of Nairobi's development through photographs. Having always been fascinated by historic photos, I was eager to see what this exhibition was all about.
Unfortunately, between travel and other social obligations, we weren't able to make our way to the Alliance Francaise until last Sunday afternoon, when we found the gallery space to be largely deserted. No matter however, as I was happy to have the exhibit all to myself. I was pleased to find that included in the presentation were a handful of historic photographs dating from as far back as the early 1900's. And I was further astonished to find that some of the structures built around then, still exist today!
Also included in the exhibit were more contemporary photos of some of Nairobi's more architecturally interesting buildings. Among my favorites from these were the Sheria House and the Kenwood House (below). I had never seen many of the buildings that were pictured here and it definitely impressed upon me that there was much more of Nairobi left to see.
If you happen to be in the Nairobi area, I definitely recommend that you check the exhibit out, especially as it is also free of charge! If you go on a week day or when another big event is going on, you might be lucky to find the cafe there open and treat yourself to delicious french pastry. But hurry, as the exhibit ends on July 7th, time is quickly running out!
Photo Credits (from the top): (1) Market scene in original Bazaar Street (today's Ronald Ngala St.), 1902 from Nairobi Railway Museum; (2) Northern part of Government Rd., 1920; (3) Exhibit Poster taken from PAWA254 Blog; (4) The Sheria House, Architect Amyas D. Connell in 1960, photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba; (5) The Kenwood House, Architect Ernsty May in 1937, photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba.