Growth of a City
Located at an elevation of approximately 5,500 feet [1,680 m], Nairobi enjoys an impressive view of the land around it. On clear days one can easily spot two significant African landmarks. To the north lies Mount Kenya, at 17,058 feet [5,199 meters] the nation’s highest mountain and the second highest in Africa. Farther south on the Kenya-Tanzania border is Mount Kilimanjaro, at 19,340 feet [5,895 meters] Africa’s highest. The perpetual presence of snow and ice on Kilimanjaro, which lies near the equator, intrigued European geographers and explorers 150 years ago.
With a city history spanning over 50 years, Nairobi has undergone a complete metamorphosis. Its growth is evident in its ever-changing skyline. Today’s tall and imposing buildings of glass and steel sparkling in the light of the setting tropical sun are a sight to behold. A visitor to Nairobi’s central business district may wonder in disbelief upon learning that the very ground on which he is walking was a lurking place of wild beasts—a dangerous area for humans—just a hundred years ago.
In time, that changed. Exotic flora that included beautiful bougainvillea, blossoming jacaranda, fast-growing eucalyptus, and wattle was introduced. Thus, formerly dusty trails were slowly turned into tree-lined avenues, which continue to provide pedestrians with shade during hot seasons. An arboretum near the city center contains at least 270 species of trees. We can imagine why another writer stated that Nairobi “looks as if it might have been built in the middle of natural forest.” The luxuriant vegetation has greatly helped regulate Nairobi’s inviting temperatures—warm days and cool nights.