Photo Story: The Real Nairobi

By Mark Wiens 31 Comments

Welcome to Nairobi, the capital and largest city of Kenya.

Nairobi City Pictures

Look into your rear view mirror and you will notice the real side of Nairobi.


Hop into a public “matatu” mini-bus and venture to the neighborhoods that make up Nairobi.

Pictures of Nairobi


Nairobi matatu mini-buses line the sloppy muddy road, waiting to be repaired in order to get back on the street again. Riding a matatu is one of the more entertaining things to do in Nairobi.


A warm reception at this downtown Nairobi apartment complex. A thermos of steaming chai is waiting.

Photos of Nairobi

Freshly washed laundry streams through the inner square.

Pictures of Nairobi

Browsing local fresh markets like City Park Hawkers in the Parklands area of Nairobi is one of the most rewarding things to do in Nairobi!

City Park Hawkers Market

Hawkers and vendors line the streets of Nairobi, selling snacks like roasted maize, newspapers, or other products of the day.

Nairobi Jobs

The most convenient way in the world to buy a puppy is through the window of your car, while waiting in long lines of stagnant traffic.

Street Hawking Nairobi

This is street food in Nairobi. A Mama cooks the food in her home, packs it in plastic containers and gunny sacks, and transports it to wherever there is demand.

Rice and Beef Stew Nairobi

Clockwise from top left:


In Nairobi anything can be fixed and re-sold. “Jua Kali,” is a name that describes fix-it men that can transform a hunk of junk into something useful.

Jua Kali Nairobi

In Nairobi, people live on the edge. Walking past on the street, you would never notice the crater in the center of this slum village, but from an adjacent top of a building, the conditions of a landslide in the future appear to be inevitable.


If you need that latest “2Pac shave” or “Ice Cube cut,” Nairobi can cater to all of your salon needs and requests. Name a hip hop celebrity and they got you covered.

Pictures of Nairobi

Dedan Kimathi was a Kenyan Mau Mau rebel leader who battled against the colonial power of Britain in a struggle to gain independence. A bronze statue was erected in his remembrance in downtown Nairobi.

Dedan Kimathi Nairobi

A serious fence in Dandora area, Nairobi, Kenya.  Fences are often wrapped with barbed wire, shards of broken glass, electric wire, and sometimes thorn bushes.

Fence in Nairobi

Behind the barbed wire lie charming manicured lawns and elegant gardens for afternoon tea.

Pictures of Nairobi

In Nairobi, when it rains, it bleeds. The blood red dirt flows through the streets as rivers and puddles gather in hazardous spots, wreaking havoc for pedestrians and motorists, but nourishing the beautiful greenery.

Picture of Nairobi

A cutting board loaded with nyama choma roasted meat is a treat and pastime that all Nairobians enjoy.

Photos of Nairobi

Bus Nairobi

“If u can’t beat them join them,” and together “Yes we can.”

31 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • vishal kaushik

    3 years ago

    Awesome blog. Thanks for sharing.

  • kw

    7 years ago

    As a Kenyan, I have to say that is a very fair account and representation of Nairobi life… It highlights the good and even represents the bad in a plalatable way. Its a beautiful place to visit… To enjoy the life. And obviously for adventure as well. Its very impressive.

  • eddy

    10 years ago

    first ‘mzungu’ i’ve seen who has taken interst in the yin side of nairobi. thumbs up mark. To any who might head over to this part of africa, take a ride in the matatus that opperate on the outskirts of the C.B.D and see life in nairobi first hand. oooh, and download the movie ‘nairobi halflife‘. u‘ll deffinitely learn alot about life here.

    • Mark Wiens

      10 years ago

      Hey Eddy, good to hear from you. Yah, this is another whole side to Nairobi! Thanks for the suggestion of the movie, will have to check that out.

  • mrssmith

    13 years ago

    the ‘real nairobi huh”, bet you if they showed the real america, half of the immigrants would not come! You love showing the wonderful america to the rest of the world then bring back the worst of africa so that you can wallow in your superiority complex!

    • Mark Wiens

      13 years ago

      You are right, show the real America to the world and half the people might change their minds about wanting to immigrate.

  • South America ME

    13 years ago

    Those are some amazing photos. I love these types that show the harsh reality.
    That green lawn seems so out of place after the rest of the photos (then again must be a part of life there for a small few).
    The roasted meat getting chopped up looks… um, appetizing interesting.
    Rob W.

  • Mark Wiens

    13 years ago

    @Matt: Thanks Matt. I took most of these shots about 2.5 months ago, towards the end of December, it is the warmest time of the year.

  • Matt | YearAroundTheWorld

    13 years ago

    Great shots, looks like an interesting city. What time of the year were you there?

  • Mark Wiens

    13 years ago

    @Flip: Thanks Flip, let me know if you get a chance to visit Africa!

    @Christy: Appreciate the comment!

    @Rebecca: Yah, that is definitely a mystery how some of those structures are even standing, when the rain comes it’s not going to be a good scenario. Thanks for the comment.

  • Rebecca

    13 years ago

    Seems chaotic but can’t wait to visit. I can’t believe that some of those houses next to the crater are still standing – some of them even have their foundations sticking out into thin air!

  • Christy @ Ordinary Traveler

    13 years ago

    You really did a great job showing many different aspects of Nairobi. The food looks tasty!

  • flip

    13 years ago

    love the pictures… shows the real life of the common people… i hope i could visit africa next year…

  • Mark Wiens

    13 years ago

    @Glen: Thanks so much!

    @Ayngelina: Thanks, I still don’t know how they hung some of the clothes up in the middle of the square!

  • ayngelina

    13 years ago

    I love the lines in the laundry photo, what a great capture.

  • Glen

    13 years ago

    Love your “behind the scenes” look at the city!

  • Mark Wiens

    13 years ago

    @Cathy: Awesome! I would love to be your tour guide if I am in the area. Hope you can make it sometime!

    @Michael: Great! When you get a chance, I’m sure you will have a very enjoyable time!

    @Rease: You are welcome! Thanks so much for checking them out.

    @Christy: Yes, I fully agree, instead of the tourist norms that everyone sees, I like to see the real life of a city, what really goes on. Thanks for checking it out.

    @Kelly: Yah, you will definitely get to try a lot of that meat when you travel to Nairobi!

    @Jeremy: Cool, yah, you might be amazed with how many large buildings there are in downtown Nairobi. Some things in Nairobi are quite modern, while other things could use quite a bit of work.

  • Mark Wiens

    13 years ago

    @Linguist in Waiting: Yah, actually when I was in Manila, a few things did remind me of Manila. The overall infrastructure and size of the entire city is not nearly that of Manila, but there are some similarities. I’m sure you would adapt well to life in Nairobi! Minibuses can cost 20 – 30 cents or so.

    @Jillian: Thanks for the comment! Great, I guess you have done some traveling in Africa before!

    @Inka: Thanks so much Inka, about 8 years!

    @Michael: Yah, you are right, the matatus are great, and the touts are usually quite friendly and willing to help out!

  • Jeremy B

    13 years ago

    Thanks for the photos Mark. It’s interesting to see real life in Nairobi. It’s much more cosmopolitan than I would have imagined.

  • Kelly

    13 years ago

    Cool photos Mark! They really give me a sense of what it’s like to be there! I want to try that meat!

  • Christy @ Technosyncratic

    13 years ago

    These are great photos – they really show a different side to Nairobi. A lot of travel photography focuses on the ‘beautiful’ and doesn’t pay much attention to the ‘real’ (which is beautiful in its own way). 🙂

  • Rease

    13 years ago

    I really like these photos, it was a great way to show local life and the city. Thanks for sharing!

  • Michael Figueiredo

    13 years ago

    Very interesting article and photos! I still haven’t been to Africa, but I definitely know that I’ll go to Kenya when I do.

  • Cathy Sweeney

    13 years ago

    Honestly, I never really thought much about going to Nairobi, but following your posts has made me very intrigued by it. If I ever go, I wish that you could be my tour guide! Great photos.

  • Michael Hodson

    13 years ago

    I enjoyed the heck out of Nairobi and sooooo miss those mini-buses. The drivers and assistants were so damn helpful every time I needed to get somewhere.

  • inka

    13 years ago

    A more comprehensive overview is hard to imagibe, And you lived there for how long???

  • Jillian

    13 years ago

    Great photos. I loved the street scenes, to me these will always be in my memories of Africa.

  • Linguist-in-Waiting

    13 years ago

    This feels so much like Manila. The chaos, the mini-buses, the traffic jams, the thunderstorms, even the wickedly ripe papayas that are found in the markets. I think I won’t have too much of a problem adjusting if I were to visit! How much is a mini-bus ride by the way?