Putting motoring matters aside, what is Kenya like? My first impressions, given the location of my entry, were understandably of rural Kenya. The north of the country is eighty percent plains where you can literally see for miles. The landscape is splattered with bushes but few trees; most of the bushes appeared to be covered in very sharp thorns and the trees that do grow resemble mushrooms with flat top foliage, often no more than fifteen feet tall.
The hills and mountains at the edges of the plains are mostly barren at the top, very craggy, with some vegetation at the base. Rarely are there any trees.
The rural population still includes many very traditional tribesmen looking quite ferocious in their colourful dress. They carry traditional tools and weapons and presumably hunt and forage as their forefathers would have done. Mixed with these are the villagers that are scratching out a living by growing their own produce, keeping a few head of cattle, sheep or goats and living in traditional round mud and stick huts, or oblong mud huts with corrugated iron roofs. Most of these inhabitants wear western clothing, with the males particularly keen on replica football shirts in particular those of English teams. In most villages there is the obligatory satellite dish delivering television although often powered by solar panels or occasionally a generator. Many huts only have hurricane lamps that give the village a fairy light appearance at night.
The other notable natural phenomenon is the night sky. As there is little or no light pollution from nearby towns or cities the various celestial bodies are far brighter than anywhere in Europe which also means that there appears to be many more stars than can be seen certainly from Britain. It also enables the observer to see shooting stars, etc. very commonly.
Nairobi is the capital city of Kenya and in common with all capital cities is not representative of the rest of the country. Also in common with most capitals there are several different lifestyles largely as a result of income. It is particularly notable in Nairobi however because the span of difference is greater than in most countries that I have visited. The poorest live in conditions that are only slightly modified from the tribal lifestyle described in the preceding paragraphs. There is a large middle ‘class’ of people that have poor grade housing, second hand vehicles and a taste for modern gadgets such as mobile phones, computers, the internet, organised sport and nightlife. Then there are the thoroughly modern, progressive, business orientated individuals, who are well educated and fully conversant with modern living and business methods. These are generally highly successful, with high quality housing, house keepers and drivers and all the accessories of modern life.
The city obviously reflects the lifestyles with the centre having ultra-modern buildings as well as some colonial style government buildings. The roads are smooth, paved ways some being dual carriageway style. Then there are suburbs with relatively modern buildings, but a little run down, with no paved roads so that there are large potholes that fill with water every time it rains. This causes quagmires everywhere.
There are large estates of blocks of flats that look as if they were government sponsored and are quite squalid. Finally, there are the slums that require no further description.
The divisions clearly affect the way people behave. Kenyans are, I believe, a naturally friendly race, but deprivation creates pressures that drive some to unattractive practises. In many ways similar to the behaviour of a lot of Egyptians, Kenyans will try anything to make a ‘shilling’, although not as ‘full-on’ as in Egypt it soon becomes evident to all, that what they want is your money. Begging is common and often blatant with just a simple request of “Give me money”
Such behaviour is not universal, and when absent, the people really are warm and friendly.