Like any major city, Nairobi has a number of neighborhoods, or estates, each with a different name. Being that the city was of British origin, there are many estates that sound like they have come straight out of London. Eastleigh, Hurlingham, and Lavington are a few of these.
Some estates have been given Swahili names, such as Umoja, meaning unity, or Balozi, meaning ambassador. Some estates are named using other African languages as well. Kawangware is a Kikiyu word meaning “the place of the guinea fowl”. I have driven through Kawangware many times, but I have yet to see a guinea fowl in the slum.
Perhaps the most famous area of all of Nairobi is a slum known as Kibera. Kibera is one of the largest slums in the world, housing between 170,ooo and 1,000,000, depending on who you ask. It was originally settled by the Nubians after their work for the British in the Colonial Army. They were granted a beautiful forested area of land, which the Nubians called Kibera, meaning forest. Not much of that original forest remains today.
Other estates are named after very obvious features of the area, such as Pipeline (gas pipeline running through the area) or Upper Hill (situated on the top of the hill downtown). Not much work is needed to figure out what the main feature of the Riverbank Estate is.
But there are a few estates that are named after famous people in Kenya’s history.
One such estate is named after Karen Blixen, the famous landowner from the colonial days. The estate of Karen is located on her old land holdings. Another estate, bordering Karen, is named after British Brigadier A.J. Hardy, former head of the Kenyan Army in the early 1960’s.
All this history to say, today, Karen smells of dirty diapers, and Hardy smells of cheap cologne.