I recently visited Nairobi for 3 days to catch up with our team in Kenya and finalise preparations for our safari that is currently running in the South Rift Valley of this magnificent country.
Despite all the security threats, it is still a beautiful country. The most endearing characteristic is the people. They are fiercely patriotic and were deeply hurt by the British travel company that decided to withdraw 400 of its clients from the Mombasa coastal area.
The conspiracy theories abound. They view it as a political decision.
The Chinese are investing heavily in Kenya and are funding the upgrades of the road networks and infrastructural developments. The first lady of China was so moved following a visit to the David Sheldrick Elephant sanctuary which cares for orphaned elephants (primarily as a result of poaching), she insisted that her husband write out a rather large cheque for anti poaching funding.
It is no coincidence that large oil reserves have been discovered in the Northern parts of the country.
Anyway, enough of politics and more of the security issues.
The mood that struck me when I first arrived at Jomo Kenyatta was one of calm. The recent terrorist attacks had done very little to douse the spirit of the people. It has almost reinforced their patriotism and, despite the obvious negative effects that recent events will have on the tourism market, they remain hopeful that these events will soon be forgotten and normality will return once again.
Hakunu mutata. No problem.
During my visit, we spent a large part of the 3 days visiting a number of suburbs in Nairobi. We even drove through the much maligned eastern suburbs, Somali strongholds where recent attacks have taken place.
I can honestly say that I never felt threatened. Naïve maybe. The most striking aspect that I noticed since my visit 4 months ago was the improvement of the road network. Everything seemed a lot cleaner. There was still a vibrancy in the upmarket shopping centres suggesting that not only are people not avoiding these destinations, but the consumer economy is thriving.
I urge all to visit this country. Whilst I cannot guarantee your safety (the same would apply to any other country you visited in the World – particularly those that are on Al Qaeda’s radar) – what I can assure you is that you will not feel threatened.
The insecurities are overridden by the genuine warmth and hospitality that is unique to the Kenyan culture.
They need you. And you will want to give.