Weekends in Nairobi are different for
everyone but as a huge fan of the Telegraph’s ‘Perfect Weekend’ where famous
people are interviewed – and though I am very far from famous, I thought that this
might give readers one picture of what expat life in Nairobi can be like.
The weekend kicks off on Friday evening
when I get the kids back from school at around 5pm (having done battle through the
dreaded Nairobi Friday traffic). The journey
from school can take at least an hour of sitting in bumper to bumper jams and
there’s a lot of breath holding as motorbikes, hand carts and pedestrians pick
past you. Since everyone is almost
stationary, there are also a lot of street kids and men begging. If the roads were clear, then the same
journey would take us 20 minutes. There are rat runs and ways around that can
be quicker but it’s always a gamble as you have an equal chance of getting blocked in trying alternative routes.
My husband tries to get home before 6pm so
that we can take our dogs for a walk on the local golf course. A 45 minute walk around these beautiful
grounds is a great way to wind down. We normally try to persuade the kids to
accompany us, but generally they are exhausted by Friday evening and just want
to flop in front of the TV. After our
walk, watching the sun go down and as the evening quickly falls into darkness,
we might treat ourselves to a big glass of wine and some warm cashew nuts at
the clubhouse before heading home to make supper.
Weekends for us are largely about
sleep. We get up at around 5.30am on
week days in order to get our kids to school on time. Their school day starts
at 7.30am and there’s a school bus that leaves our neighbourhood prompt at
6.30am. Ideally we all sleep in on Saturday
morning until at least 8am. I don’t like
to sleep past then, because there is a frenetic African zumba class called
Songa that I love to go to at 9am on Saturday. Since I’m over 40, there are not so many
opportunities to get my dancing shoes on and the instructor is fantastic,
leaping around in the front like he’s just stepped out of a music video, so he
gets the whole class jumping. After that,
I’ll head to the nearby organic vegetable market that is based from a garden
restaurant once a week. The saturday
market has evolved into a more of a farmer’s market with not just veg but
cheeses, breads, sauces, jewellery, crafts and the most delicious syrup waffles
and baklava. My husband and kids then sometimes come along to meet me there with
the dog so that we can enjoy a coffee in the gardens. We always feel like staying for lunch by my
bags are heavy with fresh salad, eggs, cheeses, ice cream and baguettes so I generally
suggest we go home to eat the spoils of my shopping trip. Occasionally on Saturdays all of these plans
go out of the window because there is a school event (generally sports based)
to attend. This can be quite big social occasions where parents bring a picnic and cheer heartily from the sidelines.
Since we spend so much time during the week in
the car, we have a quiet afternoon at home. The shopping centres tend to be
heaving on Saturdays but if we feel like it, we can head to one of these to
catch a movie. On Saturday night we might go out to a restaurant. There is an incredible choice of fantastic
restaurants in every neighbourhood in Nairobi. The brilliant, free ‘Yummy’
magazine lists and reviews all the best restaurants in town. There is a Nairobi Restaurant week and also ‘Taste’ awards to rank the
best chefs in town, many of them international.
Somebody I met recently said that Nairobi was ‘on steroids’ in terms of
growth at the moment and she was not wrong. Sometimes I wish we lived a bit more centrally
so that we could try more of these Nairobi hotspots out but we are generally
deterred by the traffic and you can’t beat the space we enjoy from living a bit
further out. When we moved to Nairobi in
2003 we would think nothing of heading right across town for dinner, but these
days it’s impossible.
On Sunday morning, my husband likes to head
out on an off road motorbike trip with a few friends. There is a crew that invariably venture out on bikes every
weekend and they now have a Whatsapp group in order to organise themselves.
Mountain biking is also a big thing here and their trips are arranged on a similarly
ad hoc basis. My husband loves the fact
that within minutes you can be in the centre of some incredible landscapes which are literally right on our doorstep. There are often famous Kenyan runners on top of
the Ngong Hills training early on Sunday morning. He jokes that they are ‘pairs of lungs on
skinny legs’ as they power over the steep peaks.
While he’s out, the kids will be doing music
practise or homework, which is generally pretty boring but necessary. I will make a Sunday lunch. In the afternoon
we might load the bikes onto the car and take them to a quiet gated
neighbourhood for a bike ride, alternatively we might take our dogs for a walk
in the ‘primate centre’ forest sanctuary.
Occasionally we’ll be invited to Sunday lunch with friends and if I am
seriously organised, then I will invite friends here. Long lunches in the garden are one of the
best aspects of expat life and they generally run well into the evening. An alternative Sunday plan might be to throw together a picnic and meet friends for lunch or brunch in Nairobi National Park. It's incredible that you can go and look at giraffe, rhino and even lion within 20 minutes of home. When you are in the park, you feel a million miles away from city life.
Then it’s time to pack school bags and try
to get an early night, as the alarm clock will be going off early in the
morning for another busy week.