Treasure Trove at the Nairobi National Museum

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The Nairobi National Museum stands nestled in a corner of the Nairobi Central Business District, on the corner of Museum Hill road and Uhuru Highway.

With the Nairobi river forming a border on one corner and shaded by trees, it might be difficult to find it off the Uhuru Highway, compounded by the complexities of navigating the newly built flyover and underpass.

I opted to take a walk from my house as it gave me a good chance to get some exercise, and to enjoy the city on a Sunday afternoon. Walking through Nairobi on a Sunday allows you a chance to actually enjoy the walk without maddening vehicular and pedestrian traffic. The weather was pleasantly cool too.

 

Sculpture of Dr. Louis Leakey, one of Kenya's leading  paleoanthropologist and archeologists
Sculpture of  Louis Leakey, one of Kenya’s leading paleoanthropologist and archeologists

Walking past Serena Hotel on Kenyatta Avenue, across Uhuru highway and onto Loita street, up through the pedestrian bridge over University way and down Harry Thuku road was pleasant, given the numerous well-built sidewalks and shade from trees scattered over the roadsides. It was a nostalgic feeling to remembering when Nairobi lived up to it’s slogan – Green City in the Sun.

Calabash from the display inside the first hall
Calabash from the display inside the first hall

Once over the Nairobi river (where a whiff of urine hit me, letting me know that men preferred to pee on the bridge than to just walk on it) and onto Museum hill, the museum beckons welcomingly. With a large courtyard leading to the museum halls, the renovation over the years is evident. Nothing glamorous (yet). There are a few curio shops, as well as a new restaurant open (what happened to Savannah?).

The museum houses several halls and displays, and there are guides on hand to walk you through the entire display. Walking in, you’re greeted by a huge and spectacular calabash sculpture, with a calabash representing each of the tribes of Kenya. Some had such intricate designs on them.

From here on you walk into the Mammals’ hall, where majestic Ahmed the Elephant stands with other stuffed animals. The displays are well laid out, showing how the mammal family branches out, from manatees to elephants and shrews, to dolphins and hyraxes and cheetahs and more.

Ahmed! He was renown for his gigantic tusks, and was accorded armed escort for the rest of his life by the then president, Jomo Kenyatta
Ahmed! He was renown for his gigantic tusks, and was accorded armed escort for the rest of his life by the then president, Jomo Kenyatta

Next on was the human history hall (OK, I can’t remember the actual hall names) that shows the human evolution. Moulds of fossils found around the world, such as Lucy (Ethiopia), Turkana boy (Kenya) and more are displayed, and you can figure out how your ancestors of eons before must have looked like.

From here there’s the ‘cycles of life’ hall, showing the stages from child, through initiation and adult hood to death and beyond, and how that circle comes back to life, based on Kenyan traditions, old and new.

Crossing over a railway line, you walk into the ‘Kenyan history’ hall, from the colonial period, through independence and to today. Did you know that you’re not allowed to operate a private railway in Kenya? The only license lies with Magadi Soda company – but that’s for another day…

 

Art: Photography display with age old pictures from Kenya's history
Art: Photography display with age old pictures from Kenya’s history

And lastly, was the ‘birds’ hall, where over 1,300 species of birds are displayed. It was quite fascinating seeing these birds close as they’re always fleeting away on approach. From the flacons to the marabou storks to beautiful little birds, the display must be an ornithologist’s dream.

As you exit, there’s a shop with tons of goodies and souveniors to purchase and enjoy.

It’s easy to get lost in the treasures of the museum, there’s so much to learn and absorb. I’d recommend it to anyone – take your time and study the displays, and you can always come back!

I didn’t go to the snake park – no thank you. I had one good look of that when I was about 7 years old, and I was too terrified to ever go back.

Courtyard art
Courtyard art

Did you know – the lilac breasted roller is Kenya’s national bird? Well, I learnt that on my visit to the museum!

Visit the Museum:

The museum is open daily from 8:30 am to 5:30pm. The reception and ticketing office charges you based on your nationality and your preference of areas to visit, Museum and/or snake park; I hope I remembered the fees right. Remember to carry a form of ID to verify your nationality.

  • Citizens – between 200 and 300
  • EA Residents – between 500 – 1000
  • Non Kenyan/EA visitors – between 1,200 – 1,500/-

Visit the website: Nairobi National Museum, their Facebook page or Tweet them @Museumsof Kenya

For some reason, I wanted to moo at the buffalo.
For some reason, I wanted to moo at the buffalo.