Leaving Nairobi

If my journey last year was a story of long motorcycle rides and bus journeys on unmettled roads, then my story this year is of meeting East African elites on regional airliners.

On my flight from Entebbe to Kigali a fortnight ago I sat alongside a sports journalist on his way to cover the African Cup of Nations in Gabon. Last night I sat aside a young Kenyan on her way home from her best friend’s wedding in Lagos. She studies at University in Nairobi, but her family are in Mombasa – well, those who haven’t made it to Seattle.

Nonetheless, whether elite or not, a journey in African is often significant. There was an elderly Moroccan lady, who speaks Parisian French, looking anxious at Kigali airport: there were two flights to Nairobi, with the same airline and similar flight numbers, leaving within minutes of each other. I told her to follow me and she wouldn’t go wrong.

We sat together, and chatted happily in French. I should have done my research when I thought I’d get to practice my second language in Kigali: She tells me how the French armed fighters in the genocide. As a result, people are reluctant to speak it, the national languages are now English and Kinurwanda, and Air France are not permitted to fly into Kigali.

She’s been visiting her son: He worked for a bank in Morocco that’s setting up shop in Rwanda. They sent him to do the job. She must be very proud, I say. She is. Unlike the English guy in mergers and acquisitions I met in Kinunu (Lake Kivu), I can’t resent her elite status. She doesn’t believe her views or experience are superior. She is elegant, interesting, interested in me, and respectful.

I landed at Nairobi and was picked up by Adams in a rather smart Nissan bluebird. This is not the congested journey along pot-holed and muddy roads out of Nairobi that I remember from our school trip all those years ago. As Adams and I cruised along the smooth, well-lit motorway we chatted about work and life. He’s a sports journalist who studied in Ukraine.

We arrived at his girlfriend’s flat where I was introduced to her friend, Rachel, a missionary the same age as me, and shown to my lovely room. She’s a graphic and interior designer – I could have guessed from the spotlessly clean flat and impressive decor.

These could be flats in any city in the world, and they’re being built fast. We laugh, chat and joke, with satellite TV on in the background, before I go to bed.

And so ends my brief snapshot of elite life in East Africa. Who will I meet next?


I highly recommend staying with the lovely Adams and Emily at Travellers Shared Nest if you need somewhere super-friendly, clean, and with excellent attention to detail to stay near to Jomo Kenyatta Airport.

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