Jambo (hello), Kenya

Nairobi has Schweppes tonic! OMG, I’m a tonic snob. But then I’m being a snob by where i’m eating tonight – on the verandah of the Norfolk Hotel, the oldest hotel in Nairobi and older even than the London doyennes the Ritz and the Savoy.

It’s the stuff hotel snob dreams are made of. Unfortunately, i’m not staying here. I’m staying up the road at another, perfectly serviceable hotel. But this is cool.

The ostrich burger is off tonight, but the Pimms and pink G&Ts are on, the wine list is predominantly South African and beside the Mombasa seafood grill and the Mt Kenya beef are such colonial staples as shepherd’s pie.

The flight from Cairo was late, but hey, it wasn’t overbooked, which is always a bonus. I knew it’d be an interesting flight when I discovered an old man sitting in my prized window seat. He peered up at me beatifically.

“Good evening, madam! How are you tonight,” he chortled.

“I am well sir, though it appears you’re in my seat.” It was at this point his English appeared to fail him, but I booted him out gently anyway.

I knew he was in a bad mood when the dinner came around.

“Chicken or beef, sir?”


“No, chicken or beef.”
A shrug of ‘what-can-I-do’ and a bad-natured, “Chicken”.

“Juice? Orange, apple, pineapple, tomato.”

“Mango.” And so it went.

I then proceeded to lay all over him while I slept on the leg to Khartoum and then again down to Nairobi, though he kindly slapped me awake for dinner and breakfast. In return, I gave him my used fork when he violently assaulted the offending chicken, snapping his plastic fork, tines going everywhere through the cabin.
The flight left Cairo late at 1am and it was after 8am that I staggered out of Nairobi airport, lagging behind a Korean choir that hogged all counters and shamelessly queue-jumped. Jambo (hello!), Kenya!

About the author

Fear is found on a creaking glacier in the Caucasus mountains and joy is encapsulated in the perfect Shanghai dumpling. And while I love a $500-a-night hotel room (who doesn’t?), sometimes the best stories are found in a $20 guesthouse. With an eye always out for good markets and great street eats, I write the travel news and features for the Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne’s The Age newspapers, and features for whoever else asks. I have a particular soft spot for the wilds of the Middle East, scarves and carpets. My articles and photographs have been published in a range of consumer magazines and newspapers in Australia and abroad, and occasionally I chat on radio, too, from Essentials Magazine to 3AW or the Irish Times.

One thought on “Jambo (hello), Kenya

  1. So much for 'Out of Africa'…at least you get to sip on G & T and even better the cooling Pimms! Aarrh thats better…now about this plane flight…how would you rate the Airline?…maybe …The company was colourful and had a taint of Colonial Patriarchy…and the sleeping arrangements were almost communal!

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