advertisement

Hard-working by day, after-dark Nairobi is packed with a heady vibe. You'll have no problem finding a club, pub, bar, or heng, as the locals call a boozer; you can get fuelled up at any number of fairly lively spots in the city center, where intersecting with the after-work crowd is often a good way to meet locals. Nairobians have quite a reputation for full-on partying, and there seem to be no restrictions on when -- or how -- they choose to let their hair down. Music is a key ingredient in the Nairobi party culture -- you can listen to everything from excellent Congolese rhythms, to cheesy '80s pop, to the latest genge (local music) sensation, and there seem to be few limitations on taste; this is very much a "go with the flow" nocturnal environment. You need to be wary, though, of fairly pervasive prostitution. and men are advised that the sexily dressed woman showing you affection is probably more interested in the content of your wallet than anything else. Sex workers can be pretty insistent, in-your-face, and -- when you reject them -- even a touch hostile; best to steer clear of their advances from the get-go (be aware, too, that 54% of people living in urban areas in Kenya either are HIV positive or have AIDS). On the other hand, striking up conversation in a social setting needn't be cause for anxiety, so don't pass up the chance to mingle.

It's also pretty seldom that food isn't available in conjunction with music and alcohol -- there's an easy fluidity between restaurants and party hang-outs, Carnivore being the obvious example, with its lively Simba Saloon nightclub showcasing everything from contemporary African music to rock and jazz. International names as diverse as Maxi Priest, Salif Keta, Ismael Lo, and Hugh Masakela have performed here. To get a taste of Kenya's lingering colonial atmosphere, drop in at The Norfolk hotel for a drink. The once-infamous terrace bar -- where hardcore colonial hunter types would cultivate magnificent hangovers while regaling whoever would listen with wild tales of their cowboy adventures -- is now a slightly more elegant all-day drinking and eating venue, and one of the better (and costlier) places for a bottle of Tusker. Another old-world place for a drink is the Stanley hotel's Exchange Bar, done out in clubby leather with Art Nouveau overtones and electronic pankas overhead to keep the air fresh. It's open all day and closes around midnight.

If serious clubbing is your thing, you need to know that discos and clubs don't really get going until midnight, and then they keep going until sunrise.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.