Nairobi becomes 'ghost town' as city empties for holidays

Tuesday December 26 2017

Kencom bus stage

The Kencom bus stage is normally one of the busiest places in Nairobi. This is how it looked like on December 26, 2017. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By JAMES KAHONGEH
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The city of Nairobi is almost a hideous spectacle during Christmas. The period between the eve of Christmas and the New Year has a curious way of sucking life out of the capital.

The usual bustle of life and activity that typifies the city under the sun suddenly slackens to almost a complete standstill. Nairobi does not celebrate Christmas, being a no-man’s territory during the festivities.

As is the tradition among Kenyans, the city folks travel to the countryside to join their families for the Christmas celebrations. Few visitors come to the capital during this time. 

Aga Khan Walk

The Aga Khan Walk parking space was nearly deserted as city residents chose to spend Boxing Day with their families at home. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

While city neighbourhoods are lit with celebrations and feasting for those who have not travelled upcountry, the city centre on the other hand is gripped by an unnerving aura of abandonment and quietness.

While they teem with activity on ordinary days, some sections of the capital are hardly recognisable on Christmas day and a day after. The streets remain virtually devoid of human activity as businesses remain shut.

Nairobi thus becomes as still as a 'ghost city'.

How a section of the City Hall Way looked like

How a section of the City Hall Way looked like on December 26, 2017. PHOTO | KANYIRI WAHITO | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Even city clubs notorious for raucous music and all manner of theatrics by revellers fall into a dead silence. 

Only guards manning closed business premises loiter around, evidently bored out of their skulls to be working while the rest of humanity is making merry away from the city.

Nairobi’s street families retreat to their dwellings until after life has returned to the city.

Some city ragamuffins though sprawl in gay abandon along the almost unused thoroughfares and at shop verandas, deep in slumber, perhaps to hibernate from the forlornness of the city. After all, there are no city stewards to go after them.

Pedestrians took over the roads as Christmas

Pedestrians took over the roads as Christmas and Boxing Day holidays turned Kenya's busiest city into a ghost town. PHOTO | WILLIAM OERI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

While it gives one a vague feeling of relief and a calmness of mind, walking along the forsaken city streets is a perilous affair lest criminals swoop down on you.

On the flipside, the city enjoys momentary serenity and orderliness during this period.

Since only a handful of public service vehicles operate in the city, the lawlessness of flouting traffic rules epitomised by matatus and the sickening traffic congestion slithers away from the city space.

Even hawkers steer clear of the city, for once bringing an end to the all too familiar cat-and-mouse games with city county staff. 

During this brief period, Nairobi attains the eminence and order of a city of its calibre - a world-class city.

As the New Year approaches, the city bursts into life again in a pretentious fashion. This sustained activity becomes the order of the day as the year hurtles towards another end of the year.