TRAVEL: Top-of-the-world feel at KICC helipad

By: JOAN THATIAH

“Where is that?” Tumo Mukone, a Journalist from South Africa asked, pointing north-east. “That’s Githurai, a ‘slumburbia’ about 10 kilometres from here,” I answered.

“I read about Githurai on the Internet. About a woman who hired a gang to kill her husband but they turned out to be policemen,” he said.

I’m not surprised that you read something like that about Nairobi, I thought to myself.

It was a few minutes past six and Tumo, I, and a group of journalists from four other countries around the world were on the helipad that is atop the Kenyatta International Convention Centre

(KICC). It was the final day of the Google in Nairobi tour during which a group of journalists toured Nairobi with the help of the newly launched Google tools.

You might have walked past the KICC hundreds of times without even suspecting that it holds the most stunning viewpoint of the city. I know I have.

And most of the times, I have only one view of the city. All I see is the crime and the hustle. This was until I got to have one of the most comprehensive views of Nairobi without barriers from the rooftop of the KICC which also doubles up as the helipad.

SWEEPING VIEWS

The helipad is all the way up on the 28th floor. To get up there, we took the elevator to the 27th floor and then took several flights of stairs to the top. This climb isn’t for the unenergetic.

The last flight up is narrow, so much so that I had to get a hand going up. (Heads-up: Ladies, if you plan to have alcoholic drinks up here, throw some flats in your bag for your walk back down.)

The helipad which is a circular structure with a pretty low guardrail around it, puts you right in the middle of the action by giving you a stunning 360-degree view of the cityscape.

From up here, you can see the contrast between the different skyscrapers. You can also see the Nairobi National Park. In between the buildings and further out of town, in the surrounding suburbs, you get to see the greenery. It feels magical, a feeling that is perhaps intensified by the height that makes one feel somewhat detached from the hustle down below.

We drank and snacked to the sights for three-and-a-half hours as the sun set, darkness crept in and the night lights drew up images in the sky. At the same time, the the city below came to life after dark. More lights came on, sounds got louder and the traffic, the one crack in a quite perfect picture, thickened. It can get really chilly up there.

Luckily, we still had the kikoi’s we had gotten from our morning game drive.

We would have loved to marvel at this city skyline for much longer, but it was already half past eight, so we left, choosing to walk back to our hotel on Kimathi Street. The city centre is easy to explore on foot. At 9pm, the streets were still busy, there were cabs everywhere and women in tight outfits hurried past us to their bus stops.

Being the last night in Nairobi for most of the group, we decided to stop by the Maasai Market which was at the KCB parking lot off Moi Avenue, to shop for accessories and souvenirs. You can get authentic African accessories here for as low as Sh150.

As we shopped, in a club nearby, a band played annoyingly loud out-of-tune rhumba. I found myself explaining to the others in the group that that was not all Kenya had to offer in music; that we have better.

We were back to enjoying the walk when we stumbled upon a little boy, about four years of age, hawking peanuts from a small bowl in his hands. As the foreigners held a little tighter onto their purses, I knew that I was done marveling at the beauty of the city. We were back to the hustle.

ON TOP OF NAIROBI

KICC is a 105-metre high, 28-storey building in the central business district of Nairobi. It is the fourth tallest building in the city, and in the country, after UAP Tower (163m, 33 floors), Times Tower (133m, 33 floors), Teleposta Towers (120m, 27 floors).

KICC is well-known as a venue for meetings, conferences, exhibitions and summits. Its rooftop which also doubles up as a helipad gives the most interesting viewpoint of the city.

KICC’s close proximity to various five-star hotels would make the helipad an ideal location for sundowners. Access to the rooftop is allowed daily between 9am and 8pm. To go up there, citizens are charged Sh150 shillings, while foreigners pay Sh400.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION