The city centre can be divided into two parts: the modern central business district (CBD), bounded by University Way to the north, Uhuru Highway to the west, Haile Selassie Avenue to the south and Moi Avenue to the east; and the older and more rundown River Road area to the east of the CBD.
In the CBD low-rise monumental buildings rub shoulders with modern skyscrapers; two of the most prominent are the landmark circular tower of the Kenyatta International Conference Centre and Nation Centre, the headquarters of the privately owned Nation Media Group, the leading media company in the region. The area is the commercial and political centre of the country, but there are also hotels, shops and eateries.
The Alliance Française and the Goethe Institut, two of the main cultural centres in the city, are also located here. In the southeast corner, at the junction of Haile Selassie and Moi avenues, is a small garden built in memory of the 213 mostly Kenyan victims of the bombing of the United States embassy on this spot in August 1998 (the embassy has since been rebuilt on a secure compound in Gigiri northwest of the city centre).
Security guards outside most street-level premises, as well as the constant activity during the daytime, mean that security is better in the CBD than in other parts of the city. There is no accommodation in this area.
River Road offers a limited range of dilapidated apartments and single rooms in low-rise buildings. However some are attractively decorated with bright colours and ornate balconies. Nyayo Market on Kirinyaga Road in the east sells clothes and electronics (mobile phones and accessories); otherwise, shops here largely sell spare parts for vehicles.
The area is also the centre of the country’s fledgling “Riverwood” film industry, which has been compared to Nollywood in Nigeria. In contrast with the neighbouring CBD, roads and public services here are poor. Security is also an issue and it is advisable not to go here alone.
The city centre is the main public transport hub in Nairobi, with many local and long-distance services starting and ending here. Buses terminate on Moi Avenue at the junction with City Hall Way; matatus, which are banned from entering the CBD, stop at various places around the edge. Scandinavia, one of the main private coach companies operating services throughout the East African region, has its base in the River Road area.
The Globe Roundabout just north of the city centre hosts the famous Maasai arts and crafts market on Tuesdays.
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City centre, Nairobi