The designers in the city of Nairobi had it easy; they simply copied the city of London.
The Nairobi River is the equivalent of the Thames, while Uhuru Park is what Hyde Park is for Londoners.
However, by design or by coincidence, the designers of the two cities seem to have thought ahead of their time, taking into account climate change and the greenhouse effect.
They left green spaces, not only for beauty but also for climatic reasons.
Nairobi’s trees and other vegetation absorb carbon dioxide and also provide residents with places to relax, thus acting as “emotional sinks”. The original goal of Uhuru Park, for example, was to create a place of relaxation for the people of Nairobi.
Oddly enough, we stopped investing in open spaces despite the rapid population growth over the years. Why can’t we have parks like Uhuru Park in other parts of the city and other villages?
Why do we think cities are tall buildings? How many parks does Kenya’s newest city, Nakuru, have?
Uhuru Park is one of the few open spaces in the capital. In addition to serving as an amusement park, it has a new use – a drop-off point for rural students when schools close. On a closing day, it’s a sea of yellow buses.
There is another green space that defines the beauty of Nairobi – the Railway Golf Club or Reli as the place is popularly known. A train tracks cross the course with golfers hitting golf balls across the tracks or waiting for trains to pass.
The view over the Nairobi skyline from various points of the golf course is breathtaking. If you are keen, you will appreciate Nairobi’s scenery more than a round of golf.
The club is 100 years old, having survived two world wars, several presidents and governors. He now defines the Kenyan dream.
The Nairobi designers knew how to work and no game makes Jack, or Kamau, a boring boy. They dreamed that the city would become our home.
They knew that beyond work, we needed time for leisure and a place to breathe out. Have you noticed how roundabouts and viaduct bridges have become places of relaxation for the Nairobis? Check this walkway in Mlolongo or the roundabouts on the Thika highway and the eastern ring road on weekends.
This is why the creation of golf courses, hunting reserves and leisure parks was a foresight. They espouse the Kenyan dream. If you want to see and feel the Kenya dream, stop at Reli hole number 3, which runs parallel to Nairobi’s next highway.
As you go, construction workers put the finishing touches to the road. Passengers in matatus, passenger cars, boda bodas, as well as pedestrians watch you as you set off or putt on the green.
Behind the tee is a cemetery where the dead lie, veterans of the great wars. Where is the dream? I wonder what passers-by think of golfers; and how many of those ordinary pedestrians, commuters, boda boda runners and con artists will one day play golf and admire Nairobi’s changing skyline from the tree-filled and lush green club?
Every Kenyan should have the chance to live their dream, ride the highway, play golf and even be buried in a decent cemetery.
Have you noticed the well-maintained Commonwealth War Graves on Ngong Road and other places? The path to upward mobility must be open to all. Hard work should be rewarded. We should go from admiring golfers to playing golf ourselves.
I have seen this happen in my life. Thinking of the Skills Based Program (CBC), the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) or even an upcoming president, let’s think about giving all Kenyans a level playing field from birth to death.
This is the heart of the Kenyan dream. Many Kenyans dream of immigrating to other countries or even becoming dual citizens to make their dreams come true. The majority will never leave this country. There is no place that embodies the Kenyan dream better than the Railway Golf Club. After all, it is on the rails that the foundations of the Kenyan economy were laid and are being revised through the standard gauge railway.
Hopefully my offspring will play Reli around AD 2921 and celebrate the club’s 1000th anniversary. They will look back with pride and say; “Those who came before us have left this green space. We too must pass it on to our grandchildren.
It is time we stopped treating green spaces like golf courses as ‘junk’, thinking that they are better suited for buildings. They spice up city life. Walk around Reli when you are angry or stressed and feel the difference.
Finally, it was a pleasure playing golf at Reli with Nathan Njuguna, my former student and now club captain.