Nairobi estates and how they got their names

Ever wondered how some Nairobi estates got their names? Baffling and alluring as it may sound, some of the big names are now the reason why these areas are what they are today.

While most derived their names from English corrupted words, others may have been named after common natives or white settlers who lived there or local dialects.

Read also: Richest, safest cleanest and dangerous countries in Africa

We have sampled a few of these places and based on gathered information from historians and multiple sources, this is how they were named.


Ruaraka and Ruaka mean ‘river of women’ in their full form ‘ruui rwa aka’.
The town was named after a river that passes through the town.


It is named after a white settler named Glasgow’s Donholm who owned a dairy farm which stretched up to the City stadium.
James Kerr Watson who initially occupied the area in the colonial era named it Donholm which is also an estate in Scotland’s Glasgow city where he is said to have grown up. The man was so influential that he is said to have changed the current Jogoo road to Donholm road before it was renamed.


The full name is ‘ruui ruiru’ meaning black river.
It is said that during certain seasons, the river would turn black because of the dark cotton soil that flowed into the river during heavy rains.
Following the establishment of the railway next to the town, the area was turned into a coffee settlement farm. The name comes from the river that runs through it.


The estate is named after a brewery company- Allsopps-which had been set up by a white settler couple. The company, directly facing the GSU headquarters was operated by the family before they went back to their country.


This area along the Waiyaki way was previously known as Kings Knot. Natives corrupted the word before Kinoo was finally born.


As commonly referred to by Nairobians as Zimmer, the area is said to have been named after a German zoologist Paul Zimmerman of ‘Bwana simama’ as he liked referring to his workers.
He is said to have lived in the area where he had put up a taxidermy factory.
He said to have come to the country to research for a German University on the trail of game hunters in east Africa.


Considered the most densely populated estate in Nairobi, the area is derived from a Maasai word-Em-parasite meaning a river.
During the colonial era, the whites set up Embakasi prison in the area which was the most common in the area during the State of Emergency in the country to the extent the locals named it Satan’s paradise.


This is one of the few leafy suburbs in Nairobi where the rank and file in the country resides.
It is said to have derived its name from a Danish author called Karen Blixen who owned a large farm in the area.
In fact in her memoir, Out of Africa, Blixen wrote “the residential district of Karen was named after me”.
She later sold it to And Remy Martin in 1931 and converted it into residential plots for Nairobi’s fast-growing population.


It was named after a kikuyu lady named Wangare. He had a large farm with lots of livestock, pigs. Residents used to flock her home for farm produce and in search of jobs…so they commonly used a phrase naenda “kwa Wangare”. Hence the name KAWANGWARE.


That’s where the colonial white cops used to go to smoke weed so they used to say *carry your own bang*
Our forefather’s heard otherwise *kariobangi*


Carrier corps


Royal suburbs. Was occupied by those working in Muthaiga for the royals.

By Jarz

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