The prominent author Zukiswa Wanner, born to a South African father and a Zimbabwean mother in Zambia, has a complicated relationship with Nairobi, the Kenyan capital and her adopted city of seven years.
“In its many layers, Nairobi has the beauty and the frustrations of all African cities I love,” said Ms. Wanner, 43, a former columnist at Daily Nation, Kenya’s leading newspaper. “With the added convenience of being a gateway to the rest of the world, I miss it when I stay away for too long but it also tires me when I stay too long without leaving.”
The award-winning author of nine books, with themes revolving around gender, sex, race and nationality, is also the moderator of regular talks with African artists in a series sponsored by Goethe-Institut Nairobi, a nonprofit cultural association.
Ms. Wanner says Nairobi is a magnet for a reason. “What I love about Nairobi is how accessible it is to the rest of the continent and the world. I often feel like I’m staying in the center of the world. Its people, across the economic brackets, also have beautiful appreciation of art that warms the heart.”
She is drawn to out-of-the-way places that make her forget about the city’s intense traffic. Here, Ms. Wanner shares her five top spots.
1. Ole Sereni Hotel
This popular 134-room hotel has four restaurants overlooking Nairobi National Park, a game reserve where you can feed baby elephants and see giraffes and other wildlife. Ms. Wanner says she enjoys watching the animals and unwinding at sundown with a cocktail or beer. Her frequent drink of choice there is the Kenyan Tusker beer.
Mombasa Road; ole-sereni.com
The bookstore, founded in 1988, has a wide selection of books from across the globe, including influential authors such as Chinua Achebe from Nigeria, Ngugi wa Thiong’o from Kenya, and Charles Mungoshi from Zimbabwe. Situated in the middle-class neighborhood of Hurlingham, the shop is also well-stocked with both the latest books and classic works, in addition to a large children’s collection.
“In a city that prides itself on being digital, Bookstop defies any and all arguments of the book being dead by constantly, quietly, stating, through its continual presence, ‘long live the book,’” Ms. Wanner said.
Argwings Kodhek Road; Bookstop at Yaya Shopping Centre
3. Kuona Trust
Visual artists work in the studio space of this nonprofit organization started by the National Museum of Kenya in 1995. They also showcase and sell works that include paintings, ceramics, sculptures and bags.
“A visit into the space is like attending an exhibition that’s continually in progress. And it’s a great thing. Reserve at least two hours to go through the space, to truly enjoy the experience,” Ms. Wanner said.
Likoni Close, Kilimani; kuonatrust.org
4. GP Karting Events Centre
At this spot, you can either participate in paintball or go-karting, called GP karting in Kenya. Both activities require protective gear for safety. “I prefer GP Karting. I’m a bit of an adrenaline junkie and unlike paintball shooting, which is a team sport, in GP Karting one’s win is entirely in their hands.”
Carnivore Road, Racing Circuit; gpkarting.co.ke
In Swahili, nyama choma means grilled meat. In a city with many options for nyama choma, this restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating in the gated residential South C neighborhood has a menu that’s hard to beat, Ms. Wanner says.
“What really sets them apart from most choma joints is their exceptional poussin chicken wings. The wings will appear dry when one first sees them but at first bite, they are the softest, most delicious wings one is likely to find in Nairobi.”
Kenya Motor Sports Club, Red Cross Road