Nairobi is called the "Green City in the Sun" and it's quite an appropriate description for the capital of Kenya with its all-year warm climate and surrounding forests. It started as a depot on the railway line linking Mombasa on the coast with Lake Victoria, developing to the largest city during the colonial period and eventually becoming the capital of an independent Kenya in 1963. Nairobi has a population of over 3.5 million and features with Kibera one of the largest slums in Africa. Its relatively high crime rate gives Nairobi its other moniker: "Nairobbery". Nonetheless, the city is the most important hub for commerce and trade in East Africa, and an increasingly diversified private sector has evolved in the last 10 years.
Lake Nakuru National Park is noted for its large number of bird species including the Greater and Lesser Flamingo, the diverse vegetation featuring the most extensive euphorbia forest in Africa and its population of Black and White rhinos. It's within reachable in a day trip north-west from Nairobi, sitting at the floor of East African Rift Valley. The lake normally occupies about a third of the park. Large populations of the Cyanophyte algae blossom in the waters and give the lake its distinct green-blue color. The lake margins support dry transitional savanna and associated herbivorous fauna.
Hyrax Hill archeological site complex, from whose highest point fabulous views of the city of Nakuru can be enjoyed, revealed artifacts dating back to the Neolithic period. The site complex is named after the hyrax, the cute furry mammal with a short tail looking like a rodent but actually closely related to elephants, which populate the site in great numbers. The stratigraphy suggests that the area was dominated by a lake around 8'500 years ago, extending to the base of the hill or even turning the hill into a peninsular or island. As a region of archaeological interest, the East African Archaeological Expedition of 1926 led by Louis Leakey first noted Hyrax Hill. It is one of the few locations where Sirikwa holes can be found, thought to have some kind of guardian role for men and livestock.
The University of Nairobi was originally conceived as an independent external college of the University of London, my alma mater, but became a university in its own right in 1970. The only institution of higher learning in Kenya for a long time, the University of Nairobi responded to a great national, regional and continent-wide demand for skilled manpower by developing a flexible and diversified programs in the fundamental and applied sciences, engineering, the humanities, social sciences and the arts. Successful graduating from an institution of higher learning like the University of Nairobi is recognized as a great personal achievement in Kenyan society and, hence, is celebrated with friends and family. Watching the Autumn graduation ceremonies, it reminded me of my own graduation from Purdue and LSE eons ago.
Marie Tussaud was born Anna Maria Grosholtz in 1761 in Strasbourg. Her mother worked as a housekeeper to Dr. Philippe Curtius in Berne, Switzerland, a physician skilled in wax modelling, who eventually trained young Marie in that fine art. She created her first wax figure, of Voltaire, in 1777. Other famous people she modeled at that time include Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin. By 1835 Marie had settled down in Baker Street, London, and opened a museum. At this museum, I was delighted to meet Captain Jean-Luc Picard, commanding officer of the USS (United Space Ship) Enterprise. He happened to be in London during my visit before continuing "to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before". I was even more thrilled to "exchange" some words with Nelson Mandela, the first president of the new South Africa. I asked him whether he still subscribes to the "Economist" weekly.
From England's glorious World Cup victory in 1966 to FC Barcelona's stunning UEFA Champion's League triumph in 2011, Wembley Stadium, both the former edifice and the new structure, has witnessed some of the greatest moments in football history. I always wanted to experience how Roy Hodgson felt on the hot-seat in the Press Room, to sit in the Royal Box and get my hands on the FA Cup. If you're a fan of this great game, a pilgrimage to Wembley ought to be a life goal.
The story of London's transport systems is beautifully told at the London Transport Museum. Exhibition themes include transport art and design heritage, public transport at war, London's massive expansion during the 20th century, and how transport systems have shaped the other world cities of New York, Paris, Delhi, Shanghai and Tokyo. Through the history of transport, the lives of Londoners and the development of the British capital over the last 200 years are revealed to the visitor. I highly recommend a visit.
I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 2009 and, when I happened to be in London the same year on business, I dropped by Burlington House near Piccadilly Circus, the location of the rather grand headquarters of the Society, to use its excellent library. The Royal Astronomical Society was established in 1820 to support astronomical research and, today, is a leading learned society publishing preeminent refereed journals, organising specialist scientific meetings, awarding scientific prizes and promoting the study of astronomy, solar-system science, geophysics and closely related branches of science. It has over 3'000 Fellows, most of them professional astronomers and geophysicists, including leading scientific researchers in universities, observatories and laboratories as well as historians of astronomy, a third of them based outside the United Kingdom. Take a look at some photos.