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Nairobi’s High-rise Transformation is Closely Linked to the Politics of Urban Change

The Hilton Hotel was Nairobi’s first skyscraper. The iconic cylindrical tower was opened in 1969 by President Jomo Kenyatta, six years after Kenya’s independence from Britain. The recent closure of the hotel after more than 50 years of operation comes at a time of vertical transformation in the city’s skyline. As Nairobi grows ever taller, and as newer suburbs take over from the central business district as the city’s commercial centres, the Hilton is a landmark from a different era of urban life. The Hilton helped to shape the character of central Nairobi. It quickly became an urban landmark and a meeting place of the new elite. It also gained notoriety for what went on behind closed doors. More recently, it has symbolised the declining fortunes of the city centre.