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msafiri habariOPINION 20 Kenyan journalist Julianna Mwihaki rejoices in the return of Nairobi to its former glory in her first column for msafiri Green city in the sun I ' m old enough ( only just, to be honest) to remember a time when Nairobi was known as the ' Green City in the Sun'. The phrase captured my imagination, evoking mental images of majestic streets lined with tall, lush trees and blooming flowers dappled with warm, bright rays of sun. It was a truly heady picture for a young and imaginative mind such as mine. My memory fails me and I can't say I remember my first impressions of Nairobi and whether it lived up to its grand promise. I do remember visiting the city when I was slightly older, and although the hustle and bustle of the place both fascinated and frightened me ( what if I got lost in this big city?), it certainly wasn't as magnificent as I thought it would be. The air was clogged with smoke and dust, litter was strewn all over the not- so- majestic streets and, while there was sunshine, where were all the trees I had dreamed of? Yes, there were a few, scattered, gnarled plants, but I had been promised rows upon rows of thriving trees. My mother tried to assure me that there was a time when Nairobi really was the ' Green City in the Sun', but I felt cheated and my childish dreams died a painful death. After years of neglect and corruption, Nairobi's shiny image faded drastically and a new, not quite rosy, term soon became synonymous with the city – Nairobbery. The streets were a battleground where people were robbed in broad daylight. We stopped wearing watches and jewellery and clutched our bags tightly to our bodies, and woe to those who dared to walk the streets at night. And we despaired that Nairobi would ever regain its glory and become a city we could take pride in. So it is with great pleasure and joy that the child in me, cheated all those years ago of a chance to run wild and OUR REGULAR OPINION COLUMN with MSAFIRI magazine free through the city of my dreams, can finally say that Nairobi is once again a green city in the sun. Yes there are trees at last! Trees with big, bright, green, green leaves are flourishing all over the city, on pavements and highways and byways and blooming flowers in colourful painted pots. In the morning, I drive past city council workers sweeping up litter and clearing rubbish bins. And I must tell you this, I woke up one morning and there were benches all over the city! True story. New, white shiny benches enticing weary city residents to take a brief respite and enjoy their brand new, old city. True, there is still crime but it has gone down significantly. A city that once shut down at dusk, now comes alive at night, with bars and restaurants staying open late, late night shows at cinemas and theatres, and 24- hour shopping in some supermarkets and shops. For a city that seeks to establish itself as a regional business hub and a destination for international conferences and urban tourists, Nairobi is really working hard to redeem its image. Even the Nairobi river, abused and abandoned for decades until it became a health hazard and an eyesore, is finally getting some love with an expensive clean- up and restoration exercise. It did not happen overnight, and it was no miracle. A lot of hard work has gone into it and the Nairobi City Council deserves to be commended and supported. There's still a lot of work to be done before Nairobi can fully live up to its former grand promises, but, hey, even Paris' Champs Elysées did not bloom overnight. This city resident ( and the child inside) wants to thank all those responsible for the transformation. Now if I may, I'll just go off and find an empty bench and sit under the shade of a lush, green tree…