Jeevanjee Gardens: People’s park gives rest to weary poor
Open for free to the public, Jeevanjee Gardens has for decades been an ideal recreational park for most Nairobi residents seeking a shade and peace of mind in the midst of hustle and bustle of the city streets life.
Being accessible from Moi Avenue, Monrovia Street, Muindi Mbingu Street or Moktar Daddah Street, the gardens attract people of all walks of life who relax on its benches and lawns. What with their ideal location, nice artistic benches to rest on and sculptures that add to its appeal.
As some people just walk around the gardens, take a stroll within these famed gardens and you bump into a group of not-so-attentive people listening to an open-air preacher who could be honing his or her preaching skills for a bigger platform.
The park has also, for a long time, been home to Bunge la Wananchi. This ‘people’s parliament’ is a collection of socio-political activists who meet here for informal debates and discussions on issues of the day. With time, these proceedings became so popular that they used to be aired on a local television station.
Donated to the residents of Nairobi in 1906 by Alibhai Mullah Jeevanjee, the five-acre recreational park’s existence has not been as smooth as the recently rehabilitated walkways.
There have been attempts to develop it by constructing modern, multistorey buildings. However, that was met as much rebellion as in some of the Bunge la Mwananchi debates.
It is the only park in the city that is directly owned by the people, having been donated to the poor people of the city as a resting place. Those who cannot afford to sit in a restaurant for a cup of tea as they wait for someone have free sace here — to walk, sit or even lie down and sleep.
A statue of Queen Victoria unveiled by the Duke and Duchess of Connaught on March 17, 1906 has been vandalised. However, the one of Jeevanjee, an Asian-born entrepreneur in Kenya, still stands strong although it would do with some rehabilitation.
The park has public toilets, for which users are charged a small fee, and since smoking in public places is prohibited, smokers can enjoy a puff at its designated smoking zone, one of the few in the city.