In Nairobi

I knew that Nairobi was green unlike other cities and was quite contrary to the idea of an “African Country”.

No, it’s not all dry and deserted. It’s green. It’s very green.

I keep saying green because I have no other explanation.

Hilly ranges, dark grey clouds overhead, you’re in a car waiting for the incredible traffic jam to clear, and you see blooming trees, cacti, people going here and there in a hurry, a stiff breeze going through the leaves, and then you’re off in a smoky haze. That was my first sight of the world outside the airport.

What amazed me was the climate. The two weeks I stayed there, the temperature varied between 16 to 22 degrees Celsius. Though I cannot bear cold weather, my chilled hands and cold nose gave me joy. I know that it sounds weird, but to me a pleasant climate is 26 to 30 degrees.

The city of Nairobi had big roads, lots of foliage and walkways. By walkways I mean, paths by the side of the road which had plenty of shade and is meant for jogging or running or walking! (obviously).

I was surprised since almost all the residences were done with stone walls and tiled roofs. Classy and English, I thought. The city had certain safe zones where residences can be built without worry of any threat. These zones were meant for diplomats, businessmen or affluent people.

Only those who had the financial setup could afford to even think of living in such an area, let alone afford the security. But recently, all residential complexes offer a guard as one of the amenities. Like we have water and electricity. Since, Nairobi is the capital city, it boasts 3G coverage and lots of shopping malls. And by comparison to the malls we have back at home, these are huge. We’ve been to the Yaya Mall, The Village Market, Junction and Diamond Plaza. Just going around the malls and seeing the variety of shops there, I could actually understand which items people were looking for. At Diamond, we could shop for vegetables and spices and curries and pickles…all things required for an Indian kitchen. So, there at Diamond we can find a lot of Indian families, shopping and having a tea or snack at the restaurant after shopping. At the Yaya Mall, it was more of a branded showroom mall. It had all international brands and is an ordinary mall, by mall standards. On the other hand, The Village Market had a lot of boutiques and souvenir shops. It also had a dining area in the middle where various food chains had a booth. For shopping for something exclusively Kenyan this would be the place. Especially if you’re looking for jewellery, wooden artifacts, or woven cloth.

Of course, the malls are the more expensive option and to get the same Kenyan memorabilia at cheaper and good prices, head to the Maasai Market.

I know that a lot has been said about it on the web and there are even instructions on how to bargain with them, but none of it could explain the delight I had when I saw all these wooden statues, hand baskets, key chains and a whole lot of other stuff. There was something in every size. From tiny dogs made of soapstone to man-sized paintings and sculptures, you can get anything from there. There were key chains made of leather fashioned as drums, wooden masks, small headrests for beds, bead bracelets, jewellery boxes made of a stone they call Njami-Njami, trinkets, Maasai blankets, pipes, coasters, murals etc.

I wanted to buy the entire market but I guess I would have to buy 3 houses to put all of the things in. I had a great time there and I would willingly spend all my money there. And the greatest thing was, I was with someone who knew the prices and had to do very little bargaining to buy us the thing at a very good rate.

So, if you ever go to Nairobi, even if you don’t see anything else, go to the Maasai Market. There’s something for everyone and you’ll automatically be fascinated by all the display items.

But a word of caution, take someone who knows the language and you can trust, never go alone, because if you do, they locals will rob you literally and figuratively. The prices of the things you want to buy would be cutthroat and you’ll probably find your wallet missing in all the action. The locals are polite and friendly, but in market areas they can snitch your purse while smiling at you all the time!

Nothing personal. It happened once to a friend.

So, that’s it for today.

The travails will continue…


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