Nairobi City Market (old boxing stadium): Small Bits of Just About Everything
Inside the old city boxing stadium there is now a market that caters to both locals and tourists alike. Vendors sell tourist items such as wooden sculptures, T-shirts, and various other odds and ends. Some of the vendors sell flowers, fruit and vegetables, newspapers, and various other items that are mostly of interest to locals.
The sellers can be very agressive, but make sure that you bargain for what you are getting. If your skin color gives you away as not being from Africa, then expect to pay more, but don't let them cheat you either. Try to be just as agressive in your bargaining tactics as they are in trying to sell things. If you name a price and they insist on something much higher, be prepared to walk away. If they chase you down and lower their price continue bargaining.
In the main photo, look in the lower right corner: you will notice fruit for sale there. On the balcony above, you will notice various items of interest to locals and tourists such as clothing and women's accessories. The same type of thing can be seen in the second photo.
What to buy: There is a wide assortment of stuff here. Look for toys and sculpture made from twisted wire, or Masai spears, or a wide assortment of other such items.
Or local newspapers, or food items, or leather goods, carved wood.....
The basket made from twisted wire seen in the 4th photo was purchased at this market, as was the wall hanging seen in the 5th photo. The wall hanging appears to have been made from the remains of a burlap sack, plus various grass and possibly some banana leaves. The frame was purchased at I've Been Framed in Portland, Oregon.
What to pay: Whatever you are able to get them to bargain down to. If possible, find a Kenyan friend that you trust to help you bargain in their own language, and who knows the fair price for items.
- Arts and Culture
market at Ring Road and Ngong Road: Very Local Market
For an interesting African shopping experience, visit the market at Ring Road and Ngong Road. Here, the Ring Road stops, and on the south side of Ring Road is an open area where the road has not been finished. People use it as a major pedestrian throughfare, and thus the occupation by various locals selling all manner of items.
NONE of these items are intended for the tourist market. It is ALL aimed at the local market. Therefore, you will not find your standard tourist items here. This could be a very interesting and useful experience for some, and one that is of no interest at all to others. It all depends on your level of interest in exploring the local culture.
Be VERY CAREFUL when taking photos here, as most of the people you will find here do not appreciate having their photo taken. Some will ask for money to have their photo taken. Others don't mind if you photograph your group going through the area, so your best bet is probably to photograph your group as Brian F. did of our group.
Photo 4 is from the Kaster family collection. It's OK to get people, but just be careful who and how you take your photos, as some people don't like it at all.
What to buy: Fruits
Fish (including anchovies)
assorted local crafts that are aimed to serve local needs (no tourist type items)
assorted local foods (street vendors)
Whatever people can find or make to sell.
What to pay: Whatever you can get them to sell it to you for. Bargain hard! or not, for those of us who are useless at doing that.
- Arts and Culture
Kazuri: Known for Beads, but Much More
Appologies for the photos! This particular camera does really poor in these low light conditions.
While the main store for Kazuri is located in the UK, their workshop and office facility here in Nairobi also has a small store where they sell their fair trade goods. These items are all made here locally, and help provide income for those who badly need it.
Kazuri is primarily known as a ceramic bead maker, and in fact their UK web site only talks about that aspect of their business. However, here in Nairobi their store sells a wide variety of plates, cups, trays, and various other ceramic pieces. There are also other odds and ends, but primarily what is here are ceramics.
Photo 2 (again appologies for the quality of the photos due to the camera I was using not being good in interior and low level light conditions) shows some of the larger ceramic items, such as plates and trays, that are not distributed outside Kenya as part of the Kazuri line of beads. Photo 3 shows some of the work they are best known for: ceramic beads.
The website given below is aimed at those in the UK and others outside Kenya, and does not mention (at least not yet) their little store here in Nairobi. For much better photos of their beads, as well as it visit their on-line store, it is best to go there. However, only the beads are distributed there, and the rest of the delicate items sold in their store in Nairobi are only available there.
What to pay: You are not allowed to bargain over price here!
- Arts and Culture
craft stores "maasai market": chat for discount
take your time. look around. there are crafts, antiques that are not only east african but west african, north african, south african and much cheaper than you would get in mall stores.
What to buy: jewellery, decor
What to pay: the less of a hurry you are in, the more of a conversationalist you can be, the better the price you'll find. talk about politics, your own family/country/meagre earnings and sometimes the price can drop down to more than 90% its original.
City Market: Fruit & vegetables in an aircraft hangar
The covered City Market is situated in the Muindi Mbingu Street, right in the centre of the town. The building was originally built as an aircraft hangar. It offers cheap and fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. On the rear side of it there is small corridor where one can buy attractive handicraft made souvenirs, but remember, burgain first before buying them.
City Market: From Pots and Pans to African Art
Located right downtown on Tubman Road, near the Jamia Mosque, City Market sells everything from pots and pans to Kenyan tribal art and carvings. Though not as large as some other markets in the region, this market is WELL worth a visit, particularly for those interested in buying Kenyan souvenirs.
Three words to the wise: Bargain, bargain, bargain.
Keep an eye on your valuables, as the market, like many others, is a bit sketchy.
What to buy: Tribal masks;
Tik wood carvings;
What to pay: Less than $20 for most items.
- Arts and Culture
YaYa Center: A Mall in Nairobi
Yaya center is a large mall located in Nairobi. Yaya center has a lot to offer and it's a great place to go if you need anything. They have a sporting goods shop, a grocery store, a pharmacy, electronics store, a large and fantastic book store (the owner is VERY helpful and really know his books), there is a shoe store, salon, and various other shops where you can find pretty much everything you may need.
It's a clean and decent mall, and it's guarded by security so you can shop with ease.
Another great feature about Yaya center is that every Sunday they have a Masai Market where you can buy masks, jewelry and various other African trinkets and barter for a reasonable purchase price. I always enjoyed the Masai Market there and made some really good deals on masks.
What to buy: Great Masai Market, it's a great place to go and buy African jewelry, masks, and carvings, it's also a little more contained and not so overwhelming and hectic. Sunday 8 a.m.- 5 p.m.
It's a great place to go for anything you might need.
What to pay: The prices are reasonable at Yaya center. I bought a pair of sandals for about 2 American dollars and they were of decent quality.
- National/State Park
- Family Travel
Villages: Local Maasai Fabric - made in Scotland
When driving through the country side in Kenya, you'll be immediately impressed by the beautiful colors of the Maasai blankets and robes they are wearing. Vivid Reds or variations thereof, they stand out against the stark background and scenery.
When attending the local shops or villages you'll have an opportunity to include these to the ever growing sundry of gifs and souveniers you are rapidly filling your suitcases with...(see buying a suitcse tip).
Maasai will tell you that they hand make these fabrics and weave the blankets. We found out differently from a Maasai we had managed to befriend - largely due to the women's friendly and flirtatious attitude!
What to buy: Maasai blankets are largely made in European countries, primarily Scotland who has a contract with the tribes importing/exporting for them.
Imagine our surprise! Make sure what you buy is authentic and not massed produced. If it's authentic, chances are, you'll be shown an area where the local craft person is busily working on pieces of carvings or art.
What to pay: Blankets and cloth are set prices (due to them being a re-sale) and ran an average of USD $30.00
Any roadside stand: You WILL find a cheaper price down the road
As tourists, we tend to over react when we first arrive and are met with the first row of vendors peddling their ware.
Our initial impulse to buy this or that because it is new to us works against us!
The vendors and touts, especially just outside Nairobi at strategically placed shops such as the first overlook on the Rift Valley are particularly adept at convincing you that THEIR wares are unique and one of a kind.
DONT BELIEVE THEM! They are amongst the most expensive in Kenya!
What to buy: Wooden carvings, jewelry, art work, spears, and local crafts.
All can be had much cheaper as you gradually travel outside of the Park system and gain some confidence and skill at bartering.
What to pay: Always start low - VERY low! At least 20% below whatever it is they initially quote you with a known limit of a maximum 40 - 50% you strictly adhere to!
DO NOT pay more than 50% EVER! Unless of course, you feel you want to truly be generous.
They will act insulted, plead and tell you that there is no way they can sell it for that, they ar e losing money...etc. It's all part of the game. Once you start to walk away, trust me, they'll chase you down and accept it. If they let you walk, don't worry, you'll find the exact same thing (or very similar) at another place. Local handicraft hasn't changed in years.
Luggage shops: Shipping back home is EXPENSIVE!!!
We had thoughts of being able to Fed Ex or Mail souveniers back home after we had spent 8 days of intense shopping throughout the National Parks in Kenya.
Boy were we wrong!
We were quoted USD $485.00 for a medium sized box of souveniers after weigh in! Shipping out of Kenya was much higher than anywhere else we've been in the world it seemed. We easily shipped back to the US when we traveled to Hong Kong, China, Thailand and Bali, making arrangements to have someone else receive it on this side.
We were shocked when we were quoted the initial price!
We ended up buying a cheap suitcase (one medium one) and checking it in as extra luggage for our onward journey to Egypt.
What to buy: Luggage is very innexpensive in Nairobi and there are several shops to choose from. We chose one within walking distance to the Stanley Hotel where we were staying.
As it met our luggage and weight criteria, we didn't even have to pay extra. Once at your destination (if you're not flying directly home), most hotels will have a storage area where they will happily hold your luggage until you fly home.
What to pay: We tipped the porter an additional USD $10.00 for his trouble of storing the luggage for us.
The Sarit Centre: Law quality and stock goods
Since clothing is my job, I was in particularly interested to check what the local market is offering in ready made garments. The Sarit Centre is one of the most popular in Nairobi and, as I was told, probably the best in the town.
What to buy: I was very dissapointed by seeing cloths which cost a fortune and yet it is of law quality and more or less stock. Most of the trade-marks are completely unknown (so-called "no name") in Europe.
Great Rift Valley viewpoint: Traditional Masaai souvenirs
You can find many souvenir or curio shops in Nairobi, and most of them have the same sale strategy. The personnel will be very friendly & helpful with you and offer you a "discount" if you purchase a bunch of stuff
What to buy: There are some nice batiks, glass bead work, stone chess boards and animal carvings available
What to pay: Whatever it is, try to bargain for less than half of the asking price
- Budget Travel
- Women's Travel
Most supermarkets: Wonderful Kenyan Coffee
I believe that Kenya is the birthplace of coffee. You can purchase wonderful Kenyan grounded coffee from most supermarkets and the duty free shops at Kenyatta International Airport. I bought a few packs of Dorman's coffee and you should too if you love coffee :)
What to pay: US$5 - $10 a pack
- Budget Travel
- Business Travel
The Sart Centre: Ooooh. A mall.
This is a general tip about the Sarit Centre, which is a mall built in the 1980's. There are over 75 shops here, and I found it to be nicer than most shops in the downtown area, though the whole place is rather dated (it was built in the 1980's). One funny thing is that there is a movie theatre on the top level that was only showing Bollywood movies.
What to buy: books, clothes, Peugeots, GOOD souvenirs
The African Art Shoppe: Awesome collection...ridiculous prices.
If you want something that is one of a kind and price is absolutely no option, then you'll love shopping here. If you are not able to drop a few thousand dollars, euros, pounds, or whatever you have in your wallet on art...then you will just have to settle for looking only. And actually, looking around isn't too bad. The collection of art and items is unique amongst the hordes of curio shops around town and many of the items on display and for sale are museum grade pieces. So even if you aren't interested in spending, still go over and take a look. There are a lot of great pieces to check out.
What to buy: numerous carvings and other pieces of art
What to pay: very high prices