Nairobi Stories and Tips

Craft Shopping

Nairobi offers some great craft shopping opportunities, and whilst things might cost more here than in other parts of the country, you can still pick up some real bargains.

As you would expect, stall owners at the markets tend to be more willing to haggle with you over prices, but there are a couple of good craft shops too. We stumbled across one near the Dove Cage Restaurant on Moktar Daddah Street. I think it's on the corner of Muindi Mbingu Street. This place sells all sorts of wooden carvings, the usual Maasai knives and spears, some jewellery, and also a lot of very beautiful batiks. The walls of the shop are covered entirely with these batik pictures and they are also piled on a long table on the right as you walk in. The men who work here will haggle, but you have to work hard at it and it's easier if there's a group of you wanting to buy a few things.

The City Market is held in a big market hall and I think it's open every day. You'll find it on the corner of Muindi Mbingu Street and Market Street. Inside there are two levels. The ground floor holds some permanent craft shops and also quite a lot of flower, fruit and vegetable stalls. There is also a butcher's in a corner somewhere. Upstairs there is a balcony that runs all the way around, and there are permanent shops up here. You can find almost any type of craft at this market that you might want, like wooden and soapstone carvings, kangas and kikois (types of wrap-around skirts), jewellery, spears, knives, shields, and masks. There are also some nice batiks here, as well as pictures made from banana leaves. As you enter the market, a load of guys will probably start following you round trying to get you to visit their shops. Sometimes this can be fun and you can have very pleasant conversations with people. At other times it's very annoying, especially if there are a lot of them, but just be firm and go where you want to go. Outside, at the Koinange Street end (which runs parallel to Muindi Mbingu), there is an area with some covered and some uncovered stalls. I wouldn't linger at the Market Street side as there tend to be a lot of street kids hanging around.

The Maasai Market takes place on a Tuesday on the grassy piece of land by the roundabout that Muranga'a Road and Slip Road feed into. A taxi here won't cost you very much at all. There are a lot of wares on offer and much of it is different to what you might find at the City Market. I would visit both, but if you go straight from one to the other, you might get really sick of the hassle that goes with market shopping here. Give yourself a break in between. There are quite a lot of street kids that hang around by the roadside here, including girls with babies. I gave some excess clothes and things I didn't want to take home to them. If you give them money, they tend to spend it on glue.

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