fredag den 17. december 2010

Kenya Days III and IV: Nairobi's many faces.

Madafu (Coconut milk) : Has to be tried on any visit to Africa.

Westgate Shopping Mall: One of Nairobi's newer shopping centres, a hub of vibrant activity and an example of some the more modern aspects of the city.

Muzaaji wa Miwa (Sugarcane vendor) : Buying sugarcane from one of these fellahs is a must-do if one ever visits Kenya.

These ingenious devices are the epitome of sustainability. Used bottles containing chilli sauce and Youghurt sauce ! The chicken tikka fresh off the spit that these condiments accompanied was served on metal sticks made from bicycle spokes, further examples of "Jua Kali* " sustainabilty

Diamond Plaza remains as vibrant and as hilarious as it's ever been. Impeccable Indian cuisine at affordable prices.

The service at Diamond Plaza is something out of a comic strip. The ushers by the food court made my day !

My third day in Kenya proved to be rather enjoyable, why wouldn't it be with the December sunshine beaming as vividly and as energetically down as it is.

During the course of the day, I rediscovered several simple pleasures that i've missed out on for quite some time, the most significant of which being munching a bag of freshly cut sugarcane at Adam's Arcade on Ngong road. For a mere 25 shillings, a bag of sugarcane is certainly worth the dough, given the wonderful interaction one engages in with the sellers of sugarcane, whose wheelbarrows are parked alongside many a roadside not to mention the sweet succulent freshness of the plant on a hot afternoon. The customer service one receives from sugarcane vendors, sellers of roast maize and other such-like small-scale businessfolk is a rather special aspect of this country that i've missed one that sadly doensn't manifest itself in the context of monetary exchanges on a larger scale, say for instance in eateries and in bars, where customer service can be, in many instances, quite appalling indeed.

Friday evening saw me make a return to Nairobi's spirited nightlife, which it has to be said differs quite somewhat from the clubbing escapades that i've accustomed myself to in Europe. On my way out I couldn't help but notice the number of drunk drivers all over the show, cruising madly from one lane to another, music blazing and tires screeching. I checked out a bar by the name of "Rafiki'z" (which translates to "Friend's" in Sheng Swahili, opposite The Uchumi hypermarket by Wilson airport. The place was packed as many other city hotspots are over the weekends; a buzz of well dressed individuals who came alive to the sounds of local grooves blended with influences of dancehall and popular R&B. I was subjected to a security check on the way in, metal detector and everything which was assuring inasmuch as one knowing that the club was taking measures to ensure the security of its guests and disconcerting insofar as there being a need to do so. In similar vein, the heavy presence in the car park during the night was both comforting as well as disquieting. A riot vehicle turned up at some point during the night and bundled what I suppose had to be a rather dangerous criminal into the back of the van, thumping him well and proper with their fists, rifle butts and kicks. This was all rather horrific needless to say, a sour touch to an otherwise phenomenal night out in which I acquainted myself with the developments that have taken place in the Kenyan music scene since my departure. A more amusing aspect of the night was the service at Rafikiz. We seemed to get stuck with the drunkest waiter I've seen in a long while (mind you his co-waiters and supervisor were just as langered) The chap managed to get our orders jumbled despite being told what to bring four or five times over, and at one point almost wound up smooching my brother- in-law as he turned his ear towards him to hear what was being requested for the umpteenth time, stumbling as he did so, such that the two were separated by little more than a few brief centimetres for several eternally amusing seconds.

Saturday gave rise to the best culinary experience of the year for me, as I made a return to Parkland's Diamond Plaza, Nairobi's very own miniature bombay. Located in the heart of Nairobi's Westland's district, Diamond Plaza is a series of small, tightly-packed shops specialising in the sale of pirated material (in particular DVD's and Playstation games) with a mini food court that may well be Kenya's finest value-for money culinary experience. Diamond Plazza caters primarily for the needs and desires of the Indian community in Nairobi, a sizeable amount of whom reside in the surrounding Parkland's area though in truth there's something for everybody in this Bombay-esque enclave. Once at the food court, I was greeted by a swarm of ushers competing fervently amongst themselves in their quest to lure customers to the respective restaurants each represents. At the end of it all, I wound up having Bhajias and sugarcane juice from one restuarant, madafu (Cocunut juice, drank from a real coconut in its primary stage of development) and shish kebab from another, and chicken tikka, fresh off the spit from a third eatery (See descriptions of these culinary delights at the end of the article.) The food was top-notch, spicy Indian cuisine at its finest, the service however was something out of a comic strip. The ushers kept quarreling amongst themselves and managed to cheekily sneak in an extra plate of shish kebab's (to boost their commission earnings per plate) and were an all out laughing stock as they wrangled with each other for customers. One particularly hilarious moment was when one of the ushers, armed with a pipe of sorts, snuck up behind another usher and whacked him across the backside with it before scuttling off to hide behind a parked car. Naturally, the victim of this cheeky assault was less than amused. All the other ushers however burst into fits of hearty laughter at the prank played on their embarrassed counterpart.

I stopped by the relatively new "Westgate centre" after my adventure at Diamond Plaza, one of Nairobi's largest and most visited shopping malls. This shopping centre stands tall and proud as one of the more laudable dimensions of Nairobi's urban landscapes, competing with other large centres such as The Sarit Centre, Yaya, Village Market, The Galeria in Karen, Panari Centre and ABC place. I was positively impressed by what Westgate centre offered in terms of the shopping opportunities inside it. One particularly impressive detail at this mall is the miniature curio stalls that are scattered around the seating areas on each floor, offering a colorful ensemble of local artifacts for sale albeit at rather exorbitant prices.

And so sets the sun on yet another day, as I drift off to sleep listening to the distant sounds of the savanna night, amplified every so elaborately by the fact that my sister's house is as near to Nairobi's national park as it is. Kenya continues to shock, surprise, regale and impress.

Links of Interest

Jua Kali: The Swahili term for "hot sun" applied to the operations and products of small-scale businesses in Kenya, many of whom recycle existing products and find alternative uses for them. E.g. Bicycle spokes as a substitute for barbeque sticks. Read more about the Jua Kali concept here:


Chicken Tikka:

Shish Kebab:

Westgate Shopping Mall:

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