Why visit Nairobi? I’ve toyed with and pitchforked that question over and over in my mind all weekend. Not that I didn’t have any reasons to begin with. It’s just one of those topics that you never give proper consideration. Living in the city, you kind of get accustomed to that set routine that feeds your plate and buys you things to satisfy the ego that you fail to take notice of the simpler beauties that exist beyond the constant toil of life.
To fully immerse my head into the sands of this piece, I cleared out my schedule and took some time out from the grind of life. Left with nothing to do but listen to my growing collection of music, and consume whatever it was I ate on that day; I was finally able to wrap my brain’s tentacles around the slippery thoughts in my head and turn them into words.
With kind pleasure, ladies and gentlemen, here’s introducing the first part of a three part series on why Nairobi is an ideal destination for you. A city that stretches beyond the (duly) glorified national park, and comes alive every so often – most especially on the weekends, as you will soon find out.The list is based on personal recommendation, as a Nairobian and a travel enthusiast. It highlights 9 reasons beyond those offered by your local travel agent. A to-do list of sorts with activities especially suited to fill your time on any given weekend. Assuming that, like most of the travel agents you’ll run into, you’ll be offered a trip to the various game reserves, cultural shows and heritage sites. But what about things to do beyond the weekdays, away from the confines of a tour van and the grip of a camera?
Well here goes…
- The Maasai Market
Assuming you’re coming to Africa for the first time, one of the items on your to-do list would obviously be to buy some tribal-themed souvenirs and trinkets to carry back home, right? And assuming your destination is Kenya, you’d obviously want to visit a place that exhibits more of these wares than your hotel’s curio shop does, still right?
Some of you may heave heard or read about this place before, but nothing beats visiting the Maasai Market on a calm and sunny Sunday. Despite it being open on Tuesdays and Saturdays within the CBD, Sundays are the one day when it’s free of the typical hordes that accompany it on other days. On any given Sunday, given the weather is right, you finally get the chance to enjoy looking at every piece in all their glorious individualities. It’s quite the decent day to shop since the usual solicitors who would have tried to sell you up an ochre painting with a bloated price-tag are fewer, and the present few are quite harmless.
With an orchestra of visual and auditory extravaganzas, it gives you an unequaled chance of indulging the senses, while the traders pray from the sidelines for a feast of your pockets. Plus, it’s the only day you get to meet this charming fellow named Cyprian.
A student at the Artthrush Kenya Fine Arts Studio and Training Centre, he’s quite the eloquent sales person. One you’d want to buy from and maybe even get an autograph from (I’m kidding). But considering that he and his tutor, a certain Mr. Mr.John Gichachi, only bring their colorful collection of art works to the open-air market on Sundays, you can’t miss.
- Skating and Skateboarding
What started a few years back as a bunch of kids trying their luck at being the next Lupe Fiasco is now a city-wide phenomenon. Previously just some kick-push to get adrenalin pumping, the car-park that hosts these pass-time events has become a must-do destination for locals. A cup of fun fit for everyone to partake, regardless of age, tribe or background.
Taking place in an empty car-park just by Aga-Khan walk, it’s a stab at the conformities that economies and demographics impose on citizens. It has greatly changed how Nairobians think of skating; both as a hobby and a sport. No longer is it a preserve of the preppy neighborhoods that host the middle and higher class Kenyans. Anybody and everybody gets the chance to enjoy the park’s smooth tarmac, at a small fee of course, as equally as the next person. And if you’re up for it, there’s competitions to test your prowess too.
So mom, yes your son Jamie can carry his skateboard with him next time you’re coming to Nairobi. You can go ahead and use your pair of binoculars to eye down the roaring lions at the national park, while he gets to kick-push away to the sounds of the rolling wheels and the cheering crowds.
- Long, windy walks within the city
In the midst all the madness that is humanity, it takes a special kind of place to offer any sort of reprieve from the fast-pace of urbanity. It takes an even more remarkable sort of effort to find such a place in the confines of an urban city. But guess what? Nairobi does offer this rare chance. Yes, I mean no. I mean yes, and no.
Yes – smack in the middle of the glassy, high-rise buildings – Nairobi is, or can be, the heart of all sweet and jolly strolls. And no, it doesn’t offer this luxury every single day. Just on Sundays – how mean of it.
Nonetheless, a trip to the CBD on any given Sunday offers the chance to escape all else. A moment, as opportune as no other, to stretch your hands until you can touch both sides of the street, have a piggy-back race with your family, or even have a spring picnic just outside the Hilton Hotel and dig into some grilled chicken thigh if you have to. The streets are thronged with nothing but empty space and endless views of almost deserted sidewalks. It’s the kind of set-up that defies the very morality of urbanisation, takes a good hard swing at the lunacy of modern concrete jungles, and etches an embellishment of calming emotions to the very belly of your soul.