Its a cold, rainy day. A promised lapse of 24 hours filled with dire and hellish gloom. Every living thing I see is muzzled in woolen, wintry clothes, heavy leather jackets are a dime a dozen, and not forgetting the many scarves flying about. The roads are wet, the pavements slick with grime, the air foggy, and the rain unyielding in its soddy torment.
Its just the kind of weather that Nairobians abhor. Absolutely. We’re sort of used to it, but don’t enjoy it one bit. Ask us to walk over flaming coals and most will gladly oblige. Anything but this weather. What with its uncanny ability to draw madness out of people, especially drivers, and the blasted traffic that is the result of this madness. It’s just not our cup of tea, or our bowl of porridge either.
As I write this, I’m stuck in a 2 kilometre convoy of cars driven by deranged drivers. Most seem to be possessed by unholy spirits and are exhibiting symptoms of road perversion. Such a morose sight I tell ya’. Everybody’s grouchy, eyebrows are etched angrily over foreheads, and all eyes seem to be cursing, quite passionately, at everything that lives and breathes. Not even the flying termites have been spared from this scorn. It feels as though Nairobi’s entire population is about to fall in an uncontrollable fit of anger, and start to frothing at the mouth.
Why? Allow me to repeat: We really, really hate this weather. Ask the lady whose kids were left by the school bus and she eventually ended up late for work, only to get a warning letter for her troubles. Go ahead. Ask her what she thinks of this weather.
As you head off in search of her, I will resume listing my 9 reasons on why you need to visit Nairobi; obviously not in the rainy season. If you missed the first three, they’re available here.
4. Matatu Culture
If there ever was one thing uniquely found in Kenya, and almost nowhere else in the world – it’s got to be our matatus (i.e. Public commuter vans)
Nairobi, being the capital city that it brags to be, is swarming with matatus. Prevalently furnished by male drivers and male touts, with a few exceptional ladies, it is a piece of society that has enjoyed a certain renaissance over the years.
It happens to be quite a competitive market. So to attract passengers, the rule of thumb is to have the loudest music playing, most interior fittings and most outlandish paint job for you to even dream of success. Not to mention that this alone isn’t a sure road to financial wonderland.
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They come fit with surround speakers (actual surround speakers that would normally come with your stereo system), huge woofers, flat screen TVs, cable T.V, Wi-Fi hotspots, VIP sections, power sockets…you name it. Approval comes in a certain form of religious following that conventional thinkers would find it hard to believe.
A small warning: if it’s your first time in one, be sure to confirm the transport rates before boarding. Because what the touts lack in common sense they make up for in unruly behavior. You never want to be short of fare whilst aboard one of these slicked out discomotives.
5. Beer culture
Around 5 years ago, or a time thereabout, Kenya was a fully-fledged drunkard’s paradise. Bars would open as early as 8 – 9 a.m., supply the usual suspects with the usual percentages of imbibement – all day and all night – close the following dawn, and wait to start the routine all over again.
It was a crazy time to live in. On early mornings, you’d get to see drunken fellows and their skimpily clad, equally drunk ladies doing two step jigs around town. The concept behind the two-step jig is that you take one step forward, and three steps back, thus ever moving two paces behind your initial starting point. It was quite the fashionable statement amongst the immature class of university/ college students back then. Had a sensational audience in nightclubs too.
Then came the Mututho laws.
Fast forward to present day and you get a more civilised breed of drinkers. Straight laced and itching to kill their sobriety in a more refined sense of enjoyment. There’s still the immature crowd earlier mentioned, but with the hike in alcohol prices that took effect roughly three years ago, everybody has been forced to scamper into the dark corners and cruddy alley ways that can afford their acquaintance.
Nairobi West is widely revered as the alcohol hub of the city, with watering points in this locale running on an almost 18 hour schedule. Westlands, Hurlingham and Ngong’ Road pretty much care for the more affluent (and some pretentious) hordes; while the rest of the working nation is left to share the spoils of other pieces of the map.
6. Events and Entertainment
There’s been a recent resurgence in the events and entertainment sector, greatly boosted by the laws set to curb alcoholism and the hours of operation for bars/ liquor spots in the country. Whether they (the laws) have worked is suspect, and up for debate, but any keen observer would tell you there are now more day and night events than there were a quarter of a decade ago. Which pretty much makes up for all the lost sales of alcohol.
From bi-monthly to quarterly hosted circuits, Nairobi has it all. Themed nights at clubs, bars and lounges are now the norm. Karaoke is all but dead, contrary to what a paid tour guide will tell you, and there are very, very few exceptional places from whence to scream your throat dry.
Nonetheless, if you’re looking to hip-hop hooray at a 90’s themed gig, sip a mojito while wearing a face mask to conceal your devious grin and glassy eyes, or maybe a rooftop soiree seated by the infinity pool with clinking wine glasses and an orgy of accents, well Nairobi can offer it all.
Now, time for this Born Kenyan to concentrate on his trip to Nairobi West. Enjoy your weekend beautiful people.