Of matatu rides and other local (and very affordable) things to do in Nairobi with a tourist

7:11:00 PM

Lian's ugali 'squeezing skills' are on point
A while ago, I did an oped that was syndicated on four Kenyan newspapers. The oped, on the need to have mental health on the 'Africa Rising' narrative, was inspired by conversations from a meeting hosted by WHO and World Bank that asked governments to look at mental health as a developmental issue.

Fast forward, a direct outcome from that meeting was the mhNOW initiative (now citiesRise) which contacted me during its build up activities and I have had a couple exchanges with them via email, calls and in person when they are in town. Somewhere in the back and forth, especially with Lian, who is in charge of the youth angle of the program - among so many other things - I made a promise to show him around Nairobi next time he was in town, which happened to be this week. (Look out for my posts on the citiesRise initiative and highlights from their activities here in Nairobi this week, including a sharing I did on '5 lessons I have learnt as a young person working in the mental health space'...will hopefully share those in the coming week)

Given the heavy week long itinerary, Lian chose this morning for me to show off my tour guide skills. My initial plan was the usual touristy stuff - kisses with the giraffes, feed the baby elephants, spell your name neckpiece with beads from the oven, point at the National park and mention how Nairobi is the only city that has an actual park in it, then release him for his afternoon engagements. When I shared that itinerary, he burst my bubble when he took out his phone to show me his tongue action with the giraffes as he mentioned how crowded he found the elephant place...this meant I had to think of another experience; here is what we did;

Our ride to CBD

1. Matatu Ride
Unlike other cities, Nairobi doesn't have a 'red bus tour' so I decided to do create one. Since he was staying in Kilimani and I live in Ngong, we agreed to meet at The Junction then take a matatu into the CBD. It took some time for the type of matatu I wanted to came through - screens, graffiti, loud music, pararira - yes that's a real word. We finally got one with screens - three screens, graffiti and stickers inside and loud music which was an exciting moment for him (and I was glad we waited, I normally don't wait for a particular type of matatu and was kinda growing impatient, but I am glad we waited)

Next time he comes through, we will go to Moha graphics because he wants to see the graffiti side of the pimping action.

Total cost - 100 (50 bob each)

Lian 'next to Wangari Maathai '

2. National Archives
We got off near the Archives and as usual my best spots are upstairs - where the stamps are (because I still penpal) and the pic of jomo kenyatta and crew in their undies by the beach (I know, not the best ways to remember our first president). I also love the wangari maathai corner, which Lian totally loved. This corner, which is their latest addition - it hasn't always been there- is the only place that recognises a woman, I always wish Mekatilili wa Menza, Wambui Otieno and other women who took part in the struggle are recognised.

Total cost - 250 (The charges are Ksh 50 for Kenyans, 100 for residents and 200 for non residents)

3. Kashata run
After Archives we went for kashatas...I am addicted to them and always get them when I town from the ladies outside the CBD Jamia Mosque. I got Lian kashata and mabuyu (as appetiser). He liked the coconut taste in the kashatas but didn't open his mabuyu pack, waiting for his feedback.

Total cost - 30 (Two kashatas 20+10 for mabuyu)

Lian with his kashatas as we got into Ranalo

4. Ranalo
Soooo he had been going on and on about Mama Oliech through the week (mentally I blame Mark Zuckerberg and his trip to Nairobi and his stop there) since we were in the CBD, I figured Ronalo would have the same options.

They didn't have omena, something Lian was raving about, so he had dry fish, kunde and ugali...I tried talking him into having some matumbo but he didn't want to try something new with his flight coming up early tomorrow morning. I tried their kunde with ugali, weeks I had gone for the managu...and my verdict - the kunde beats the managu hands down.

Total cost - 1300 (his meal was 800, mine 300 and he had soda and I did water)

5. Souvenirs
Last but not least, souvenirs...he asked about cool Kenyan tees but all the brands I knew where not located in CBD, he asked about Maasai market and since I only know of the Thursday Junction one and Saturday CBD one, I took him to the shops at Hilton which I normally find nice things every once in a while for cheap. He got a sitting elephant and a sitting monkey whispering into the elephants ear.

Total Cost - 600 for items that would easily be sold for Ksh 2000 at Maasai Market.

Lian's first matatu ride

We did all this in 3 hours 30 minutes and spent a total of Ksh 2280. I am looking forward to his next trip now that we have a tentative itinerary that includes him tasting matumbo, visiting Moha graphics and some out of town road trips. Are there any places I should have taken him that I need to add to the next itinerary?

Happy Friday evening beautiful people....off to catch the last four episodes of SUITS with the best friend.

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  1. Loved this piece! Love how you churn such relatable content.