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Kenya Shopping and nightlife

Shopping in Kenya

The city and town centres usually have markets which sell curios such as African drums, old brass and copper items, batiks, soapstone knick-knacks, carved chess sets, wooden carvings of animals or salad bowls carved from a single piece of teak, mninga or ebony. Maasai items such as beaded jewellery, decorated gourds and the distinctive red-checked blankets worn by all Maasai men make good souvenirs.

Khanga, kitenge and kikoi cloths are ideal to use as sarongs (common in East Africa for both men and women), and Kenyan baskets made from sisal and leather are also popular. Most of the tourist areas have abundant stalls and markets selling these items; you will be expected to haggle good-naturedly over prices.

Probably the best market in the country is Nairobi’s central market, which lies in the city centre off Koinange Street. Comprising perhaps 100 stalls, it has the full range of handicrafts on offer, and prices tend to be quite competitive. It is safe enough by day, but some first-time visitors to Africa find the atmosphere a bit daunting, so opt for an organised tour.

Though not really aimed at tourists, Mombasa's McKinnon Market, on the western fringe of the Old Town, is the city's oldest, boasting a remarkable variety of familiar and more unusual tropical fruits and vegetables. Nearby Biashara (Commerce) Road is traditionally the centre of Mombasa's textile retail industry, and a few shops still specialise in vintage and other local cloths.

Shopping Note

Exporting wildlife skins (including reptiles) and shells is, quite rightly, forbidden.

Shopping hours

Mon-Sat 0900-1800. Some Muslim supermarkets and other businesses close on Friday afternoons.

Nightlife in Kenya

Most of the major hotels in Nairobi and the holiday resorts along the coast have dancing with live bands or discos each evening. There are also a few local nightclubs in Nairobi and Mombasa that stay open until dawn; these can get very crowded and prostitution abounds - be sure to travel in a group and take a taxi.

Increasingly, modern multi-screen cinema complexes are appearing in Nairobi and Mombasa, which show mainly Hollywood movies, while in the smaller towns are old colonial-style cinemas showing old Kung Fu or Indian films. Theatre is popular in Nairobi. There is a National Theatre and several small groups of dramatic companies; probably the best-known is the Phoenix Players. Quite often, traditional tribal dancing and drumming is performed in the game lodges and beach resorts.