10 things you will observe about Nairobae..

For purposes of this report..

Nairobae: a term used on instagram with abandon. The combination of two words: ‘Nairobi’ and ‘bae’ meaning it is a crush-worthy city. Colloquialism for Kenya’s capital.

Nairobbery: The act of theft in Nairobae which may further be classified as;

a) ‘Robbery with violence’ aka being mugged, having valuables snatched from you in such a way that will leave you with torn ears, a whiplashed neck, scratched wrist, a bruised scalp and broken bones.

b) ‘Robbery without violence’ aka land grabbing, scams, defaulting on rent, taking items and promising to pay but never getting round to it, borrowing money then conveniently blocking the lender, overpricing everything for foreigners or diasporans, insurance companies making promises but reneging on the same when you need to file a claim…the list is endless. 

Nairobaeans: Anyone born (or is currently domiciled) in Nairobae.
Relas: relatives, family.

1) While you’re relishing the fact that you’re in ‘hashtag home sweet home’, and are content to explore Nairobae every waking minute, your relas will make you very very paranoid by barking orders like a drill sergeant; “Hold your bag tight, close your window, keep your phone away, lock the doors, hide your camera!” You may have to bite your tongue from likewise barking back,”Sir yes sir!!!”

2) Still on Number one. If your response is that you’re dressed down, so no one will pay you any mind, your relas will snort and brush your rejoinder aside by telling you thieves and muggers are going about their business in a nilly willy fashion, with little or no time to judge your dressing choices. They assure you that your synthetic weave may be snatched off your scalp and your plastic purse will go. According to their assessment, Nairobae is akin to Gotham city, ‘all sorts of danger lurks around.’

Streets of Nairobi.

3) Relas are terrified to leave you alone or to your own devices, as when they do, they will find out you’ve bought honey at 300 shillings when it was supposed to be 100kshs, sweet bananas at 200kshs instead of 100, mitumba (second-hand) jeans you’ve collected at a whooping 1500kshs instead of 500. They will shake their heads in pity, “We umegongwa! The guy saw you were a mgeni.” (Someone has pulled out a fast one on you, they observed that you’re a visitor.)

4) The shoe may not fit See the multitude of budget shoe stalls a short distance from the bus station? If you’re a size 8 (42 continental sizes), kula na macho tu (eat with your eyes only – meaning admire from a distance). Pointing out the nice fancy ones is a futile exercise, those were made for petite slay queen types. They won’t fit no matter how much you huff and puff as you try to squeeze your foot in like Cinderella’s step-sister. Out of the corner of your eye, you may catch the sales assistant lady cheekily smiling and sniggering in a way that suggests you can take up part-time employment as a comedian. She will point out the right sized shoes for you; shoes your dana (grandma) would appreciate, but you wouldn’t be seen anywhere with them; not on earth, not on the moon or any of the galaxies.

5) Jaywalkers paradise You will cringe at Nairobeans who feel that wading through the crowded streets of Nairobae is beneath them, so very often in a rush, they will jump onto the roads, cross haphazardly and miss by a whisker…rumbling mkokotenis (carts drawn by men), speeding matatus, and bodabodas (motorbikes) that ride in-between and sometimes against the traffic. You will wonder why Nairobeans are seasoned jaywalkers, but by day five, you may find yourself engaging in the same risqué behavior. Nairobi has no space for pussy footing. The attitude here is learn fast or gerrarah tha way.

Crowded city

Riding at the back of a boda boda, Karen.

6) Paparazzi and director person Impromptu photo shoots will be viewed with abit of consternation. A small crowd may form and suddenly you will have a volunteer director, telling you how to smile, where to focus your gaze and how to pose. After five shots, you will be done, and will be surprised when the crowd breaks into claps and cheers for you.

7) Your business is everyone’s business Kenyans (those known to you as well as those not known to you) will make your business their business. (Culture shock aye?) You may hop into a taxi from the airport to your mama’s house, but in that short journey while stuck in traffic; you will be asked where you’re coming from, where you live and how long you’ve lived there, if your dating or married, and then you’ll be chided for leaving your countrymen to date other nationalities.

Kenya Airways: My Nairobi to Amsterdam ride.

8) Nairobae is the new Singapore Just like Singapore, Nairobi has become a foodie city. Food will shout at you from every corner, just begging to be eaten. If you spend more time in the city, you will bump into old friends who are now so horizontally challenged like “Let’s eat and be fat” is the new mantra. On the other hand, much as there is food everywhere, there’s also the opportunity to be healthy. Fruit salad stalls and gymns are in plenty. The Karura forest has become a favorite place for fitness freaks who hike, jog and ride bikes.

9) Hawkers in traffic: In Nairobae you will shop as you sit in the grinding bumper to bumper traffic. Street hawkers will stop at your window to sell you anything from nail cutters, to icecream to handkerchiefs. You will sample tangerines passing by, you won’t desist from buying the crisps, biscuits, chocolates, boiled maize and you’ll definitely attempt to get a cavity by the number of sweets you keep sucking on. You’ll console yourself that you are promoting Kenyan businesses.

10) Nairobae is a techie city: You may not know it but the city is teeming with creatives. You will see their mark on highways dotted with looming billboards having catchy captions, and when you get on social media, you will very often come across memes humouring a picture or what’s trending in Nairobae at the moment, or general happenings gone viral. Nairobaens are a crazy lot and the memes will make you laugh till your ribs get sore.

(Translation: Uncle does your phone have games? credit: Radiojambo Africa)

(Obama meme before his visit to Kenya in 2015. Translation: We are now passing Githurai. Here you have to be alert, text your phone while it is in your pocket. Credit:capital

Have you been to Nairobae/Nairobi? Have you observed anything else about our capital city?

18 replies »

  1. This was both nostalgic and entertaining; you paint such a vibrant picture it’s as if I’m right there! Hopefully I can visit again soon 🙂


  2. I really enjoyed visiting Nairobi and did not feel it was unsafe as it’s made out to be. I was walking downtown with abandon and one of the best places I ate was in a ramshackle restaurant in the market area. The matatu conductors are something else though. I got pissed at them so many times in a week. I love the vibe of the city though.

    Liked by 1 person

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