Written by Philip Etemesi: Gikomba Market Days: In Nairobi, there are marketplaces that give you gratifying and enjoyable shopping experiences then there is the annoying Gikomba. Once upon a time, it was an iconic zone to get food and clothing. It was a consumer mecca that drew shoppers from not only Nairobi but all over the country. This was a place where you could literally get anything you wanted. You can still get plenty of stuff there but nowadays it’s just a chaotic congregation of buyers and sellers. To be honest, I’d rather starve or walk naked than buy anything at Gikomba. I’d rather even lie down on a bed full of pins than shop there.
Markets tend to have a natural lifespan as population centers shift, architecture evolves and shopping habits change but their survival depends on customer satisfaction and engagement. When the conditions are tough, shoppers sense the ennui and gravitate towards centers that feel more vibrant – shoppers such as me. Toi Market is a much better alternative nowadays to the overhyped Gikomba. It’s organized and safe. If you want cool clothes, you can also try the adjacent Adams Corner Market.
One of the major disadvantages of shopping at Gikomba on Gikomba market days is that at one point or the other, you’ll end up being a victim of theft. Consider yourself a lucky fellow if you come out of with all your cash intact and your phone still present. Talented pickpockets roam the place like they own it. Due to the human traffic, you keep brushing yourself against other people, making it difficult to shield yourself from potential thieves. I lost my wallet the very first time i ever went to Gikomba. The thief even took my keys which were in the opposite pocket. Maybe someone lied to him/her that those were the keys to success. Why else would someone steal keys?
Hygiene is also a major issue at Gikomba. No wonder it’s boarded up and decaying. Most of the produce being sold is a long walk from what we call farm fresh. Rats and roaches run all over the stalls as unpleasant smells diffuse from mysterious items and ooze from all corners. Dust is also scattered over each and every item. You end up feeling like you are buying something from the Tuaregs of the Sahara desert.
A total lack of order and respect to customers makes the place even more of a hell-hole than a shopper’s heaven. If you are not tough, you’ll get pulled left, right and center. Your arms might even come off. As if that’s not enough, some sellers even have the audacity to hurl incomprehensible insults at you if you ignore them. How unfortunate.
I believe that every shopper has a right to enjoy the experience of exchanging money for goods. There’s no need to stress yourself yet it’s your hard earned money that you are spending. I am not calling for a boycott of Gikomba. There are many people whose livelihoods depend on the market. But personally, I am never stepping foot there unless