The Kenyan Lifestyle – Shopping, Fashion and Dining

Main Image: 2 Rivers Mall


Article By Sanika Shah

Shopping and Fashion

As a tourist, you can take home more than just memories of your trip to Kenya, and as a resident, shopping can be a fun day out with friends or family or both!


Kenya has a diverse and unique shopping and fashion scene whereby you can get everything from local crafts and clothing to western-inspired items. The country is a growing cosmopolitan that has smoothly incorporate Kenyan culture with international influences. You will find that all Kenyan homes are styled with touches of Kenyan society (art, sculptures, khanga, kikoi) within a western-style structure. The same goes for clothing. Fashion is heavily inspired by the west as most people wear jeans, suits, boots etc., but also own kikoy trousers, khanga shirts, kitenge printed hoodies and more.


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The locals have been able to find a balance between accepting westernisation as well as maintaining their Kenyan authenticity. But where can you shop for these items, whether they are Kenyan or international objects?


The perfect place to buy anything locally made and genuinely Kenyan is at any of various Maasai Markets found around Nairobi and at hotels and lodges outside of the capital. Here you can find anything from wooden carvings, artwork, jewellery, clothing, utensils and more, and all at bargain prices. These colourful markets are always bustling with activity and friendly sellers.


Kitengela Hot Glass is another incredible place that provides an amazing shopping experience. Located just outside of Nairobi, the factory shows you the artistic styles of the locally skilled artisans as they transform recycled glass and scraps of other materials into beautiful works of art, jewellery and homeware through blowing and burning. There is nothing more stylish than glass jewellery to class up a simple outfit. The best part is that because all the glass used is recycled, they have created one of the best eco-friendly shopping trips in Kenya.


Kitengela Hot Glass


Spinners Web is a handicraft version of IKEA. All goods are displayed as they might be in a home or office and you can buy a variety of things such as carpets, wall hangings, ceramics, baskets, shoes, clothing and cutlery.


Amid the commercialism of the Sarit Centre, Banana Box works together with community projects and refugee groups and offers modern uses for traditional objects. It’s one of the better handicraft stores and has an upmarket feel.


While the above are fully dedicated to the Kenyan tradition and culture and are uniquely Kenyan shopping experiences, the country is still home to the more stereotypical way of shopping. Nairobi alone, has many giant malls situated all around the city, all containing clothing shops, supermarkets, bookshops, sports stores, entertainment and restaurants. You can find anything from onion choppers to DJ equipment to sweaters all under one roof, and after this, you have the opportunity to eat at wonderful restaurants or have some fun at bowling allies or mini-golf courses.


Some of my popular and recommended shopping malls in Nairobi include:


Two Rivers Mall: located on Limuru Road and is the largest mall in Kenya, featuring a plethora of restaurants, a giant supermarket, fashion stores, health and beauty shops, banking services and children play areas.


Garden City Mall: located on Thika Road and is the first in the country to incorporate shopping, residential and office space into one development, thereby blending work, home and leisure activities.


The Hub Karen: is set at the heart of Karen and has an open and stylish design with over 85 retail stores, fine dining, entertainment, fashion and grocery shopping.


Village Market: located on Limuru Road and is easily one of the best malls in Nairobi. There are waterfalls, over 150 outlets, 2 open food courts, 1 food market, a health and fitness centre, a bowling alley and so much more.


Westgate Shopping Mall: located in Westlands, the five-storey mall houses clothing stores, bookshops, a supermarket, restaurants, a food court and movie theatres.


FAZAL – The Luxury Boutique – Located at the Westgate Shopping Mall, Westlands, Nairobi


The Food Scene

I might be a little biased, but I have to say, Kenya is home to some of the most electric flavours, whether it be local delicacies or international cuisine. You can find everything from Swahili to Italian to Japanese food which all tastes delicious, and therefore Kenya has a fast-growing “foodie” culture.


Here are Kenyan foods you need to try if you can:


Nyama Choma: translating to ‘burned meat,’ nyama choma is a local delicacy of chicken, beef or goat slow-cooked over hot coals and accompanied with tangy kachumbari, a relish of tomatoes, onions, fresh coriander and lime as well as white rice. Ugali na Sukuma Wiki is a Kenyan staple and there is not a single local who hasn’t indulged in the dish. Ugali is from white maize flour, mixed with hot water and stirred over a coal fire and the vibrantly green leaf sukuma wiki, similar to kale, is fried with sweet red onions, tomatoes and seasoning.


Roasted Makai: with maize grown in abundance, makai is found on almost every street corner. The maize is roasted and charred on a wire mesh, protecting them from the flames of hot coals and then dipped feisty chilli salt.


Mandazi: is a sweet, sugar-coated doughnut-like food and is beloved by all.


Githeri: is a bean stew adopted from the Kikuyu tribe and is served with either white bread or Swahili chapatti.


Matoke: is essentially cooked bananas, but not regular bananas or plantains. The green and stout banana variety is starchier than the typical fruit and is boiled in spices. From the above list, you could probably tell that not only does Kenyan cuisine provide immense variety, but each dish is also extremely healthy, and many are vegetarian, which means most people can eat them. They can be found at any Swahili restaurants such as Swahili Plate and Carnivore.


Nyama Choma, with Kachumbari and Roast Makai – Taken at Nyama Mama Capital Centre by Photographer Karan Khalsa


Other restaurants (and cuisines) worth your time and taste buds include:

1. Art Café, Nairobi
2. Brew Bistro and Lounge, Nairobi
3. Cape Chestnut Laikipia Sip & Dine, Nanyuki
4. Chowpaty, Nairobi
5. Florence Restaurant, Kisumu
6. Honey and Dough, Nairobi
7. Mambo Italia, Nairobi
8. Mercado, Nairobi
9. Nyama Mama, Nairobi
10. Roberto’s, Mombasa
11. Soi and Dusit, Nairobi
12. Tamarind Dhow, Mombasa
13. Brasserie at Hemingways, Nairobi
14. Zen Garden, Nairobi
15. Wasp & Sprout, Nairobi
16. Hashmi, Nairobi
17. INTI – a Nikkei Experience, Nairobi
18. Le Rustique Restaurant, Nanyuki
19. Copper at Social House, Nairobi
20. Lord Erroll Restaurant, Nairobi


INTI -A Nikkei Experience, Nairobi


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