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Maasai Market in Nairobi – for artifacts and souvenir after a safari

When one goes for a safari, it is worth buying some memorabilia to remind them of the awesome experience. Well Kenya has such a market where you can buy beaded jewelry, artifacts, handcrafts, clothes and shoes made from African fabrics, carvings, utensils, handbags etc. The market is normally available 6 days a week at different locations and is normally referred to as Maasai Market.

The name came from the Maasai Tribe who are very popular for their rich culture and their firm beliefs and traditions. The Maasai live near most wildlife reserves and are very crafty producing hand-made artifacts that attract tourists coming in contact with them. Once they realized the tourists love their crafts, they started making them for trade and would bring them to Nairobi. This is how the Maasai Market in Nairobi was formed.

Maasai Market in Nairobi

The market has grown and now incorporates handicrafts made by other tribes like the beaded work from the Samburus and Turkanas, the kanga fabrics from the Coast, the soapstone and carvings from the Kisii etc.

Market Days

Monday: No market

Tuesday: In the City Centre, Kijabe Street park next to the Nairobi river(behind text book center) and Prestige Plaza, Roof top Parking along Ngong Road.

Wednesday: Capital Centre on Mombasa Road on your way to the airport.

Thursday: The Junction Mall, 3rd floor parking along Ngong Road.

Friday: The Village Market, upper parking along Limuru road and Lavington Mall along James Gichuru Road.

Saturday: At the City Centre, Supreme Court parking opposite Re-Insuarance Plaza and at Adams Arcade along Ngong Road.

Sunday: Yaya Centre along Argwings Kodhek Road past Hurlingham.

Maasai Market in Nairobi

Tips on Getting Value for your money

  • Always use the local currency i.e Kenya shillings in your purchases and if possible break the notes into smaller denominations.
  • There are so many middle men in these markets, avoid them at all costs. Choose to trade with the actual seller, if you are not so confident attending this market look for a trustworthy guide to take you through and help you bargain.
  • The price of the commodities are not always fixed and there is always room for bargaining till the seller gets to their limit.
  • In most markets, there are a number of sellers this same commodities hence you can go round first and get the seller giving you the best deal.
  • Engage the sellers and find out how the wares are made, this will help you determine the price value and avoid being ripped off.
  • If you intend to buy in bulk or you want many items, consider the markets at the City Center rather than the shopping malls as they have more variety and better prices (wholesale price).
  • If you are going as a group, stick together and don’t let the brokers confuse you and split your group.
  • Stick to paying the actual seller once you identify them and don’t make a mistake of giving your money to the middlemen to buy for you.

Maasai Market in Nairobi

Pros and Cons of this market

Many tourists have had varying experiences in this market, some good others bad. The markets can get a bit crowded and the sellers are aggressive to a point of becoming nuisance. Below are the Pros and Cons of the market.

Pros

  • If lucky enough, you can get good art pieces at a very low price that can be of great value to your home decor.
  • The market is a good place to get unique gifts for your loved ones.
  • You get to interact with the locals and learn more about their cultures as well as taking a piece of this culture with you.

Cons

  • The markets have so many middle men who can be nuisance and can cause you not get a good deal.
  • If you are not good at bargaining or don’t do well in crowded markets, then you will have a rough time.
  • Most sellers especially in the shopping malls sell the same items and their spaces are small compared to the open markets in the City Center.
  • If you don’t understand the currency, it’s easy to get ripped off into buying a valueless commodity at an exorbitant price.

Other places to get these items if you can’t make for the markets days.

Well the artifacts and other hands made jewelry are not only available in the Nairobi market but are available in other places countrywide. As earlier stated, most of the communities that make this item live near game parks and reserves. Hence, you can not miss small shops selling the wares around National Parks or tourist attraction sites.

The prices for the items in the small shops are almost the same if not better than the Nairobi Market. The beauty of buying from this small traders is that the money goes back to their pockets and helps them meet their daily needs so its like you are helping the community.

There are also several shops within Nairobi which sell these commodities though most of them have fixed prices and are a bit pricey as compared to the market prices.

One of the most common shops are found at City Market along Muindi Mbingu Street in the Central Business District (CBD). They do have quite a variety of items though their prices are high. The Best thing about City Market is that they are genuine products and they are very patient with you unlike the Maasai Market. If you can’t handle the crowd in the Maasai market, then City Market would be a good alternative.

Have you ever been to any of these markets? Share your experience or thoughts on the same below.

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Anita

8 Comments

  1. Good afternoon Anita,

    The 2 places I have been in Africa are Marocco and Dakar in Senegal. I love traveling and have been around quite a bit in my 68 years. I certainly like to buy things that are locally made and during my life, I have collected quite a bit of pretty objects from around the world.
    Thank you for the detailed information on the Masaai market and the other tribes. In Europe, we are not really used to bargaining for goods so it probably is a good idea to have a guide help you.
    I have worked myself as a tourist guide in various countries so I understand the concept.
    Nice photos which make me want to go on a trip soon.
    Thank you for this informative post.

    Regards, Taetske

    • It is true most people from Europe are not good at bargaining and these sellers know this too well so they give exorbitant prices for worthless goods, as much as you can’t bargain you can just say you will not pay that amount and the seller will automatically bring the price down.

      You can get your own guide but avoid those found in the market referred to as middle men, they will make you spend more since they expect to get a commission from the seller on top of the tip you will give them.

      Now that you have been to West Africa, it is time you came to East Africa, you will definitely enjoy yourself.

  2. I love local shopping and getting artifacts and handmade from the local places.  I haven’t been to Nairobi, but this will help me if I ever get the opportunity to go.  I’m not used to bargaining, but I know that there are many places that do and I think that would be kind of a fun thing to try 🙂

    • You should visit Nairobi soon, and definitely visit the Maasai Market. Bargaining is a must in the market especially for the fact that we have more than one trader selling the same item. It is a competition to get buyers and clear up your wares before end of day. It can be fun especially when the middlemen are not involved.

  3. While I have never been to Africa, but hope to some day these markets sound fabulous.  They probably have some great things there that I couldn’t get here.

    These photos make this a place I wish I could go out my door and walk to right now.

    I love this post and it makes me feel like I am already in Africa

    • Please consider visiting Kenya as part of your African tour. There are a lot of great things that you might not get even online. Glad you got a feel of Africa, now you need to experience it first hand by planning a safari here.

  4. Hi Anita,

    I’ve never been to Africa but I would love to visit it. I watched the pictures and was really amazed how many beautiful things about it exist. This markets you showed seem interesting and I love the handwork. I love to explore new places, and this seems like an adventure.

    If I find the time and decide to come, what places would you recommend beside Market?

    Also, is there any accomodation you would recommend to someone who is coming there for the first time?

    Thanks for the post, I’ll bookmark it.

    Strahinja

    • Thank you for checking out my post, hope you one day visit Africa and in particular Kenya.

      There are a lot of places to explore in Kenya right from the capital city Nairobi. You can checkout my other post, Kenya as a tourist destination for more information.

      Depending on the exact place you intend to visit, there are safari lodges and hotels for different places, the choice is yours. If for example you choose to visit the Tsavo area, check out some of the Tsavo lodges or you pick the beach like Watamu, you can check some of the great beach resorts.

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