Every Tuesday morning on my way to the work, I always brace myself for some bit of jostling as I approach the area that is famously known as Maasai Market located just next to the globe roundabout.
It is an open air temporary market, famously known for its variety of curious mostly made in Kenya and some few Artifacts from other African Countries. It is a well known by tourists market although its year round clientele is largely Kenyans and Asians who throng the makeshift ground stands made out of clay and wares sometimes displayed for sale on the pedestrian walks in a bid to purchase ornaments, household decorations and even mementos.
Well soon, it might be no more.
As I walked there today at about 7.00am, a time by which most traders have already displayed most of their wares, I could not help but notice that something was amiss. Most of the traders were hurdled in small groups speaking in gloomy voices and there were only scattered display of curios here and there.
I decided to ask what was going on as I suspected that they might have gone on strike owing to an increase in the daily levy charged by the City Council.
I spoke to one elderly lady and inquired as to what was happening. Apparently, the land that has been Maasai Market is owned by a private developer. The city council had entered some agreement with the said developer to put up the Curio traders there as the developer did not have any immediate plans. Thus Maasai market has been operating there for as long as I can remember.
The lady further explained to me that the City Council made a few phone calls to some of the traders yesterday evening informing them not to set up shop today thus most uninformed traders showed up as is norm, only to be told by their counterparts the fate that had befallen their market and source of bread.
As she stood there, her comrades contemplating the next move, I could not help but feel remorse. The council had not done an official communication to them, neither has the council secured other grounds where the Maasai Market can be relocated to.
Mind you, they do not get the grounds free of charge; every trader has to part with Ksh. 50 per day regardless of what curios they are selling. This is also not dependent on peak or low tourism seasons which normally determine how business turns out for the traders.
One might sight the lack of a union by the traders as the reason for their woes. Unlike other food stuff traders who managed to secure one of the biggest markets now known as Muthurwa market rivaling the Karatina one, the curio traders work at the mercy of the City Council and more often than not, their individual voices and cries fall on deaf ears.
But one ponders – With the government looking at ways of expanding the tourism sector even to the extent of making the bomb blast memorial into a tourist attraction site, do curio and artifact traders not contribute to this growth?
I doubt there is any tourist who comes through Nairobi into the various sites and goes home empty handed without as much as a souvenir!
Aren’t Curio traders actually our cultural ambassadors?
Point of Clarification
Emerging reports regarding this post indicate that, the land where Maasai Market traders sell their merchandise on Tuesdays is owned by the City council and they intend to use that land for construction of a bypass.