The Maasai Market has endured the test of time and numerous re-locations by the Nairobi City Council to become the premier market for African artefacts and curios in Nairobi for the many tourists who throng the city as the main start point in their exploration of Kenya’s tourist destinations.
Maasai market borrows its name for the Maasai- one of Kenya’s Tribes and one that has retained its culture, traditions, identity and pride.
Maasai market has a variety of artefacts and curios from all over Kenya and Africa ranging from ornaments to functional kitchen items, beddings, clothing, artefacts and a lot more.
What I love about the market is how easy the Jua Kali artisans are able to pick on trends and provide an artistic alternative with the best examples being Candle holders, ladies bags, clutches, wall hangings, wallets, Sandals, clothing and utensils such as bowls, table cloths, spoons etc. Some might choose to call it copying but I call it perfecting an art.
I have a particular weakness to many of their items which, although sometimes not given a good finishing touch, are unique and make one’s home or dressing seem very elegant. Their pricing is particularly very affordable compared to similar shops found along Nairobi’s Biashara street or those in upmarket malls in Kenya.
Maasai Market Schedule
Below is a schedule of where to catch these Jua Kali artisans and find that unique wedding gift or items for your home or wardrobe.
Monday -There is usually no market on this day.
Tuesday – Kijabe Street Park next to Nairobi River and Prestige Plaza along Ngong Road.
Wednesday – Capital Center along Mombasa rd
Thursday – The junction Mall & along Ngong road
Friday – The Village market along Limuru road & Lavington Mall
Saturday -The High court parking in the city Center opposite Re-Insurance Plaza & Prestige Plaza along Ngong road
Sunday -Yaya Center along Valley Road in Hurlingham
And now, some tips that will come in handy as you stroll through the markets.
Tips To Shopping at Maasai Market
1. Be very specific on quality and don’t buy that item from the first artisan who sells you if the finishing has not been well done, chances are, there is another who has perfected the item’s quality – especially for items such as wall hangings, ornaments or kitchenware.
2. Be the typical Kenyan even if you are a Mzungu (foreigner), in other words, haggle till you run him/her out of breath. Kenyans have perfected the art of haggling except in 5 star hotels. This is how it works ;-
a. Identify and settle on the item you want. Never ask for the cost of something before you have made up your mind that you actually want it. This applies as much to Maasai market as it does to Gikomba, Toi Market (Thrift shop places in Nairobi) and the street vendors that have taken over the Nairobi downtown streets.
– Take a walk around the market first before settling on what to buy. On various occasions, I have bought an item only to walk several meters only to realise that the next artisan was more creative in their use of colours, function etc and their item is cheaper.
– Insist on using Kiswahili if you know it or take some basic lessons on purchase terms. This will determine whether you will be given the cost in Dollars or using the dollar as the exchange rate. It will also determine how much markup the traders will increase. Alternatively, get a local friend or guide to take you and negotiate on your behalf.
– If you are a foreigner, do not allow yourself to be guided by the traders you find at the market. There are some self -appointed guides in the market who will seem like they are good Samaritans offering to show you the best items asking you what you are looking for and trying to engage in small talk. Be very weary of them, they will get a cut/commission/tip from you then proceed to extort any artisan you bought from or worse, they could be trying to con you.
– Make sure you have changed your money into KES first before proceeding to the market.
– Refrain from buying the cliché tourist items like Safari Hats, & Safari T-Shirts. They will be costing a fortune. Get something else that still says you were in ‘Africa’ without having it scream the words.
– Take time to engage the artisan and find out if he/she is the one who made the item. They love to talk about their work and being appreciated, chances are, they will give you a discount.
– From experience, the markets at Kijabe Street and the High court parking have the best rates as they are perceived to be for Kenyans as opposed to those in up-market venues like malls. It’s all about perceptions and the venue cost. The items and the traders are the same ones in all these markets.
Tips to bargaining for the best rate
Once you have walked around, noted which traders/stalls have the items you want. You can now proceed to the actual buying.
Haggling as part of our culture as Kenyans so be ready to engage in some back and forth. Here are some tips that I have always used and which work like a charm.
b. Ask how much the item is nonchalantly
c. Act shocked (chances are, the trader has given you the cost with a very high mark up)
d. State matter of factly that you have half of that amount
e. Proceed to state the way that’s the only amount you have and you were actually looking for something else
f. If they are adamant on their rate, pretend to be going to another trader, chances are, they will call you as you leave.
g. Depending on how much time you have, sometimes you will only add at most Ksh. 50 or Ksh. 100 above your stated amount.
If you are a trader or artisan and would like to sell your work at Maasai Market, find our article on becoming a Maasai Market trader.