By Agewa Magut
Downtown Nairobi, more so in the rain, is a no-go zone for ‘slay queens’. Walking in the central business district is a nightmare, especially for those in high heels.
Heading from Moi avenue down to Luthuli Avenue, River Road and the other side of Nairobi away from the cosy Kimathi and Koinange Streets, the roads are packed to the brim with people ferrying goods and rushing to make business deals.
It’s hard to believe that in the crowded streets, the seemingly unkempt people have more money in their pockets than those in the ‘posher’ sides of town. This is the heart of business and entrepreneurship in the city. Wholesale shops, hardware stores, textiles, electronics, clothes and automobile spare parts are in plenty.
Further down, along Landhies Road, heading into Muthurwa and Gikomba markets, the chaos increases tenfold. Hand-drawn carts (mikokoteni) have the right of way on the packed roads. A cart puller tugging his load along got in a swearing match with the driver of a vehicle when the hapless driver tried to join the road at a junction, almost knocking down the cart puller.
Matatus run amok along these roads and pedestrians would rather be knocked down by a personal vehicle than a matatu.
No traffic lights or police officers are in sight to guide traffic; it’s a free for all and the pedestrians, many of whom are heavy laden with loads from the markets, are the ones who suffer most from the bedlam.
When going to Gikomba market, one is advised to carry a small hand bag without too many valuables. It is also advised that one carries it in front of them, lest they are robbed while squeezing through the crowded alleys between stalls.
When it rains, everybody scampers to the nearest permanent building, taking refuge from the drops. The once dusty road turns into a black slosh. When the rain subsides, only those in gumboots can freely walk- others are forced to hope from one stone to another to avoid getting their shoes muddied.
Passing vehicles are avoided and given way, as they are sure to splash people with the black stuff that is made up of mud and waste from the market goods.
Instead of the sweet, earthy aroma that usually accompanies rains, the smell of decaying vegetables and urea wafts through the area.
The smell gets worse near the section of the market where the Nairobi River runs through. Black dirty water with bits of plastic in it flows from a restaurant built above the river.
A small street boy of about seven years was scavenging bottles and other bits of plastic he can sell near the restaurant’s dumpsite. Another boy urinated into the river, oblivious of the men fetching the same water to clean shoes that will be brought into the city centre later to be sold.