Eastleigh is a city on its own. Populated by Somalis (mostly) in their thousands (both citizens & immigrants) was christened little Mogadishu by locals. Some say it’s because it’s populated by Somali immigrants from Somalia.
That may be true in a way but also you cannot ignore the hundreds of Somalis from North Eastern part of Kenya who make trips to Eastleigh every other day.
My trip to Wajir was an eye-opener. I discovered that there are middlemen who transport goods to and from Eastleigh from various parts of North Eastern. This happens on a daily basis (specifically at night). High temperatures during the day cannot allow for a smooth journey lest you risk a tyre bust.
Every weekend hoyo lulu (mother) and I have to go to Eastleigh. It’s like faradh (a compulsory prayer). Hoyo’s wardrobe has all kinds of catar (a small concentrated perfume) most Kenyans identify Somalis by the scent from the Catar saying “All wariah’s have the same scent”.
By the way, Kenyans should be curious enough to ask what Wariah means because Wariyahe is a word used to refer to a boy. Now you know, so don’t go around calling every Somali you meet “hawa Wariyah” (on a light note).
Back to hoyo lulu. She has to get an catar almost every other weekend. Abowo (Dad) is a patient man. He will park his car and buy a newspaper to keep him busy as we roam little mogadishu shopping and haggling with shop owners.
Every day is a business day in Eastleigh. The amount of dust and sweat you consume from the narrow paths on the busy streets is detrimental to one’s health. The narrow paths are battled for by people, cows and annoying motorbike riders who slap peoples backs when you resist paving the way.
Weekends are even crazier because of hundreds of hoyos like hoyo lulu who gather in Eastleigh from different parts of Nairobi like Fedha Estate, South C, and Hurlingham for different reasons. If you are not a mwenyeji in Eastleigh you can easily get lost. Almost all malls have shops with different items ranging from carpets to housewares to clothes for men, women, and children.
One has to be careful as you trek through the narrow paths. You have to hold your bags tightly like your life depends on it for security purposes. It’s a busy place so that’s the least you can do to be safe.
You can get almost anything you are looking for in Eastleigh. Traders in these city import goods from different parts of the world.
I always look forward to lunchtime. I am not a foodie really but a plate of baris with heleb ari (pilau and goat meat); the meat is tender and tasty and is also accompanied by bananas. Somalis and our love for Bananas is something else. We have bananas in all our meals. Yes, even breakfast. Different restaurants offer a variety of dishes. Some days I get Anjera Ethiopia on 12th street, other days I eat sambusas (30/-), nafaqa (20/-) (a fried potato that has an egg inside) and a hamburger (100/-). Most restaurants offer meals at an affordable price whilst the quantity and quality of food are worth your money.
When it comes to shopping, one can be spoilt for choice. There are traders who sell clothes rather cheaply outside the big malls. If not for their constant battle with the Kanjo (City Council) they would be in business every day.
The malls cater for a middle class and high tailored clients with an exquisite taste.
The haggles, the chats, and fights coming from every corner of the streets on weekends is what retains the magic of little Mogadishu. Perhaps one day; just one day the real Mogadishu will be peaceful and the Somali immigrant can go back and build it. I asked Ali not his real name, a vendor in Garissa Lodge and an immigrant from Mogadishu how life was before the war in Somali. He tells of the beautiful beaches, the busy streets occupied by traders of all kinds and the peaceful neighborhoods around town. Peace he says is everything. It is good for business, family and even a country, in general, he says as he packs for me my dirac (popular known as Deera). Deera in Eastleigh is relatively cheap. They go for a standard price of 400/-.
Little Mogadishu is the only place I have constantly been to since childhood for outings and shopping. It remains a favorite!
How to get to Little Mogadishu AKA Eastleigh:
If you are coming from town board a number 9 at Tuskys, Accra rd (Peak hours 100/-; Off-peak hours 50/-)
I hope you get to visit little Mogadishu. A place for all not just Wariahs!