Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Toi Market, Matumba Market : Info and How To...

According to Wikipedia: "The Toi market is located in the outskirts of Kibera slum, Nairobi, Kenya. Before it was razed by marauding gangs during post-election violence in early 2008, it is was one of the largest informal markets in Nairobi, with over 5000 traders. It mainly sells clothes, but also vegetables and other small accessories.[1] [2]-
It lies on a bystreet to Ngong Road which runs almost the length of Nairobi, from the Langata area into the center of the city"

The front part of Toi closest to Ngong road, which is separated by a short bit of walking from Toi and has probably 150 stalls, and who knows how many traders, is called Matumba (not sure of spelling). I go there often.

Toi Market is one of my favorite parts of living here in Nairobi. I need to go in and take pictures sometime so that you can see it... But Kenyans aren't too fond of cameras at times, and the market is definitely one of those places where you go to shop, not make a scene. Particularly since shopping in general in Nairobi is making a scene.

When entering be prepared to say, "No, thank you.", "No.", "I'm not interested", and even "Please leave me alone", at least several dozen times. There are a few times I have gone in and have managed to mercifully avoid anyone heckling to get me to buy something. It's just not the way things are done here. Everyone wants you to buy their stuff, "Sister/Madame/Mama, come have a look." Everything is bartering, and everything is negotiable. It's the walk away game, but at the end of the day- if what you are bartering for is something you really want, you won't see it again, so you best just deal with the price you got the seller down to (instead of your ideal price) and don't walk away for good.

I was thinking yesterday as I was getting ready to go there that I should write about what I do when I go in. I was just doing a short trip- to get crocs for my nephew. Crocs are sold in abundance, and only slightly used. They run between 350-550 KES (depending on who you are buying from, what the mood is of the day, and how many other muzungus or buyers are out.)

I wear my older clothes, and nothing too conspicuous. If I'm going to buy shirts/dresses, I wear a modest tank top, so that I can try shirts on top of my tank. Comfy walking shoes- sturdy are important. If there's been any rains the ground is really soft and sometimes very muddy. Rains or not, the ground is uneven, with rocks and pieces of wood, and whatever in the walking aisles. The stalls are so close together that most of the time you can't see the sky, and if you have claustrophobia or a horrible sense of direction I can imagine it would be slightly overwhelming and scary at times.

I also switch out my iphone for a small simple phone, and take an old purse with me that zips on the top. I only bring small bills/coins, and keep them in separate pockets so i don't bring out the wad of small bills together at any time. I do not bring ID, passport, credit card, or anything on me of value except the cash to go shopping with.

Parking at a nearby shopping strip (Adams Arcade), I walk in from the street and around the corner, and go in from there. It's quite the experience. For many expats in Nairobi, it can be easy to forget that you are living in Africa, so wide is the gap of economic wealth, and the rising middle class is becoming more and more. But on entry of the market, the hole in the ground with black pan of fish being fried, the stalls, and sellers yelling, the produce, and buckets of beans, rice, lentils, and spices- and I feel like I'm nearer the Africa I know and love.

In Toi Market I routinely buy crocs for the kids, converse all star sneakers, and shirts for myself. I have found brand new jumpers (sweatshirts), jeans, shoes, sweat pants, onesies, pajamas, sweaters, and more. I don't know if England donates it's clothes to Africa thinking that it will end up donated, or if stores in the UK sell to African dealers- whatever the case 90% of the items in the market are from UK brands, and in UK sizing. Monsoon is a current favorite of mine, and I've picked out Zara items as well in the past.

While there isn't much in the way of clothes shopping in Nairobi- Toi serves to fulfull our shopping needs in between any trips 'back home'.

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