Travellers searching for the perfect souvenir will want for nothing in culture rich Kenya. Cities such as Nairobi, Mombasa and Nakuru are teeming with bustling markets that flog some of the country’s most authentic crafts. From wooden crafts to traditional tribal jewellery and colourful clothing, bringing a slice of African life home with you is a great way to share your experience with family and friends. Read on to discover what delights can be found when shopping in Kenya.


What to Look for

With so many wonders to catch your eye, we’ve pulled together a collection of just a few things to look out for when browsing for souvenirs in Kenya.

Maasai Beads

Jewellery made from strings of vibrant beads are an important part of Maasai culture. Different combinations of colours represent different unique qualities – red for bravery and unity, green for fertility and prosperity and white for peace and health. They can be found in many forms; you’ll find necklaces, earrings, chokers and bracelets bursting with colour and begging to be worn. In Nairobi, these can be purchased from the Kazuri Bead Factory in Mbagathi Ridge, however the best way to purchase them is directly from the Maasai people. This can be done while on a safari, where you will most likely stop at the Maasai Mara Game Reserve.

Hand-Carved Wooden Sculptures

Traditional wooden sculptures that have been lovingly hand painted are a wonderful slice of African culture to take home. Wood is one of the most abundant materials in Kenya, so these sculptures are often made from a single piece of it, the most precious of them all being ebony. However, these pieces can fetch a high price, so it’s also worth looking out for ones made from mango or neem trees. Sculptures made in forms of the ‘Big Five’ are a brilliant choice – leopards, elephants, lions, rhinos and buffalos all connote images of the Kenya’s natural world. The Collector’s Den Store in Nairobi, which showcases ebony items hand-carved by the Indigenous people of Kenya, is a great place to start your search, but these intricate pieces of art can also be found in various shops and markets around Kenya.

Traditional Kenyan Masks

Warrior masks are a brilliant addition to home décor, coming in various shapes and sizes and all painted in bright colours. Many are sculpted from wood, but clay, metal or stone masks can also be purchased at a slightly higher price. Horns and seashells can also be found adorning these masks – a good rule to follow is the more intricate the mask, the pricier it will be. Checking the inside of the mask for discolouration will also indicate whether it has been worn before in actual ceremonies. Local and flea markets across Kenya will be heavily stocked with these masks, and you can try out your haggling skills as you bargain for a fair price.

Kitengela Glass

The Kitengela community in Nairobi is the only one that serves as a place for disabled artists to make a living creating decorative animals, vases, jugs, stained glass windows and more. Recycled glass is blown to make these delicately stunning pieces of artwork, some of which are displayed along the pathways leading into the grounds. Visiting is an experience in itself, with the bright colours and intricate designs enticing you into the main studio for hours of browsing.


Where to Look

With so much to look for, knowing where to go when shopping in Kenya may appear a daunting task. But set your worries aside, as we’ve rounded up some of the best places to satisfy your eager eyes.

Local Markets at Diani Beach, Ukunda

Heading to Diani Beach is a great way to explore one of Kenya’s most stunning coastal spots while soaking up ample art and culture in the quaint little markets. Vendors sell anything from paintings to jewellery, showcasing the brilliant artistic talent of locals that has spanned across generations.

City Market, Nairobi

A mixing pot of street stalls and wet markets, the City Market in Nairobi offers all you could wish for and more at welcomingly reasonable prices. Meat, vegetables, flowers, paintings and wooden sculptures are on offer, and shuffling alongside locals and tourists alike will truly give you a taste of life in the capital.

Gikomba Market, Nairobi

Perhaps the most famous and certainly the largest clothes market in Kenya, the Gikomba Market is overflowing with clothes and manned by enthusiastic vendors. Visiting on a Saturday morning after 7am is the ideal time to go, as this is when vendors bring in new hauls of clothing. Kenyans adore thrifting, so this is the best place to start to get your shopping fix.

Yaya Centre, Nairobi

If you need a rest from the bustling streets, head no further than the Yaya Centre in Nairobi. You can happily mooch around the air-conditioned floors in style, marvelling at the food courts and browsing shops such as Emporio Armani, stopping to savour some of the pastry delicacies at the Alexandre bakery.

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